UNDER THE HOOD
• Examine the windshield for cracks, chips and scratches.
• Make sure windows go up and down easily.
• Check rubber seals around windows for signs of wear.
• Look for signs of damage to seats and upholstery, including cigarette burns
• Check the condition of the seat belts.
• Make sure the key fobs work.
• Test power locks, heated seats, the stereo system and other interior systems.
• Make sure the heater and air conditioner both function well.
• If you smell anything unusual coming from the vents, it may be a sign of an
oil leak or another leaking fluid.
• Look for signs of water damage inside the car that may indicate the car was
submerged at one point.
• Check the manufacturer’s label and note the VIN to check the car’s history,
as well as the manufacturing date.
• Make sure the car’s spare tire, jack and lug nut wrench are in the trunk.
Big problems may be lurking within that used car you are
looking at, which could result in a lot of expenses and a major
headache for you. Here are some tips for spotting potentially
major maintenance issues in used cars.
How to Spot
MAJOR USED CAR
Like a Pro
• Make sure all body panels are the same color.
• Look for obvious signs of rust.
• Examine paint for scratches.
• Look for dents.
• If the paint texture does not match all over the car, it could be a sign that
body work was done.
• Fenders that don’t appear straight could be signs of an accident.
• Doors should open easily.
• Tires with bulges in the sidewalls are unsafe for driving and must be replaced.
• Check for cuts or other signs of damage.
• Make sure all four tires are the same brand, and that the brand is a
• Check tread depth — less than 2/32 of an inch of depth means it’s time
to replace the tires.
• New tires should have a tread depth of 10/32 of an inch or more.
• Check for leaks anywhere in the engine.
• Look for signs that the engine may have been modified — these may
indicate that the car was used for racing or other high-stress activities.
• If you smell burnt oil or antifreeze, that’s a bad sign.
• If possible, arrange for a professional mechanic to inspect the engine
before you buy.
• Check battery terminals for signs of corrosion.
• Check the oil level and make sure the oil and dipstick are clean.
• Examine the transmission fluid and make sure it’s clean and transparent.
• Adjust the seat and mirrors before starting.
• Pay attention to how long the transmission takes to respond when shifting
• Note whether or not the car jerks or makes an unusual noise when shifting
into Reverse or Drive.
• Make sure the engine doesn’t vibrate too much when idling in Park.
• Pay attention to how much the car bounces when driving over bumps.
• If the car consistently drifts to one side while driving, the wheels may be out
• Rumbling noises at high speeds may indicate issues with the wheels or tires.
• If the steering wheel shakes when braking, the brake rotors may need replacing.
• Test the hand brake when parking on an incline.