Buying a used car can be both intimidating and tedious. It is the second largest purchase after mortgaging a home. Almost every used car on the road will have some sort of issues whether it is performance, mechanical, check engine light, brakes, scams, engine problems, transmission issues, etc. Here are the proper steps to ensure you will not have a faulty used vehicle when purchasing one and it will give you a peace of mind. Purchasing Carfax will let you know the history of the car whether it is clean title or it has been in an accident. For a low investment it will save you a lot of problems down the road.
Here are the recommended steps to take to make sure you are purchasing good running vehicle:
First step is to test drive the vehicle. Listen for any abnormal noises that can be caused by a growling wheel bearing, whining power steering pump, squeaky noises from suspension e.g. strut and bushing. Next check the steering system. You want check steering difficult, vehicle steers to one side (alignment issue), car drifting from right to left and vise versa which is a sign of a failing rack and pinion, vehicle suddenly jumps from left to right or right to left (worn out control arm busing). In addition, listen for engine noises e.g. knocking noises which are a sign of a worn main, rod bearings and piston slap, ticking noises may indicate the engine needs valve adjustment, loud marble noises (worn water pump). Moreover, pay close attention to the transmission for slippage, if the rpm suddenly jumps during a test drive, this is a sign of a slipping transmission.
During the test drive, give close attention to the temperature gauge, the temperature needle should be steady right at the center line, if it suddenly starts to climb to the high side, that means the vehicle is overheating which can be a sign of a bad water pump, stuck closed thermostat, clogged radiator, faulty radiator cap and worst of all a blown head gasket etc… At all cost, do not purchase the vehicle when it is overheating or making knocking noises unless you are certain it is a cheap fix.
Also, you want to check the brake system. With the vehicle off, step on the brake pedal a few times. It should becoming firm. If it doesn’t the master cylinder is faulty. Moreover, listen of squealing noises coming from the brakes, if it is present, the vehicle needs brake pads or new rotors.
After the test drive, if the vehicle passes I recommend you to conduct a visual inspection. First thing is to open the hood and check the engine oil and conduct a smell test. The engine oil should be clean and not have a burnt smell to it. Check the engine cap for any milky color. If it is present, that means you likely have a blown head gasket; and at this point, do not purchase the vehicle. Also, you want to check for any small or fine metal particles that may be present in the engine oil. If metal particles are found, that is a sign of a worn engine.
Next, check the transmission fluid – remove the transmission dipstick and the fluid should usually be bright pink, if the color is dark and dull, that means the transmission fluid has not been changed recently. Furthermore, once the engine is cool, get a used rag and place it on top of the radiator cap and remove it. Check the coolant color. It should be either green or pink color. If it looks milky, that means you got a blown head gasket or a bad radiator which the radiator coolant and transmission fluid are mixing. Remove the transmission fluid to check for a milky-looking substance, and if it is present, the radiator is likely bad due to a leak.
In addition, make sure the radiator fan turns on when engine reach operating temperature, check tire for baldness, cracks, puncture from nails and road materials etc… Also, check the exterior for possible damage, uneven hood, bumper alignment, trunk alignment; mismatching paint etc… if it is misaligned it has been involved in an accident. Also, use a scan tool and scan the vehicle for codes, you also want to check that all the I/M readiness are ready, if they are not ready that means the battery has been disconnected or the check engine light has been reset. This is the best and proper way to check a vehicle. If you have any doubts and find any major issues listed above, at all cost do no purchase the vehicle and move on.