Integrated Family Community Services 3370 South Irving Street, Englewood, CO 80110-1816 Ph: 303-789-0501

5 Things to Check Before Buying a Used Family Car

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New cars have some glamour, but can be extremely expensive. If you can find a used car that’s been well-cared for, you can save a lot and enjoy worry-free travel. However, there are things you need to carefully check out before buying a used car.

Do A Walk Around

Walk around the car and look to make sure it is level. Problems with leveling can be an indicator of bad shocks or struts. These crucial tools can lead to a lot of bouncing, a pull on the steering wheel as you try to drive straight, and can wear out your tires quickly. You need all four tires on the road and for shock absorbers to move freely to avoid the risk of a wreck.

Review the Service Records

The glove box should contain the manual. Review this book for any service records logged in the back. If you’re buying your car from the selection of used cars in Gillette Wyoming or your particular locale, check in with the facility mechanic to determine what they found when they checked out the car. If the dealership doesn’t have a mechanic, or if you’re buying from a private seller, take it to a mechanic for a thorough assessment. Be ready to pay for this checkup, as it could be the best money you spend on a car you choose not to buy. Finally, if the private seller won’t let you take the car to be checked out, walk away.

Get Under the Hood

When checking the car for level, you might as well get on the ground and look for fluid. Green fluid is a radiator leak, while red fluid is usually engine oil. Open the hood and check the radiator fluid level. Pull the engine dipstick and check to make sure the oil is clean. Take a look at the brake fluid level. Finally, sniff. Cars that have been run too hot due to thermostat problems or just because the oil was allowed to run too dirty for too long can have a burned or smoky odor. It’s not a sign to walk away, but you’ll want to get it checked out.

Check the Tire Tread

Take a penny out of your pocket and put Mr. Lincoln upside down in the tire tread. If you can see the top of his head, the tires are too worn to be safe. Tire tread is critically important. Bald tires can’t clear rainwater, so your risk of a skid can get very dangerous, very quickly. You need tires with some grab to be safe.

Test Drive

When you take the car for a test drive, go easy and let the car warm up. Once it’s running smoothly, hit the brakes hard. If you hear a squeak, whistle or clunk, the brakes will need work. Punch the gas pedal to check acceleration. If there’s delay, the injectors may need attention, or the timing of the engine may be off. If it’s a standard transmission, work carefully through the gears. Make sure you can easily get into reverse from a stopped position. Slip your shoes off and check the friction point on the clutch. You want the clutch to engage at the top of the pedal, not by the carpet. If the clutch engagement point is low, a novice may have worn it excessively or damaged the transmission. Downshift through the gears to check for slop or misalignment.

Conclusion

A good used car can be a great investment, but you need to do your homework. Visit a lot to get a good sampling of what’s available in your price range and seek the help of a qualified mechanic for a final check.

Tim Esterdahl

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