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Learn2 Check Out a Used Car (continued)
Step 8: 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 alignment problem.


  • 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.


 Previous Step

Repair Scratches and Rust Spots
Wax a Car
Replace a Car Battery
Sell Your Used Car
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Step 1: Note your first impression
Step 2: Check the underside and tires
Step 3: Check under the hood
Step 4: Perform gauge and listening tests
Step 5: Check the oil and brake fluid
Step 6: Check the shock absorbers and lights
Step 7: Check for play
Step 8: Take it for a drive


Identify Drive Belt Problems
Clean Car Windows
Keep Car Doors from Freezing Shut
Clean Hazy Car Windows
 More Learnlets...