Car Advice


In a previous blog post we covered some signs to look for when shopping for a used car such as maintenance records, wear on the brake pedal, mileage, and driving habits of the previous owner. Previous post here:  

There are many more areas that can be looked at without having to be a trained inspector. Look at the wear pattern on the tires. Uneven wear on the front tires indicates an alignment problem. If one side is worn much more than the other, be sure to look at the frame under the vehicle for any signs of collision damage that has not been repaired correctly.

Another very good area to inspect for collision damage is under the hood. Right above the radiator area in the front of the vehicle is a cross beam called the core support. The center of the core support is where the radiator usually bolts up to. Look at each end of this support assembly. The ends of the core support will bolt or connect with spot welds to the fenders. If the vehicle has been in a collision and not properly repaired these areas will be bent or twisted and obviously not in original condition.

Paint overspray or non-matching paint in this area is also a good indicator of a previous front end collision. These issues can be a problem down the road with paint peeling, excessive front tire wear, or a continuous pull in one direction if the body repairs were not done correctly.

While the hood is open take time to look at the belts and hoses. Do they appear in good condition? Check the engine oil and the automatic transmission fluid. Is the engine oil clean? If not, check to see if there is a maintenance reminder sticker anywhere on the vehicle, typically on the upper left corner of the windshield. If the vehicle is well over the mileage on the reminder sticker it is very likely this vehicle has been poorly maintained and is not likely to be a good buy. The transmission fluid should be red in color. Dark fluid can indicate lack of maintenance or worse, a failing transmission.

One of the most important things of course is the road test. Does the engine run smoothly? How about at an extended idle such as at a stop light? Pay attention to the transmission as it shifts. Are the shifts smooth and firm or are does the shift seem to slip or be sluggish?

Does the air conditioning cool well? Do the wipers, headlamps, and other electrical switches work properly? Take note of any conditions you may notice as they may be useful in bargaining.

The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from the “used car purchase blues” is to take the vehicle to Accurate Automotive Attention or another reputable shop and have them check it thoroughly prior to purchase. Take any list of things you have noticed and point them out to the Service Advisor when you drop off the vehicle off for inspection. Any deficiencies will become a bargaining chip prior to settling on a purchase price.

If the seller will not allow a pre-purchase inspection, walk away. Every time!

Good luck and happy hunting!

Want more great advice on saving money on car repairs? Order Russell McCloud’s book Knowledge is Power by clicking here