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How to Check a Used Car?

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How to Check a Used Car?

Mar 27,2023
how to check a used car
If you're reading this, chances are you've narrowed down your used car research to a final list of vehicles that interest you. If you're still in the early stages of your used car search, you might be interested in first checking out how to research a used car and the pros and cons of buying a used car.

Going forward, it is worth doing a personal inspection before making a decision. Make sure not to judge based on appearance alone. From time to time, you may find a car very attractive and worth buying, but you may wish to reconsider your opinion after a closer inspection.

Check Carefully

No matter who you buy it from, have the vehicle inspected thoroughly. Put on old clothes you don't mind getting dirty and give the car a good look.

Check-in daylight on a dry day, as floodlights can give the car a shiny look and hide body imperfections. The car should be parked on level ground and should not be driven for at least an hour before the inspection.


Body Condition: Check every panel and roof for scratches, dents, and rust. Watch out for misaligned panels or large gaps, which could indicate sloppy factory assembly or poor repair. The paint color and finish should be the same on each body panel.

If you think the dent may have been patched, put a small magnet on it. Magnets will not stick to areas with body fillers. If the rest of the car has been repainted, there may be paint stuck to the rubber seals around the hood and decklid.

Rust is a concern, so check the bodywork for blistered paint or visible rust. Check the wheel wells, the panel under the door, and the bottom of the door.

Open and close every door, hood, and trunk. Gently lift and release each door, especially the driver's door. If its hinges appear to be loose, the car has been used for a long time or has been used for a long time. Check for torn or rotted rubber seals.

Glass: Look closely at the glass to make sure there are no cracks or large sunken areas. A small rock may not cause panic, but you should bring it up in negotiations. But cracks in windshields can worsen and lead to expensive repairs.

Suspension: Walk around the car to see if it is level. Push down on each corner. If the shock absorbers are in good condition, the car should only bounce once, rather than bouncing up and down. Grab the top of each front tire and pull it back and forth. If you feel like playing in it or hear a dull sound, the wheel bearings or suspension joints may be hit.

Lights and Lenses: Have a friend confirm that all lights are working. Make sure all optical lenses and mirrors are intact and not cracked, damp or missing.

Tires: You can tell a lot from your tires. For example, a car with fewer than 20,000 miles on it may still have original tires. Be wary of low-mileage cars with new tires and check that all four tires are the same. If you have different brands of tires on your car, ask why they are being replaced.

Treadwear should be evenly distributed across the width of the tread, as should the tires on the left and right sides of the car. Ask if the tires are rotated regularly. Otherwise, the wear on the drive wheels will usually be worse.

Aggressive drivers tend to wear heavily on the front tire's outer shoulder, at the edge of the sidewall. If the area shows heavy wear, assume the car has been driven hard.

Tires that are driven by overinflation tend to wear more in the middle than on the sides. Chronically underinflated tires show more wear on the sides. Bulky tires - tires that wear unevenly around the circumference of their tread - could be a sign of steering, suspension, or brake problems.

Tires must have at least 1⁄16 inches of the tread to be legal. Use a tread depth tool (available at auto parts stores) or a quarter to check tread depth. Insert a quarter into the tread groove, Washington's head facing down. If you can see the top of his head, the tire should be replaced.

Check the sidewalls for wear, cracks, or bumps, and look for dents or cracks on each wheel. Be sure to check that spare parts are in order and that you have the proper jack and lug wrench.


The interior of your car is probably the most important to you because when you own the car, it's where you spend most of your time.

Smell: Smell the interior of the car the first time you open the door. A musty smell could indicate a water leak. Remove the mats and check the carpet for wet spots. A pungent smell may indicate that the car has been used by a smoker. Check the lighter and ashtray (if equipped) for evidence. Some odors, such as mold and smoke, are difficult to remove.

Seats: Try all seats, even if you probably won't be sitting in the back. The interior should not be torn or severely worn, especially in cars with low mileage. Try all the seat adjustments to make sure they work and you can find the right driving position.

Pedals: The rubber on the brake, clutch, and gas pedals indicates usage. A car with low mileage should not wear out much. Spotted wear on the tread rubber - or brand new - indicates that the car has been driven many times.

Instrumentation and Controls: Turn on the ignition, do not start the engine. You should make sure that all warning lights (including the check engine light) come on for a few seconds and then go off when you start the engine. Pay attention to whether the engine is difficult to start when it is cold and whether the idle speed is smooth. Then try each switch, button, and lever.

