Here are some things that you should check before buying a repossessed vehicle. First you need to evaluate the radiator. The best way to do this is simply by unscrewing the radiator cap and checking the fluid inside. Usually you are going to find antifreeze, which could be orange, green, red, or even water in some cases. Just make sure that overall it looks clean.
If the fluid is dirty or discolored it could be a sign of stop a leak which could be used to hide a number of costly problems. Generally, it would be a head gasket, which can cost a lot of money depending on the car. Next you need to check the oil. For this I recommend taking the dipstick out and smelling for any burnt oil smells. Also, you need to wipe the dipstick and make sure it isn’t gritty which could be a sign of metal shavings. After wiping the dipstick off put it back in, and then pull it out to get an accurate reading of the oil level. If the oil level is low then it could either be burning oil or leaking oil from somewhere. No matter what this can be a very bad sign?
In addition, things like this might mean there are other leaks and that the car was never properly maintained. You need to make sure that there isn’t any water whatsoever in the oil!
Water will make the oil milky and could also be a sign of a blown head gasket. If you sense that there is water in the oil you need to run. Next you should remove the cap from the head cover and smell it to see if there is a burnt oil smell.
If there is a burnt smell it can be a sign of the motor being ran with low oil or other problems that are about to fail. You also are going to want to check the transmission fluid as well. The same rules apply with transmission fluid as oil. You don’t want any burnt smell and if the fluid is good it should be bright red. If the transmission fluid is dark or brown then an immediate fluid change will be required.
If there are any metal shavings this is a for sure sign that the transmission is about to go out. This will be a definite reason to keep looking for another vehicle.
Next you need to go over the belts and make sure they are good condition. A cracked or torn belt can break and cause a lot more problems and money then if it is handled before hand.
During this process also make sure there isn’t any oil leaking around the intake or heads. Before you go on your test drive you need to let the vehicle warm up. After the vehicle has been running for a while make sure the temperature gauge is working properly and the car isn’t over heating. If the temp gauge isn’t working then it could be a sign that it is unhooked because of a head gasket problem. While you are test-driving the vehicle make sure the temp doesn’t go up and down or get too hot.
If the vehicle does start to overheat it could be a number of things. Some of the most common are head gasket, thermostat, bad radiator, or even a cracked block. During the process of warming up the car go to the rear of the vehicle to check the exhaust. You will need to put your hand up to the tail pipe and make sure there is no excess condensation or low compression. There should be no smoke or water coming out after the vehicle has fully warmed up.
If there is white smoke it could be bad rings or antifreeze and oil mixing which could also indicate a blown head gasket. While you’re on the test drive stop as much as possible to check the quality of the brakes. While applying pressure to the pedal it should be solid and stop within reason. If there is any excessive noise while breaking there is probably the need for replacement pads or even rotors.
Keep in mind that brakes can be easily fixed and aren’t usually that expensive unless your dealing with an import car like Mercedes or BMW. Next you need to listen for any noise while turning or taking corners. Any noise could be a bad power steering pump, bearings, joints, or axles. In addition, if the steering wheel is hard to turn it could indicate low fluid or a bad pump.
While driving if you let go of the wheel and the car veers off one way or the other, it could mean an alignment problem or bad tires. Check all of the brake lights, turn signals, and headlights. Even thought they are cheap to fix you will need to fix them so the car will pass inspection. One of the most important things to check is the heating and cooling system. Depending on what time of year it is driving a car without one or the other can be