When you buy a used vehicle, you also inherit any issues it may have. Sometimes these issues are apparent, while other times they are unknown until you begin to drive the vehicle on a regular basis. While you may not be deterred from buying the car, you want to know if certain components will need to be replaced in the near future. Before you make an offer, know what systems should be inspected.
One of the most expensive components to replace, the engine should be inspected thoroughly before you decide to purchase a car. Notice if it’s clean with no evidence of oil leaks. Battery terminals shouldn’t have any corrosion around the terminals. You shouldn’t notice any odors and emissions shouldn’t have a black or blue color, which would indicate the engine is burning oil. Check the dipstick for clean oil. Oil that’s dark or dirty shows possible contamination.
Another major system for your vehicle is the transmission, which allows it to shift into different gears. When driving, you want an automatic transmission to switch gears smoothly with no jerking or slipping. Transmission fluid should be clean with no dirt or gritty residue. If the vehicle has a manual transmission, shifting into each gear should be smooth with no grinding noise when put into reverse.
Stopping a car is just as important as driving it, so spend time inspecting the brakes. Pay attention when you are taking a test drive to how the brakes feel. The vehicle should continue moving straight and not pull to one side when you apply the brakes. They should have no grinding or squealing noises, and the wheels shouldn’t lock. Don’t forget to check the parking brake to ensure it engages freely.
A vehicle should steer easily when you are driving. Any issues with this system could indicate problems with brakes or other components. Make sure the vehicle doesn’t vibrate or shake, which could indicate tire problems or other issues. Listen for clicking sounds or pay attention to any resistance in the steering.
Suspension and tires
Both the suspension system and the tires will impact how comfortable the ride is and how much stability the vehicle provides. It should sit level and have no noticeable noises when turning corners. Tires should have adequate tread with no cracks or bubbles. The tread should be worn evenly along the tire. If the tread is uneven, it’s an indication of problems with suspension or a need for an alignment. Ideally, the tires are all the same make for improved performance.
Inspecting the frame is an important part of analyzing a used vehicle to tell whether it has been in a collision or damaged in some way. If so, it may not provide adequate protection in a future situation. Check for signs of straightening or indications of crumpling in the trunk. Make sure the chassis isn’t bent or shows cracking.
Interior and exterior
You want to pay attention to the exterior of the vehicle, which could indicate previous problems or show components that need replaced or repaired. Check for the following:
- Cracks in the windshield
- Seams between the trunk and hood align correctly
- Seams along doors and fenders are aligned properly
- Scratches or dents
- Windshield wipers functional
- Headlights, signal lights, brake lights, and tail lights functioning and in proper alignment
Take a few minutes to inspect the interior of the vehicle as well. Besides adding or subtracting value from the vehicle based on the condition, you want to know if anything doesn’t work properly before agreeing to a price.
- Seats worn or cracked
- Doors, windows and trunk opens and closes easily
- Gauges work
- No dashboard warning lights or indicators lit
- Heater and air conditioning works properly
- Stereo and components work
- Windshield wipers and fluid works
- Seats adjust
When purchasing a used vehicle, consider having one of our mechanics come to the seller’s location to perform a 150-point pre-purchase inspection. Having an unbiased professional check it out can give you peace of mind about purchasing a pre-owned vehicle or let you know when to pass up the deal. It can also help you know how to negotiate a price that reflects the true value of the vehicle you are buying, since our mechanic will provide the cost and scope of any necessary repairs.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as What Systems Should Be Checked Before Purchasing a Used Car? and was authored by Joyce Morse.