Vehicle inspection in the United States - Wikipedia
Take your time and look at troubling sections closely. While used cars inevitably will have some scratches and small dings, if there are too many that would be cause for concern. Pay careful attention to the seams or gaps between body panels. Open and close the trunk, hood, and all doors. Recruit a friend to come along or have the seller get in the car and turn on the different lights, while you check that they all work. This includes the foglights, turn signals, brakes, high beams, and reverse lights. Look closely at the lights themselves, noting if the lenses are cracked, have condensation on the inside, or are clouded.
The condition of the tires can provide some clues about the car.
First off, notice if all the tires are the same brand since mismatched tires are possibly the sign of a problem. Also watch for cracking, bubbling, splitting, or other damage on the sidewalls.
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Note if the wear bars, which run counter to the tread, have been exposed. Note if the tire tread is worn unevenly on one or more tires, possibly indicating a problem with the suspension or other chassis components.
To start, note the general condition of the engine compartment. Dirt, grease, splashed coolant, etc. Check all the fluid levels. Examine the belts and hoses for signs of wear, like cracks, fraying, or any missing sections. Squeeze the hoses to check if they feel brittle or hardened. Believe it or not, what the car smells like when you first open it can offer some clues.
150 Point Inspection
If you do smell something strange, start looking closer at the interior, especially around the carpets. Water lines run, or even just general wetness are big red flags. Turn on the car and try out both the heater and air conditioning. If there are seat heaters, heated steering wheel, etc.
Roll the power windows up and down, plus open and close the sunroof, if the car has one. Turn on the sound system and every other feature to check that they work. Also, pay attention to any warning lights on the dash, since those could indicate a big problem.
When you first fire up the engine, listen carefully for any odd sounds. Also, note if the engine struggles to start or stumbles at all after it fires up. Pop the hood and listen to as well as watch the engine run for a moment.
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Drive on a range of roads at different speeds, including the highway. Parking brake operation Steering effort-drifting right or left Cruise control operation, including resume Horn operation Tire or steering-wheel vibration Battery-condition, fluid level, load test Starter operation Ignition system operation Fuel filter-replace per maintenance schedule Radiator-leaks, road-hazard damage Cooling fan operation Coolant-replace if discolored, insufficient protection Coolant hoses-check condition Heater valve adjustment Engine valve noise Engine-remove valve cover, verify adequate maintenance, one valve cover for V-6 engine Timing belt condition.
Tires-OEM size, speed and load rating Tires-check for uneven wear or sidewall cracking Valve stem condition Wheel lug nuts-all present and properly torqued Engine-oil leaks, drain plug threads Transmission leaks Coolant leaks Brake pad thickness Brake rotor thickness and surface Brake caliper free movement Brake caliper leakage Rear-lining thickness if applicable Rear-wheel cylinder leakage if applicable Rear-drum thickness and surface Suspension-springs, proper ride height Bushing condition Ball joint tightness Tie-rod end tightness Power-steering rack leakage Entire exhaust system-condition, leaks, damage, noise.
Brakelights Turn Signal Lights-operation, cracks, chips, scratches Parking lamps Fog lamps if applicable Running lights if applicable License-plate light Taillights-operation, cracks, chips, scratches, damage Back-up lamps Emergency flasher Water leaks. Fuel-gauge operation Temperature-gauge operation Dash light operation Navigation operation if applicable Clock functions Sunroof operation if applicable Headliner condition Window operation-noise, speed and full travel Seat belts-condition, proper latching and retraction operation