Used Car Inspection
by Pat Goss
Buying a used car is an increasingly popular and smart financial choice. But, there are a lot of things to pay attention to beyond the price. When you’re buying a used car, one of the most important parts of making the decision is to have a professional evaluation of the entire car. And part of that evaluation should be having the car up in the air. Reason being if it’s had bodywork, remember that when the paintwork and the bodywork is done, the technician is looking down at it. So it generally will look good if you’re standing with the car on the ground. But, raise the car up, and you may find some surprises.
Now our perfect-looking car is up in the air, and it doesn’t look so perfect from this angle. First thing we see is over here on this inner fender panel, which is black plastic originally. And if we look at it in the light, we can see that it has a lot of silver overspray, suggesting that the back of this car has been painted. We also look inside the bumper cover, and we see a label there that really shouldn’t be there. That suggests that the bumper cover itself has been replaced. And we look further along, we look at the bottom edge of the bumper, and we see that it’s black where it should be silver, so they didn’t get it painted properly. And additionally, they have more overspray right here where we see this wedge-shaped portion of silver paint. Well, that tells you the person painting the car did a sloppy job of masking it off.
Alright, so now we know that this car has had at least minor damage to the back end of it and that parts of it have been repainted. But, how do we tell if this has been a major accident? Well, the next thing that we need to do is we need to look at frame rails and sheet metal underneath the car to see if there are any signs of dents, any places where it’s crinkled and pushed together, signs that it may have been heated where the paint has burned off it, things like that. If we don’t see anything like that, we want to proceed to looking at welds. The spot welds that hold all of this together. See, this is what a proper factory spot weld should look like. Anything that deviates from this, well that means that there’s something that is suspicious going on here, and you need to explore the car further. And if you do all of this, chances are you’re going to buy a good used car. And if you have a question or comment, drop me a line, right here at MotorWeek.