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Do It Yourself: Used Car Inspection

Do It Yourself: Inspecting A Used Car

New vehicles can be quite costly not to mention their fast depreciation rates, as such, used vehicles are the perfect way to go for anyone with a limited budget. While investing in a used car is a sensible option, you however need to ensure that the used vehicle is in good condition as it can become quite costly if it has any hidden damage. Here are some do it yourself inspection steps to ensure that the interior and exterior of the vehicle are of premium quality:

EXTERIOR

Body condition. Check each body panel and the roof, looking for scratches, dents, and rust. Examine the lines of the fenders and doors. Misaligned panels or large gaps can indicate either sloppy assembly at the factory or shoddy repair. The paint color and finish should be the same on every body panel.

Glass. Look carefully at the vehicle glass to make sure there are no cracks or large, pocked areas.

Suspension. Walk around the car to see if it’s standing level. Bounce each corner up and down. If the shock absorbers are in good shape, the car should rebound just once.

Lights and lenses. Have a friend confirm that all lights are working. Make sure all light lenses and reflectors are intact and not cracked, fogged with moisture, or missing.

Tires.  Check that all four tires are the same. Any different tires may show that they have been replaced. Tires must have at least 1/16 inch of tread to be legal. Check the tread depth with a tread-depth tool (available at auto-parts stores) or a quarter. Insert the quarter into the tread groove, with Washington’s head down. If you can see the top of his head, the tire should be replaced.

Examine the sidewalls for scuffing, cracks, or bulges, and look on the edge of each rim for dents or cracks. And be sure to check that the spare is in good shape and that the proper jack and lug wrench are present.

INTERIOR

Odor. When you first open the car door, sniff the interior. A musty, moldy, or mildew smell could indicate water leaks. Remove the floor mats and check for wet spots on the carpet. An acrid smell may indicate that the car was used by a smoker.

Seats. Try out all the seats even though you may not plan to sit in the rear. Upholstery shouldn’t be ripped or badly worn, particularly in a car with low mileage. Try all the seat adjustments to make sure they work properly and that you can find a good driving position.

Pedals. The rubber on the brake, clutch, and gas pedals gives an indication of use. A car with low miles shouldn’t show much wear. Pedal rubber that’s worn through in spots—or brand-new—indicates that the car has been driven a lot.

Instruments and controls. Turn the ignition switch, but without starting the en­gine. All the warning lights—including the “Check engine” light—should illuminate for a few seconds and go off when you start the engine. Note if the engine is hard to start when cold and if it idles smoothly. Then try out every switch, button, and lever.

With the engine running, turn on the heater full blast to see how hot it gets, and how quickly. Switch on the air conditioning and make sure it quickly blows cold.

Sound system. Check radio reception on AM and FM. If there is a CD player, try loading and ejecting a disc. If you plan on using an MP3 player or an iPod in the car, bring that along and test out the connection if there is one.

Roof. Check the headliner and roof trim for stains or sags to see if water is leaking through the sunroof, ill-fitting doors, or windows. If equipped with a sunroof or moon roof, check to see if it opens and closes properly and seals well when shut. Inspect the convertible top for tears by shining a flashlight up into it.

Trunk. Use your nose as well as your eyes. Sniff and look for signs of water entry. See if the carpeting feels wet or smells musty, and check the spare-tire well for water or rust.

Once you’ve gone through all the above steps and verified that all is well, you can be sure that the interior and exterior of the used vehicle are in good condition.

 

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