Consumer Reports reveals how to find hidden problems in a used car before you buy it

There is nothing worse than discovering too late that the used car you just bought has more lemons than cherries. It happens to the best of us. Sometimes this repair was just a pittance far from revealing itself, but other times it involved some intentional omission of the date or just a simple hit repair scam by the seller. In any case, nowhere else is the phrase “buyer beware,” a catchphrase that all potential used car buyers should grumble silently as they search for a potential used car purchase.

Thank God, sources like Consumer Reports He offers some good money and stress relief tips to help prepare you in advance before responding to that ad in the newspaper for the used car deal that caught your eye.

However, here is a summary of its mechanisms Consumer Reports You have to tell about how to find hidden problems in a used car before you buy it.

Consumer Reports Hidden Used Car Problems Checklist

1. Check the vehicle reliability record—Before you pick up a phone and arrange to meet with a private seller or used car dealer, now is the time to find out if this car for sale is the one you really want to take the risk with…even if it appears to be in good shape with acceptable mileage.

The point is that many cars and models have unique problems such as AC failures, transmission and transmission problems, and even engine disasters that are statistically higher than other makes and models. This changes from year to year between models. The good news is that you can check the reliability of almost every make and model over the past 10 years by visiting auto sites like this one; And of course—Consumer Reports. Do your research to see if a used car is close to its life span for a repair that can be very costly if it happens to you.

While doing your research, it’s also helpful to go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website and look for any recall alerts on the vehicle model you’re considering as well as technical service bulletins, or “TSBs,” which are reports that the manufacturer sends out to its dealers about common problems. Or repeated with a specific model, how to fix it. If you’re considering buying a used car with a recall or TSB record, be sure to ask if the problem has been fixed and that the seller shows proof that it’s been done.

2. Read the window sticker— Dealers are required to post a window sticker to alert a potential buyer if the vehicle is being sold “as is” or if it offers any type of warranty. Treat the window sticker as a contract, because it is. If you had a problem with the car before agreeing to buy it, you can ask the seller to rewrite the label to cover your concerns. As for “as is” offers, you can’t blame anyone but yourself if something goes wrong later.

3. Check the outside– here where you can drive around the car from a distance and just look for something that doesn’t feel right like the irregular gaps between the doors or the hood with the body; mismatched paint on the body such as doors and bumpers; And most of all – an exaggeration spray where someone tried to hide a defect or some damage, but accidentally the spray got on the surrounding trim or fenders.

Your next drive should be near the vehicle to pick up some of the less obvious signs of damage or repair that may reveal some hidden work that has been done on the vehicle. Be sure to take a close look at all of the glass for evidence of small cracks that are easy to miss.

4. Check inside– Go inside the car as if you are looking for some bulk change to buy a much needed soda on a hot day. However, do not put your hand blindly between the upholstery. do not ask. Check for scents, too; If the windows are open as soon as you arrive, make sure they are closed and determine if there are any moldy odors that indicate a leak or a mold problem in the air conditioning system.

Look for silt under the carpet, rusty floorboard screw heads, and intermittent electrical problems that could be a sign of flood damage. Press all the buttons, drag and twist all the knobs, make sure each feature works…or doesn’t. Damaged seat belts could be a sign of a frontal collision. And note the condition of the pedals and wear on the seat – Excessive wear on any of these indicates a lot of miles have been spent on this vehicle and/or the odometer may have been changed.

5. Check under the hood– Again, look at the general condition from a slight distance to see how clean or sloppy the engine looks. It’s like you can’t see the forest for the trees kinda. Next, approach each belt, hose, and wire to look for wear, leaks, old cracks, and fusing, whether electrical or from overheating the engine. Is the firewall or the underside of the hood suspiciously dark?

Check all fluid levels either cold or after the engine has been running for 10 minutes. If it is properly maintained, it will have the correct levels. Be sure to note the fluid conditions. to me Consumer Reports:

Regular engine oil is brown or black, depending on when it was last changed. Granular or gelatinous oil may indicate long stretch periods between oil changes. Thin, frothy, milk-chocolate oil may indicate a blown head gasket or a severely damaged cylinder head block or head. Fine metal particles in the oil indicate internal damage or severe wear.

