Take it for a drive
Make sure to put on your seat belt, and drive especially carefully in an unfamiliar and untested car. Here are some things to test:
- The brakes: Don't test the car if you don't feel good about the brakes. But if you do, test them at the beginning to make certain they work. Then test them at 15 mph to see if they pull to one side, make a screeching sound, fade (a difference in stopping range) or stick. Pulling may only mean an easy adjustment, while screeching and fading could mean the brake shoes are worn and work is needed, as can fading. A shuddering movement may indicate an uneven brake rotor, which is an expensive repair. If you're comfortable and away from traffic, test at 30 mph and 50 mph for the same symptoms.
- The steering: If the wheel shakes
when making a turn, there may be a suspension
problem. If all seems well, take the car up to
highway speed and up some hills to test the
car's performance. If the steering wheel
vibrates at high speeds, there may be an
- The manual transmission: Is it
difficult to get the car in gear when shifting
up or down (i.e. sticky or stiff)? If you hear a
grinding sound, there may be transmission or
clutch problems. If the sound is isolated to one
gear, transmission problems are more likely.
Just after shifting into a new gear, does the
transmission pop out or jump out of gear? This
can mean a worn clutch as well.
- The automatic transmission: Note if
the transition between gears is jerky. With
either manual or automatic, put the car in
reverse. Accelerate and stop a few times. If you
hear a clunking sound, you may have a bad
differential (expensive to replace).
- The exhaust: Put the car in neutral.
Have your friend check the color (see Step 3) as
you depress the accelerator.