Have someone start the vehicle while you stand behind it. What color is the smoke?
- Barely visible or just a little white is normal
- Blue smoke indicates burning oil
- Black smoke indicates too much fuel in the engine
- Heavy, white smoke indicates a blown head gasket or cracked head
- On your first test drive, drive over some rough pavement. Go over bumps and listen for rattles, squeaks and loose suspension (We recommend driving to a local bakery and grabbing some goodies for your pals at Members Community Credit Union)
- See if it pulls to one side or the other (alignment)
- Front wheel drive only – find a parking lot and turn sharply both directions and listen for knocking sounds (may need CV joints)
- Brakes should stop smoothly and quietly without pulling
- Brake pedal should feel firm – not spongy
- Engine should run smoothly and quietly. Listen for pings, rattles, knocks, grinds, vibrations, squeals, engine hesitation or stumbles on acceleration.
- An automatic transmission should shift smoothly without jerking, slipping or hesitation on upshift. When coming to a stop, it should not bang on downshifts.
- A manual transmission should operate easily with one-inch toe play on clutch pedal. Shift gears and listen for grinding sound. If you hear noise, it may need a clutch plate or internal repairs.
Under the hood, check:
- For leaks
- Fluid levels
- Oil (should be light brown)
- Antifreeze (should be green)
- Power Steering (should be clear)
- Transmission (should be red)
- Belts (check for cracks)
- Hoses (should be firm, not soft or hard)
- Battery and connections
- Electrical connections and wiring
- Old oil buildup or sludge inside valve cover where the oil filler cap is (sign of neglect)
- Is there a fuel smell?
Under the vehicle check:
- For leaks
- The undercarriage for damage
- Tires for uneven wear
- Loose parts hanging from body
- Rear suspension for leaks
- Rust on body
On the body check:
- Operations of hood, doors, door glass, all latches and keys
- Exterior body paint
- Vehicle’s body for waviness or irregularities
- Mismatched colors or uneven textures
- Poorly fitted panels that suggest body repairs
- All lights: headlights, taillights, turn signals, brake lights, reverse lights and license plate tag lights
- Spare tire, jack and tools
- Water or water damage in trunk
Check the interior:
- Seats, door panels, headliner, rugs and mats
- All seat belts
- Door locks, power windows and power seats
- Radio, compact disc player, DVD player and audio/USB jacks
- Horn and steering column
- Windshield wipers and fluid sprayers
- Dash lights and interior lights
Have a professional take a look:
Some people also like to take used cars to a trusted mechanic- this is always a good idea. Be sure to pass on any concerns or observations to him/her when you take it in.
Paying for it:
- Don’t be afraid to haggle on the price, especially if there are any concerns or repairs that will need to be made.
- Make sure you check the NADA Book value on it to avoid paying to much for it here.
- And, of course, get your financing with Members Community Credit Union. You can go here to see how much vehicle you can afford or to apply for a loan on a vehicle you already know you want.
Thanks to CUNA for letting us share this great list!