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August 29th, 1999 Article
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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 a few.

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 Body Repairperson.

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, DON'T

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 like before.

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 vehicle.

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

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