What Should a Used-Car Inspection Include?

What Should a Used-Car Inspection Include? Even if you don’t have a lot of mechanical knowledge, there are some simple checks and tests you can run on a used car that should indicate if some major things are wrong. Too many may be enough to exclude a car from consideration.

What Should a Used-Car Inspection Include?

One backup tip has always been to take a potential used car to a trusted mechanic to have it checked out. While this is ideal – especially if they can lift it on a lift – it is usually impractical. For one thing, the seller shouldn’t be expected to take the risk of letting you drive in his car.

A little more practical is to have a mechanic go to the car. But scheduling can be tricky, and a good car may be sold in the meantime. If you want to try this route and don’t know someone who offers this service in your area, you can do a search for “mobile used car inspectors in [your city]. However, even if you can manage any of these options, it will probably be worth saving their time and expense until you do some initial checks yourself.

Things you can check for yourself

One thing you can check is the vehicle’s background history, which can be done through (Competitors like,, and may be cheaper, but CarFax is the best known.) After entering the 17-character vehicle, the website will provide you with the vehicle’s history and location. Sold and logged, as well as odometer readings – check this reading against the current odometer reading – and occasionally accidents, repairs, maintenance history and recalls made. But since these reports cost something, you may want to do your own basic checks first.

What should be physically checked on a used car can be divided into static checks and dynamic checks. We’ll be making a special note of the bigger issues to look out for because if the car fails any of these issues, it might not be worth considering. Bring a flashlight, a towel to lay down (a large piece of corrugated cardboard is best), hand sanitizer, paper towels, and a small magnet.

First, ask to see the address. If so, you will probably move away, as both indicate that the car may have sustained serious body damage. Also check that the VIN number on the title matches the VIN number on the vehicle. If not, the vehicle may be stolen.

Next, look for rust and damage repairs. (Major damage repairs may appear on a CarFax report.) Bad rust or holes on the tire or subframes can break the deal, as this is a structure and cannot be easily fixed. Look under each side of the car to check for ripples in the bodywork, and look straight from all sides to make sure the paint matches and the fenders are level. Check the body inserts on anything that looks suspicious by placing a magnet against it (the body inserts are not magnetized) and checking windows for cracked glass. Anything bad here may warrant disqualification.

Check the maintenance man car. jpeg

What Should a Used-Car Inspection Include?

under the cover

Under the hood, the fluids of the car should be checked. Pull the oil dipstick and “touch” the oil at the bottom for grit, which indicates excessive engine wear, then look for water or gray foamy substance – also bad. Remove the oil filler cap and look for gray foam. You should also check the coolant overflow tank to make sure the coolant is green or orange, not white or rusty. If there is a transmission pressure gauge (some new cars don’t have one), pull it out and note if the fluid is pink or reddish rather than brown or smells like burnt. Any “failure” here refers to things that could go wrong soon and be expensive to fix.

ignite it

Next, check that all doors are open and get in. If the carpet is wet or there is a smell of mold or mildew, the heater core may be leaking or the vehicle may be in a flood. The former is bad, but the latter is much worse – and calls for scrolling.

Without starting the engine, turn on the ignition to illuminate the red and yellow warning lights on the instrument panel. Then start the engine and make sure they are all out. Any non-exit indicates problems – many of which can be costly to fix – and therefore require further scrutiny or even elimination.

What Should a Used-Car Inspection Include?

If you’ve been driving for some time, there are a few things you can “feel” wrong when driving the vehicle in question: loose steering, foam or pulsating brakes, swaying over bumps, weird noises (try leaving the radio and fan on so you can hear better) Engine is running poorly or transmission shifts intermittently. Especially with regard to engine and transmission problems, you should not accept the seller’s interpretation that it “just needs tuning” or some other minor repair; If that was the case, they should have fixed it themselves, and serious problems can cause the same symptoms.

If the car is front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive, make tight turns and listen for clicking sounds, which indicate a bad constant speed joint, which is an expensive repair. The whining sound while turning corners can mean a bad (and often expensive) wheel bearing. Turn the steering wheel lock all the way to both sides and look inside of each CV boot wheel hub – usually a black rubber cone with a “blower” – to check for cracks.

While you’re off, try heating, air conditioning (run the fan at different speeds), lights, turn signals, wipers, and the radio. You should also make sure that the electric windows, electric door locks, electric mirrors, and electric seats are working properly.

With the engine still running, look under the vehicle to check for any fluid leaks. You may also be able to check the exhaust system for leaks or patches, as well as if the catalytic converter is still there. (It is often stolen, and then replaced with a straight tube). Then check the exhaust for smoke. Blue or black smoke — or the white smoke that remains after the engine warms up — indicates an engine problem that you probably don’t want to deal with.

Best of all, you can take someone with you to keep track of your driving during your test drive. They can check the exhaust smoke and whether the car is “going with a dog” – a little crooked drives it on the road – which indicates significant body damage.

Check maintenance history

While some maintenance history may appear in the CarFax report, a set of receipts allows you to check how often the oil was changed and when expensive maintenance items were last performed. One example of the latter that applies to many new cars is the engine timing belt replacement, which has to happen every 100,000 miles (sometimes sooner) and can easily cost $1,000.

If the vehicle proves to be solid after an inspection, taking it to your mechanic to have it checked or replaced by fluids, hoses, belts, brakes and other regular maintenance items after you purchase it may be a good idea.

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