Proper way to inspect and test drive the "Perfect Car"

In this installment, we are going to discuss how to conduct a proper ‘Walk Around’ inspection followed by the most efficient and correct way to conduct a ‘Test-Drive’

When you initially approach a vehicle you will most likely have a first impression? Your first impression may or may not be the real condition of the vehicle you are about to inspect. There are more tricks to conceal defects and flaws in the automobile industry then you have fingers and toes, multiplied by your fingers and toes?

Even when there is no real intention to deceive or conceal a problem with a vehicle, several factors may affect your ability to determine what those problem areas may be? First lets discuss when is the best time to inspect a vehicle? The answers are very simple: Always inspect your intended vehicle in “ Day-Light” hours. Never ever conduct a walk around in the: Rain, fog, during a windy day. Most definitely never do this at night or with the aide of artificial light. Day light is without doubt the only time to conduct your inspection. Make sure the vehicle is washed and clean when you are performing your inspection. Water drops and rain, will usually hide defects in the paint and body damage. Rainy days are the car buyer’s enemy and the seller’s friend. These ambient conditions, especially weather of any kind have the ability to conceal issues and problems. Once you have made your initial inspection, lets begin at the beginning.

To begin, lets start at the driver’s door. You may observe undue wear and scraping around the door handle? Signs to keep track of. Reach in and pull the hood release. Now lets begin with the all-important walk around. I suggest you do this in a simple clock- wise manner. We should begin at the driver’s door and end with the driver’s door, in a clock-wise motion. Start at the driver’s door and lets go to each area denoted by a different section of sheet metal which the vehicle is constructed with. I.e. Fenders, bumpers, grille, hood and lights. Open and close the driver’s door several times. See how it operates? See if you are able to detect any over spray on the rubber or I the door jams themselves. See if you are able to detect a repainted or touched-up vehicle? Does anything draw your attention at this point such as squeaks, rattles or odd noises? If the answer is yes, get ready for a lot more surprises to come. If not, then lets Slowly move to the Left front fender or drivers side fender. At this point: IF there is any form of distraction: Music playing, comments or conversation by your salesman? Simply ask him to turn off the music or radio and remain silent or remove himself while you do your inspection. Distractions are your enemy and the advantage of the dealerships!

Moving in a clock-wise manner lets move toward the front of the vehicle, taking into account, each and every area. Fenders, wheel openings, tires, rims, grille and lights. Look into the wheel opening and notice the: Inner fenders? These are the material that protects the engine compartment and wheels from mud and rainwater being slung in every direction. If you noticed paint over spray or any form of misalignment, cracked or broken in the inner fenders. The chances are there are more issues to follow?

At this point you should be looking directly at the front-end of the vehicle. Lets take a step back and see if there is anything that looks loop sided. Fenders, bumpers, headlights going or pointing in different directions. Cracked or broken turn signals. You should be making a few notes about what you have found during your inspection. See if the front license plate is missing or damaged? A missing front license plate might be the cause of an accident? A Damaged front license plate is a sure sign of prior action in this area. Once you have inspected the front end or front group of the vehicle. Lift up the Hood and open it up! While you may not be a certified mechanic, is doesn’t take a genius to see or detect oil leaks and additional over spray, cause by repainting or spot painting body damage. The engine compartment in most cases will have been ‘ Steam-Cleaned’ by the dealer. This is normal and doesn’t necessarily mean they are trying to hide something by cleaning the engine compartment. Personally if the engine compartment is dirty it shows a lack of proper preparation and attention to detail by the dealers service department and the management staff in general. Working our way in a clock-wise manner we should pay close attention to each and ever item you see. Don’t be afraid to makes those notes along the way? Pay attention to the condition of the vehicles auto glass: Windshield condition, side glass and even rear glass. Notice those areas at the bottom of windows. This is where water collects and may cause rust? See if the glass is pitted and sand damaged. By looking at these areas at an Angle you will be able to move the light around giving you a different perspective and view while your doing this. The truck or Boot of the vehicle is a very telling area indeed. Dirt, over spray, and stains from oil and residue are equally telling areas you should be aware of. Lift up the spare tire cover and see what there is inside? Often a damaged rim or scalded sidewall on a spare tire is an easy way to detect previous damage or issues. When you have finally completed your walk around. I want to step away and get way back. Now observe the vehicle at different angles. Moving up and down see if there is a difference in Paint shade or shine? A slight difference in shade or shine is a good idea you have detected a previous accident has occurred? A really old method to try, if your eyesight isn’t as good as is might be. Try using a small magnet on the sides of the vehicle/ Yes, I said a ‘Magnet’? Using a magnet will allow you to detect the presence of a body filler or ‘Bondo’ plastic based body filler used to repair body damage in a very poor way, I might add. If you are able to determine the difference in power the magnet sticks to the vehicles exterior, again you are on to something. Automobile manufacturers never use Bondo on a new vehicle unless it is somehow damaged? If there is a marked difference in magnetism from different areas of the vehicle “ Look Closely” very close up! See if you are able to see small sand marks or scratches under the paint finish? If you are able to see these small uniformed scratches there is definitely something that tells us there was an accident or damage?

Okay, now that we have gone over the exterior walk around we need to get inside the vehicle and begin working each and every knob, switch and lever we can find. Start once again with the driver’s area. Sit in the seat see if you sink in from worn seat foam? Try the power switches at your left and right. Make sure everything is working properly? If a power window seems to stick or drag, make a note and make sure you add this to your list of vehicle defects. Make sure you look closely at the brake and gas pedals of the vehicle. Worn rubber peddles or pads are a sign of wear. More importantly, lots of wear and tear has occurred to the vehicle.

I always say: Take a look inside the glove compartment and console areas. These are the previous owners private areas, where personal items are kept. If the glove compartment or console insides are nasty, or dirty. Again there us a good chance the previous owner didn’t take care of the vehicle as well as they should have? If that is the case, all of that equals a bad choice in vehicles! If a vehicle owner has pride in ownership chances are they took good care of the vehicle and the vehicle will take good care of it’s next owner. Now that we have concluded the walk around inspection it’s time to move on, to the next segment.