With the engine running, turn the heater on full blast and see how hot it gets, and how fast it is. Turn on the air conditioner and make sure it blows cold quickly.

Sound System: Check for AM, FM and satellite radio reception. If your car has a CD player, try loading and ejecting the disc. Take your smartphone or MP3 player with you, plug it in, and/or pair it via Bluetooth.

Roof: Check the headliner and roof trim for stains or sagging, and look for water leaking from improperly fitted doors and windows. Check that the sunroof or sunroof opens and closes properly and seals well when closed. Shine a flashlight on the convertible top to check for cracks.

Torso: Use your nose and eyes. Sniff and look for signs of water ingress. Check to see if the carpet feels damp or musty, and check the spare wheel well for water or rust

Under the Hood: Engine-Related Components

It is best to perform these checks when the engine is cold. First, check the general condition of the engine compartment. Dirt and dust are normal, but if you see oil splattered around or on the pavement below, be careful. Also look out for corrosion-covered batteries, or loose wires and hoses.

Hoses and Belts: Squeeze a variety of rubber hoses that connect radiators, air conditioners, and other components. The rubber should be hard and soft, not hard, cracked, or mushy. Feel the drive belts to see if they are worn.

Fluids: The owner's manual will indicate where all fluid levels can be checked. The oil should be dark brown or black, but not gritty. If the oil is honey-colored, it has just been changed. If the dipstick is dripping or showing gray or foamy oil, it could indicate a cracked engine block or a blown head gasket, two serious problems.

Check the automatic transmission fluid while the engine is warm and running. On some vehicles, the dipstick has two sets of markings to check when the engine is cold or hot.

The transmission fluid should be pink, not brown, smell like oil, and not have a "burnt" smell. The dipstick should not leave visible metal particles on the rag, which is another sign of a serious problem. Power steering and brake fluid should be in a safe area.

Radiator: Look at the plastic container connected to the radiator by a rubber hose. The coolant should be green or orange, not milky or rust-colored. A green stain on the outside of the radiator is a sure sign of a leak.

Batteries: Some "maintenance-free" batteries have a built-in charge light: green usually means the battery is in good condition, and yellow or black usually means the battery is dying. These can only reveal the condition of one battery and may not give an accurate reading of the health of the entire battery. If the battery has a filler cap, wipe the top off with a rag, then carefully pry or unscrew the cap to see the fluid level. A low level could mean the battery has been working hard. Any mechanic worth their salt can check the charging system and load-test the battery.

Electric Vehicles and Hybrids: Make sure the battery is fully charged before taking a test drive to see its estimated range. For hybrids, check the in-car display to make sure the battery is charging and discharging as you drive.

Under the Vehicle

If you can find where the vehicle usually sits, look for traces of old gasoline, oil, coolant, or transmission fluid. The clear water dripping from the bottom of the car on a hot day is probably just air conditioning condensation.

Exhaust Pipe: Feel for residue. If it's black and greasy, it's burnt oil. Tailpipe stains should be dry and dark gray. While some rust is normal, severe rust could mean the vehicle needs a new exhaust system.

Underneath: If the vehicle is high enough to slide under, you can do some basic checks. Spread an old blanket on the ground and use a flashlight to look under the engine. If you see oil drips, leaks, or green or red fluid on the engine or on the road under your car, it's not a good sign.

Check the CV joint boots, they are the round black rubber bellows on the end of the half shafts. If they crack and leak oil, assume the car's universal joints are bad, another expensive repair.

Structural components with kinks and large dents in the chassis or fuel tank are all indications of past accidents. Welding on the frame indicates that it may have been replaced or a section cut away for repair work. A fresh undercoat may hide recent structural repairs.

The above has introduced in detail how to check the vehicle before buying a used car. If you have any questions or you want to buy a used car with great value for money, please contact us.

Yitongda is a comprehensive second-hand car service provider. It is committed to building the largest foreign trade base for the second-hand car export industry in the central and southern regions and an important window for China-Africa electromechanical exports. Products are mainly exported to more than 30 countries and regions in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, Russia, etc., including new energy vehicles (pure electric and hybrid), gas vehicles, commercial vehicles, excavators, concrete pump trucks, semi-trailers, tractors, dump trucks, graders, loaders and other categories.
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