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September 12th, 1999 Article
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The test-drive, The most important part of trying out a vehicle.

FIRST THING IS TO SHUT THE VEHICLE OFF AS IT HAS BEEN RUNNING SINCE WE STARTED THE LIGHT CHECK ETC. Now, just turn the key into the ONE position, ON NOT START IT YET, and look at all of the warning lights on the dash. All late model vehicles have a "Check Engine" or "Engine Service Soon" light that should come on when the key is turned on. If these lights do not come on with the key on, STOP RIGHT NOW. Ask the Salesperson if they can get this light repaired before you go any further. If they don't want to repair the light and arrange for you to retest the vehicle, you had best start looking for another vehicle.

If your visual inspection has shown this vehicle worthy of a test drive, now is the time. Remember the vehicle should already be well warmed up from the testing we have done so far. If you have brought a friend with you, ask them to ride in the BACK seat and check the fuel gauge to be sure there is enough fuel in the vehicle. If the radio is turned on, TURN IT OFF. Ask your friend to check all seat belts in the back and then have them sit on the passenger side. (They are going to have a very important job and that is to listen for noises from the rear of the vehicle.) The best place to take a vehicle for a test drive is over a route and roads that you are used to driving. (Like your route from home to work, or the reverse, work area to home.) In this way, you can compare the vehicle you are testing, to the vehicle you own now.

However, a test drive should include the following:
1. Stop and go, under 60kph. (40mph.) Pay attention to how the vehicle responds to stopping and going. Watch for such things as a rough return to idle or a hesitation on acceleration. Also see how the brakes and steering feel. Do the brakes vibrate when you stop or does the car pull on way or the other? If it has a standard transmission, does it shift smooth and does the clutch FEEL ok?
2. Freeway driving for at least 15 kilometers. (10 miles.) Again, really pay attention to how the vehicle drives. Do you or your friend in the back, feel any vibrations or hear any odd noises? Does the vehicle steer ok or does it DRIFT to one side or the other? Try the passing kickdown if it is an automatic.
3. Up hills at freeway speed. Slow down a bit, (Without interfering with traffic.) and then accelerate up the hill. Pay attention to any sort of shimmy or vibration. Do you hear any odd noises?
4. Stopping from freeway speed. (Make sure you do this when there will be no problem with other traffic.) Does the vehicle stop smooth or do you feel a shudder or a pull to one side or the other?
5. Turning sweeping corners like freeway exits, going both left and right. Try to do this where you can do it at the same speed each way and then see if the vehicle FEELS the same going in each direction. Does it corner the same both ways or does the vehicle tend to lean more one way or the other. Do you or your friend hear any odd noises from the front or back of the vehicle?
6. Up hills at city speed, 50-60kph. (30-40 mph.) If possible, try to find a place where you can actually stop at the bottom of a fairly steep hill and then go from a start. Pay attention to how the vehicle shifts and at what speeds. Does it accelerate smoothly or is it jerky?
7. Stopping HARD from 60 kph. (40 mph) as if a car just stopped in front of you. Again, does the vehicle stop straight or does it pull to one side or the other? Can any noises be heard?

If the vehicle has passed this far, it is time to take it for a THOROUGH PROFESSIONAL evaluation. But, prepare a little list of things that you may have noticed to bring to their attention. After that, you may want to deal on the vehicle.

"TOOT" Rick "The Wrench" - September 12th,1999
Copyright of Rick The Wrench, 1999

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