What if there was a screening test for used cars and you could detect those that were carriers and those that were already infected. Then you could avoid the possibility that they would be separating you form the spoils of your labor and not purchase them in the first place. Although there isn’t any lab test, you can, even with a limited automotive comfort level, separate the sick vehicles from those that are well.
Here are some quick checks that you can perform yourself that might keep the environment in your garage a healthy one.
Fluids: Your car’s systems all operate in the closed loop mode. There should not be drips or puddles under the vehicle. As much as you are able, check under the car and under the hood for any leaking fluid. It could be motor oil around the valve cover gasket or power steering fluid seeping from a hose, if you raise the hood and see excessive wetness there is a problem.
Repair History: If you owned a Toyota and took care of it, wouldn’t you retain proof of its maintenance? Ask the seller what has been done to the car and if the work orders are available for you to review. Try to establish if crucial repairs like the timing belt’s replacement has been done as prescribed by the manufacturer. If they have not, you have to add the cost of those required repairs to your cost of purchase. The vehicle is already overdue for these repairs so to purchase it and not catch up on its maintenance would be foolish.
Road Test: You drive a car all the time and even though you are not a trained diagnostician you have developed a feel for what’s seems right about a car. Put these instincts to use as you test drive the car. Ask yourself if the vehicle is doing anything that would prompt you to seek a professional opinion. A few things to look for are brakes that pull or grab, steering that is stiff or has excessive play or drive-ability problems like lack of power or erratic idling at lights.
Listen: Much can be said for the noise coming from a Ford Explorer or any car for that matter. In many cases sound is the early warning system that alerts you to an impending problem. If there are sounds that are not like what you are used to in your own car be on guard. This is an area in which you may have to seek professional advice if everything else about the car is OK and you are considering buying the vehicle.
Safety and Integrity: Start with the tires and check all the features that impact the vehicle’s safety. This would be equipment like the lights, wiper blades, horn and turn signals. Although problems with these need not be deal breakers, they do point to the kind of care the car has received. Check the trunk for wetness and check all the power assisted accessories like the windows and door locks to make sure that you are not faced with something needing immediate repair.
You might not be able to find a used car with a completely clean bill of health, but you can eliminate those cars that are on their death bed.