I also recommend running a magnet along the wet dipstick to see if any fine metal particles are pulling out of the oil.

And when it comes to transmission fluid, it should be bright red to light reddish-brown, not dark brown, black, or mustard color – these colors can indicate serious problems. Also, if the liquid has a strong burning smell, this also indicates the possibility of severe corrosion.

Although it may seem obvious, be sure to go through all gears while the engine is running, and take them for a spin around the neighborhood. However, doing a test on the highway is also important because higher speeds can reveal engine and suspension problems.

6. Check the routingDuring your test drive, pay particular attention to how the steering feels and whether there is excessive steering wheel manipulation and/or vehicle cruising that requires a slight steering wheel adjustment – all of which can reveal a potential problem with the steering linkage, front end alignment, lack of Wheel balance and/or suspension/frame problem.

7. Check CommentSpeaking of suspension, don’t be afraid to push hard against the body over the wheels to see if you get more than a few soft bounces. More than two bounces indicate worn shock absorbers or struts.

The best test is doing 30mph on bumpy road and speed bumps (my favourite). If you feel and hear the sound of the body jar or bumping into the tire, you will know that an expensive problem is afoot.

8. Check tiresTire wear can tell you many things about how the car is and how to treat it:

The wear should be equal across the tread width and the same on the left and right sides of the vehicle. Overinflated tires tend to wear down the middle; Tires that are driven while inflated tend to wear more on the sides.

Heavy wear of the outer shoulder near the sidewall of the tire indicates a hard-driven vehicle. This may be a sign that other parts of the vehicle may suffer from excessive wear due to aggressive driving. Concave tires, worn unevenly along the tread contour, can indicate various problems with steering, suspension or brakes.

9. Check the exhaust pipe as soon as the car is startedLooking for smoke signals coming out of the exhaust when the engine is ignited can reveal the following:

white smoke: The initial puff of white smoke at startup is likely due to combustion of condensate and is not a problem. However, billowing white smoke indicates the presence of water in the combustion chamber, usually due to a blown head gasket, damaged cylinder head, or even a cracked block.

black smoke: Seeing continuous black smoke after the vehicle is warmed up indicates a very rich air-fuel mixture, usually due to a dirty air filter, faulty oxygen sensor, or defective air mass gauge.

blue smoke: Blue smoke from burning oil is a bad sign and should be a deal breaker for any used car buyer.

10. Step on the gasWhen accelerating, pay attention to the engine and transmission. Is an over-revving engine a sign of transmission problems? Hear some noises and knocks coming from an engine with timing or overheating issues? If it doesn’t look right – it isn’t, and would require a mechanic to diagnose the extent of the problem.

11. Check vehicle history– Vehicle history report from services like Carfax or Experian Automotive It can alert you to possible odometer fraud; detection of fire damage, floods and previous accidents; Or tell you if a title deed has been issued for a rebuilt or salvaged vehicle. Although it is not 100% guaranteed that you will have a complete history available for your own vehicle, it is useful research that can save you a lot of headache later on.

12. Go to a mechanic– Last but certainly not least, taking the car to a mechanic skilled in diagnosis and repair is an extra cost, but it can save you lemons and/or help you negotiate a lower price if you still want the car and the mechanic assures you it’s a keeper with a little work to do.


Now that you have the basics on what to look for while checking out a used car, here are more of them Consumer Reports With this funny (but helpful) video on how to prepare yourself before you walk into the situation and deal with a used car salesman.

Tips for buying a used car | Consumer Reports

For more information on used cars, new cars, and car maintenance and repair, be sure to check out our site and try its search engine for helpful articles on any car model you might have questions through a database full of informative reviews by car experts.

next one: Watch how a car owner converts his old Ford into an electric car using used Tesla battery packs.

Timothy Boyer is a Torque News Tesla and EV reporter based in Cincinnati. With his experience in early automobile restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications to improve performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at Tweet embed For daily Tesla and electric car news.

Photo by Jim Witkowski on Unsplash

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