Oh I know, just about anybody that can get
at a computer or typewriter has written tips about buying used
vehicles. However, even though I have not read nearly all of
them, I have a few ideas that I have not seen. Let me just list
1. Be very careful when you see what appears
to be a "SHINY NEW PAINT JOB" as there may be many hidden MONSTERS
under that new paint. Look it over very good, especially along
the bottom edges as you may see signs of body filler and that
could suggest damage or rust "COVER UP".
Opinion: NEVER buy a vehicle that appears to be freshly painted
until you have had the vehicle THOUROUGHLY looked over by a
2. Look at all of the tires and note the brands
and sizes. See if they are all the same brand/size or if they
are a mixture of different brands and tread patterns. People
GENERALLY buy tires in pairs so it is not unusual for tires
to be different front and rear. But if there is a real mix of
tires on the vehicle it tells me that: A, someone has just put
on some tires with tread, in order to sell or trade the vehicle.
B, the previous owner DID NOT take proper care of the vehicle
and didn't even try to match tires. (If you were to measure
the circumference of a few different brands of tires, all in
the same size, you will find quit a difference in size and I
think everyone knows that different size tires causes problems.)
Also, a vehicle that has obviously just had new tires installed
may have REQUIRED new tires because the others were worn because
of an alignment problem.
Opinion: It is better to look at a vehicle that has some miles
on its tires because you can use tire wear patterns to tell
a lot about the steering and suspension by looking at tire wear.
3. Look for any signs of obvious NEW trim,
lights, grille etc. as this may be a sign of major collision
damage. Check for uniformity in all door, trunk/hatch and hood
openings. All edge gaps SHOULD be close to being the same.
Opinion: If you feel uncomfortable about something in the appearance,
4. Open the hood and if it strikes you as
being freshly cleaned and touched up, IMMEDIATELY look under
the front of the vehicle to see how much oil and road dirt show
up on the bottom. (A few minutes with engine shampoo and spray
paint can make a dirty old engine look real good. But most places
never clean the bottom side and that will show you more than
looking at it from the top.) If someone looked after their vehicle
well enough to keep the engine compartment clean , it would
not require "Shampoo and Paint" to look good.
Opinion: Same as for Body paint, I always wonder what it looked
5. Take off the oil filler cap and stick your
finger in the hole and see what you can pick up as SLUDGE on
your finger. On some engines its possible to look inside through
the filler cap, if so DO SO and see how clean it looks. Or,
pull out the dipstick and stick a pipe cleaner down the tub
to see what you can find. It may be very interesting.
Opinion: Sludge, dirt and grim will not be found in a well-maintained
6. While you have the cap off and the dipstick
out, see what they smell like. A distinct burnt odor is the
sign of problems. Also look at the ends of hoses where they
are clamped onto the engine. Look for signs of swelling near
the clamps and cracking in any of the small vacuum hose.
Opinion: if it smells bad or looks bad, it usually is BAD.
7. Try to pull off one of the spark plug wires
at the spark plug. As long as the wires are not new or have
just been off, a wire that sticks HARD to the spark plug can
be a sign of EXCESSIVE heat in the top of the engine. (Try a
few just to be sure.)
Opinion: HEAT HURTS.
I will get into more next week but NEVER,
NEVER BUY A VEHICLE THAT HAS HAD THE CATALYTIC CONVERTOR REMOVED.
"TOOT" Rick "The Wrench" - August 29th,1999
Copyright of Rick The Wrench, 1999