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How to Check a Used Car in Minutes

Sep 14, 2008
These simple checks when carried out can save you a lot of hassles further down the road.

Stand ten to fifteen feet away from the car in a good light. Watch to see whether the light catches any bumps or dents in the surface. Such irregularities very often mean that the car has been in a major accident. Look too for weld marks in the frame of the car, or have a mechanic check for them. These condition show that the car has been in a bad accident, and are good grounds for rejecting it without further examination.

Try to find corrosion at the bottom of fenders, around the head and taillights, and along the bottom of door and body. Small blisters in the paint are sure signs of rust underneath. You should refuse at once any car that is too rusted.

Check to see that the wheels are straight first when the car is standing still, then when it is driven directly away from you. If you find the wheels are headed in slightly different directions, pass up the car immediately.

Let the car's engine warm up for at least 15 minutes. Then pull up the oil dipstick. If the oil looks white, or is filled with white bubbles, this probably means the car's cooling system is leaking into the engine block; and this means a serious problem.
Check the exhaust by holding a matchbook cover over the tail pipe. It should flap in a steady rhythm. Also, look out for wisps of blue smoke, both while the engine is idling and when it is raced. Black smoke is a sign that the gas is of too rich a mix. This fault can usually be corrected by a simple adjustment of the carburetor.

When you test drive the car, turn a few corners sharply. The steering wheel should work smoothly, without squeaks, groans, or shimmying. Make sure you test-drive the car over a rough, potholed road. If there are any defects in the body and suspension, this test will show them up.

To test the brakes, first press the pedal down while the car is immobile. If the pedal goes almost to the floor, this means the car probably needs new brake shoes. When you are test driving, accelerate to about 40 mph and brake suddenly. Squealing or pulling brakes may mean a minor problem, but sudden swerving or grabbing are always warnings that serious repairs will be needed. The emerging brake on the car should be checked by halting on a steep hill. If the brake fails to hold, this may mean only minor adjustment but it could also indicate major trouble.

Check the car's engine by accelerating suddenly from about 20 to 60 mph. This may be a strain on the engine, but even so it should not buck, hesitate, or miss. Another good engine test is to accelerate from slow to moderate speed while driving up a steep hill. The engine should pull easily.
About the Author
Used cars can be bought and sold with free auto ads from Used Car Park. Visit http://www.usedcarpark.com
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