Are Vehicle Inspections Worth It

Are you thinking on buying a used car and wondering if vehicle inspections are worth it? I have some experience with this subject and I will share it with you.

”Vehicle inspections are definitely worth it, unless you are mechanic. Most of us are regular people that know only how to check the engine and transmission oil, and check the tires. Most of us don’t have knowledge to check if the car is showing signs that will lead to major malfunctions later on. So, yes, vehicle inspections are worth it.”

Here is what happened to me. About 3 years ago I saw a car online and I went to check it out. When I saw it, i fell in love. The outside of the car was beautiful. I found no scratches on the paint. The wires were in a decent shape. The seats looked like they were new. That’s it, that’s how much I understand cars and this car passed all of my 3 tests. I ended up buying it. I went to the mechanic and changed the engine oil and oil/fuel filter and took the car on a road trip. After driving for 1400 miles, the car overheat. I went on the road trip with a working car, and came back with overheat engine and over $4000 in repairs. After taking the car to the mechanic he said that I bought a car that had 2.2 engine with a 2.0 cylinder heads which eventually lead up to overheating due to wrong cylinder heads. I mean, how could I have known this and prevent it?Old people say: ”If you don’t know something, ask someone that already suffered from that issue”.With my experience, I can share with you:

The 12 things you need to check before buying a used car:

As far as the used car inspection checklist at these used-car Lots, or even the dealerships, let me tell you how it actually happens behind the scenes. A friend of mine used to work at the Ford dealership for 10 years. The way it happens is a vehicle gets traded into sales, and then sales turns it around to a service department to get inspected. They inspect it, go through a checklist on there as fast as possible. They’re in a gloss over the vehicle, they’re gonna recommend a few services on there and then sales ultimately has to say if they’re gonna fix anything or not. A lot of times they’re looking to turn it over, make maximum profit and they’re gonna fix as little as possible. So, that’s how it really happens in the real world believe me. So, check out these 12 things before buying a used car and you will definitely get a good car:

How Long Can You Drive With Bad Lif...
How Long Can You Drive With Bad Lifters?

1. Don’t buy at night.

The first thing you want to do is don’t buy it at night. Take a look at it in the daylight. This is important because you want to have enough light so you can compare the panels and make sure they have the same color. If it’s been painted, first warning signs to stay away. It’s either been in an accident or it’s rusty. If one panel is rusty, most likely another panel is also rusty or it’s on its way.

2. Check the tires

The tires are very important. If you’re spending a few grand on a vehicle, even eight grand, if the tires are worn you’re looking at could possibly another $800-$1000 for new boots. So, you want to look at the tires. You want turn them all the way out one way and you want to run your hands over and make sure that it’s wearing evenly. If it’s feathered at all, where it’s cupped it means it’s a bad alignment and that could be worn parts and you’d have to replace those suspension parts, or again it could be in an accident. So, make sure that your goods are in good shape.

3. Check the transmission fluid

Underneath the hood, first and foremost, you want to check your transmission fluid. Usually a yellow handle. You want to look for nice red fluid that’s not low and you want to smell it to make sure that’s not burnt.

4. Check your engine oil

You want to check your engine oil to make sure that it’s not low in any means and that it’s in good shape, nice and clear. Again, make sure to smell it so if it doesn’t smell good that would be an warning sign to stay away. Oil isn’t as telltale because if there was an issue, they would have changed the oil beforehand.

5. Check the brake fluid

You can actually tell the how much you brakes are worn by how much fluid is left in your reservoir. If your brakes are worn ,that means that your Pistons are coming out and the brake fluid reservoir will be lower. If it’s full, it’s a good sign that your brakes are in good shape, but somebody could have topped up the fluid as well, so what I’m saying is low oil means that the brakes are wore, when the reservoir is full it means it could be could have really good brakes, or somebody’s topped it off.

6. Check the engine general condition.

You want to check over the belt’s general condition. You want to check to make sure there’s as little corrosion and rust on exhaust and aluminum parts. If you see any corrosion or oil spills, stay away from this vehicle. It’s probably going to break down after couple of months and you will be left with a big mechanic bill.

7. Check the antifreeze

Always check the antifreeze, especially if you are buying a car in winter. Make sure that there’s no oil or anything in there and it looks nice and green or pink depending on what’s in there.

8. Check for software errors

Now OBD2 will work as magic in this scenario. You can pick these up really cheap. I got mine on . I paid around $40 for mine. It is a great thing to have. Every single car built after 1999 has an port where you can connect the OBD scanner and get a reading. It’s usually located under the steering wheel. Turn your ignition on and hopefully it will come up no diagnostic trouble codes. Now that either means that the car is in good shape and they just replaced the battery, or they just cleared the code.

9. OBD Readiness Test

So, another way to see how long it’s been since they cleared the codes is to go in the menu and wait for a readiness test. The readiness is important for a test. Every emissions monitor has to go through so many cycles. Scroll down and go through there and if all of them are complete, you know that the vehicles been driven a good amount of time since the last time the computers been cleared.

10. Listen to the engine

When you’re driving the car, you want to turn your fans off, turn the radio off and listen for any noises. Anything that ticks or knocks or squeaks or squawks. This is a big warning sign. If you purchase this car, you will end up with a big mechanic bill. Don’t let the seller talk to you or whoever selling it, just tell them to be quiet. You want to listen to it and you could talk when you’re outside the vehicle.

11. Check for online reviews

Keeping these things in mind will hopefully keep you from buying something that is going to be a problem further on. Check your reviews online and see what is good about the car, but know that for every one person that says something bad about the car, there’s 200 that are driving happily but just not posting about it.

12. Call a local parts store

Next step is to call the local parts store.. Ask if there’s been a lot of parts ordered for this particular car. Make sure to ask if this car has got bad wheel bearings, bad brakes or bad transmission. Ask for anything else that might save you in the long run.

I followed these 12 steps when I bought my second used car. I got a nice car that I drove 50,000 miles (and counting) without any repairs. Some people also bring their friends that are mechanics to perform these tests for them. That’s a good option too, if you have any mechanics.

Please make sure to share your experience with buying used cars in the comments. I would love to hear your tips and tricks, or any negative experience.

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Hi there. I am a certified Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) mechanic since 2018 and a car detailer for 10 years.

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