How To Inspect a Used Car Like You Know What
You Are Doing!
Do you know how to inspect a used car? If you want to get a good deal on a
used car and you want to buy a good used car, then properly knowing how to inspect a car will
be integral to your success.
I'm going to show you exactly how to inspect a car like you know what you're doing!
Click here to start at the beginning of this guide on buying used cars.
A few important points here about how to buy a used car and how to inspect it...
:: Don't look at the car in the dark (Do I really need to explain why? Good. I didn't think
:: Don't look at the car in the rain. Water can mask a funky oxidized paint job and prior body
:: If possible, try to see the car when it hasn't been started for awhile so the engine is
The first thing I do before I buy a used car is to walk around and check the body, tires, registration and then
scan the interior.
Before I start the engine I pop the hood and check the oil. Its okay if its a little dirty, but if its a
disgusting bile looking yellow color I'll probably walk away from it. This means you've got water in the oil, which
is a dead give away for a blown head gasket.
If you buy a used car in an area that has really hot climates then you will need to be on the lookout for cars
with blown head gaskets and cracked heads.
It usually means that some moron ignored a blinking idiot light, a temperature gauge or the smoke that was
billowing out the front of their car while it was over heating.
Here are a few common major repairs that you may come across when you buy a used car that are typical with older
high mileage used cars:
:: Blown head gaskets
:: Broken timing belts
:: Bad transmissions
:: Worn out clutch
:: Clicking CV joints
Next I check the radiator. If its warm, let off the pressure very carefully! Use a big rag and turn the cap
very slowly keeping downward pressure on the cap so you don't blow your head off and scald yourself to death!
If its green and clean, thats good.
Okay, if you're completely unfamiliar with checking the radiator like I've described above then please bring
someone with you that knows what they are doing. And don't even think of blaming me for burning yourself because I
am warning you now! Get it? Good!
Run your fingers gently along the cooling fins on the front and back of the radiator. If they don't flake away
and bend or break, then you still have a good radiator. If you see oil in the radiator and bubbles are coming up
from the radiator while the car is idling, thats another sign of a blown head.
Keep the radiator cap off and go start the engine. Let it warm up some. You can tell if its warmed up by putting
your finger in the radiator opening and carefully feeling the water. The water will start getting warm once the
thermostat starts to open up.
Oh geez! Do I really need to tell you to NOT put your finger in the radiator if it appears like the water is
really hot? Well don't!
Now put your foot on the accelerator and punch it a few times while keeping an eye on the radiator opening. If
water shoots out like the Old Faithful Geyser then that also means a blown head.
If you're still interested up to this point then go ahead and let the engine warm up well before going on the
If everything still looks pretty good up to now, then I'm off for a thorough test drive. Make sure you put the
radiator cap back on! When you buy a used car, don't let them rush you during the test drive. You must get it up to
normal driving temperature and beyond. The older the car, or more miles it has on it, the more necessary this
Keep your senses attuned for possible "expensive noises" and not the latest "Top Forty". Go ahead and see if the
radio works, but then turn it off!
Get it up to normal operating temperature, then find a good long hill and just blast up that thing. Drive it at
freeway speeds too. If the suspension seems pretty tight, the engine runs cool and it easily goes in to and out of
gear when you want it to, including reverse, then you've got a good runner.
If it has front wheel drive then you need to check the front CV joints. A simple way to see if
they are okay is to get the car up to about five to ten miles per hour and take a fairly sharp right turn and then
a left turn.
Have your windows down and be listening for a distinct clicking sound as you are making the turn. If you hear
that then you know the CV's need work and it could cost you from about $80.00 to $200.00 per side to fix.
If its an automatic and it seems a little slow in getting into gear it could be something as simple as adding
some tranny fluid or it could need expensive repairs.
Check the transmission fluid after the car is warmed up, on level ground and idling.
You really want to be listening for "expensive" noises when you are going to buy a used car. Use common sense
Now you want to stop and check all the lights, turn signals, horn, wipers, etc.
Before you buy a used car, you should get a vehicle history
report. This is an excellent resource to get before you buy a used car so you can verify if it has any
bizarre history - like being written off as a "salvage vehicle".
A vehicle history report will enable you to see if the odometer has ever been tampered. Or if the cars been in a
flood or was it a fleet vehicle with a billion miles on it.
When you're done checking out the car then its time to quickly calculate how much more money you'll have to put
in to it, if any, and weigh that against what the seller is asking for it. This is a crucial step when you buy a