Test Driving a Car - What to Look For

In the market for a new car, truck, or SUV? Used cars aren’t always what they seem; here’s some advice from The Brake Shop in Mesa to make sure you get the used car of your dreams.

In this article, we’ll stay away from the obvious stuff; clearly, you want to find something that runs well, drives well, and rides well. Here, we have provided some helpful hints to diagnose issues which may be less apparent.

A used car is a used car; don’t take anyone’s word on its condition, except an unbiased, expert mechanic. Whether you buy a privately-owned vehicle or one from the dealership, don’t assume there’s nothing wrong. Even if someone isn’t directly trying to rip you off, it’s possible they might not even know there’s something wrong with their car.

Here’s an easy one that can be a lifesaver; after you’ve test driven the car, remove the oil filler cap and inspect the underside of the cap. If you see a milky substance coagulated on the cap, move on to the next vehicle, no matter how good the deal is. Milky oil and condensation get trapped inside the cap, indicating there is water leaking into the oil...most likely due to a head gasket problem or a warped head. Besides being an extremely expensive repair job, there’s no guarantee the water in the oil hasn’t damaged internal bearings in your engine. It’s best to simply stay away.

Observe the smoke coming from the tailpipe. If there’s an excessive amount of smoke, there’s a problem. White smoke indicates that the engine is burning coolant, blue smoke indicates that the engine is burning oil. While there are a variety of issues which can cause either, they range from expensive and inconvenient fixes to complete engine rebuilds. If the car is smoking too much, reconsider the purchase.

Be sure to get the vehicle up to operating temperature, drive it at interstate speed, and don’t be afraid to give it some gas. We’re not saying you should hot rod someone else’s car, but many issues don’t surface until heavy shifting or acceleration occurs. Try to test drive the vehicle from a cold start. Make sure there are no overheating issues, transmission issues, or suspension wobbles and shakes at highway speed using this advice. Once the car is warm, turn it off and start it again, just to make sure no issues will surface after it warms up.

Most importantly, go with your gut. If the seller seems sketchy, the title has issues, the price is too good to be true, or the seller insists an issue is an “easy fix”, get an expert opinion. Any time you’re test driving a car, you’re more than welcome to drop by The Brake Shop for an inspection. We can put the vehicle on a lift, and our experienced technicians will go over the vehicle to ensure its reliable and road ready. We won’t insist it needs work that it doesn’t, and we won’t miss the problem if it does. There’s a lot of advantages to buying used, just make sure you’re smart about it. For all your vehicle repair, maintenance, and inspection needs, call or visit The Brake Shop today.



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Thank you for visiting The Brake Shop Total Car Care in Mesa, AZ. Count on our automotive repair technicians to keep your car, truck, suv, or van on the roads longer and safer.

Schedule your appointment today (480) 969-7244 or REQUEST APPOINTMENT HERE.

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