With the outrageous price of brand-new cars and interest rates, buying a used car is a more economical choice for many. However, not everyone knows how to meticulously check a used car. The good news is that there are a couple of red flags that you can easily detect, even if your car knowledge is limited.
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Body Panel Bolts Are Chipped
First, check that the body panel bolts have the same color as the ones from the factory. Signs of chipped paint mean the car has undergone bodywork to replace or readjust the panels.
Also, “open the hood and check the seals that seal the joints of the interior panels. If the car has had major work done on the side, the way the new seals look will differ from the factory seals.”
Test Drive the Car With the Engine Cold
This is because some sellers understand that “some mechanical issues ‘go away’ after the engine and transmission are warmed up.”
So, in case you “show up to view any motorized vehicle and the engine is already running, there is a strong chance that the seller is purposefully hiding something.”
Cheap Weird Brand Tires
This clearly indicates that “they’ve spent the bare minimum on the rest of the car, and there’s probably shoddy workmanship and missing service items.”
Another red flag is if all four tires are brand new, as it “could be hiding an alignment issue of some sort.” It would make more sense if the car had a “set of evenly worn-out tires.”
Check the Vin on Each of the Panels
“If the VIN is different, that means the car was in an accident,” shares a poster. The VIN behind the windshield should match the title, and at least one on either side of the panels.
The Clock Is Flashing the Wrong Time
This indicates that the seller “must have disconnected the battery to clear any engine lights.” But you can get around this by getting a code reader to confirm.
Gunk on the Oil Cap
The oil cap should not have a milky residue. If it does, it means the oil is mixed with moisture, which is often a result of high-pressure washing, a damaged oil cap, or a blown head gasket.
Also, “make sure the oil looks clean and smooth. Red flags would be metal shavings or a frothy or milkshake appearance.”
White smoke indicates that “the coolant is being burned in the combustion chamber” and can be expensive to fix.
Meanwhile, “blue smoke indicates burning oil in the combustion chamber, and black smoke indicates too much fuel being dumped into the chamber.”
Lack of Service History
“This is a reasonable indication that the car has not been looked after,” shares a poster. However, some drivers argue they care for their cars even though they don’t have service records. In such a case, make sure you ask for receipts for any installed parts.
Different-Sized Lug Nuts
Also, inspect the lug nuts to ensure they fit the used car correctly. If not, expect to pay for a new set of wheels!
A rough idle indicates there’s something wrong with the engine. Look elsewhere if the car is backfiring, bouncing, or shaking.
A dirty motor is okay, but not a greasy one. This is usually a sign of an oil leak that may or may not have been fixed.
Never proceed with price negotiations if you notice rust. “Rust is boat cancer,” explains a driver. “Not only is the body unsafe, but it’s likely to have a lot of engine problems, and it’ll cost you,” adds another.
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