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Preparing For The Test Drive

Here are some of the greatest points about preparing yourself for testdriving the car, before buying. Pay attention...

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You picked out a car that looks good and gave it a serious visual inspection, now itís time to take a test drive and do even more inspection. Itís easy enough to inspect the vehicle while itís sitting still, but until you actually drive it you wonít know if all the lights work, or anything electrical for that matter.

Also, there is no way to check the gauges, brakes or anything else that requires the car to be moving. Ask the salesman to let you test drive if he has not already offered to do so. In any case, before you actually drive the car there are some important steps to take.

Prior to starting the vehicle, take a second to open the hood or your car salesman to do it for you. Do a visual on the engine even if you know next to nothing about the inner workings of an automobile. The salesman does not need to know that, as it gives him an advantage.

You should be able to see the battery. Look at the cables and see if there is any corrosion or rust. The engine itself should be fairly clean, that is, there should not be a thick buildup of oil and grease, and it will be immediately evident if there is.

If you know where the oil dipstick is, pull it out and look at the oil, or ask your used car salesman to do it. Check that the oil is not black and sludgy, but slightly transparent and a brownish color. If the oil is a nasty yellowish color, that is a sign of water in the oil and thereís a good chance the engine has a blown head gasket. If so, walk away from that car quickly!

Donít be afraid to ask questions or call the salesmanís attention to something that just doesnít seem right. Ultimately, the best thing to do would be to take the car to a good mechanic and let him inspect it, however that is not always an option.

Another important check is the radiator. Again, if you know how to open it, do so, and if not ask your salesman. Some cars have a reservoir where the water can be seen easily, others do not. If you can see the water, it should be green and clean, not cloudy and brown.

You may have to wait until the engine is running to see the water, which is fine, just make sure not to get scalded when opening the radiator or again, get the salesman or his mechanic to do it for you.

Once you are fairly confident that the engine is in decent shape, close the hood and get in the driverís seat. Pay attention to every little thing once inside the drivers seat.

Look at the key before you put it in to make sure itís not bent or cracked. When you turn it to start the engine, it should turn over strong and fast.

If the engine turns over very slow or is weak sounding, it could have an old battery, a failing ignition system or any number of problems that are going to cost you money, guaranteed.

After the engine starts, let it idle for a few seconds and listen closely to the sounds coming from it. If you hear anything strange, such as hissing, bumping, scraping etc., there is most likely something wrong somewhere, and you might not find out what it is until it breaks down on you.

Anything that does not sound like a normal engine sound should be taken as a warning.

Next, watch the instrument panel and gauges, checking to see if any warning lights are on. If the vehicle has a tachometer, it should normally idle between 600 and 1000 rpm, depending on the make and model.

Run through the various settings of the windshield wipers, observing that they function as expected.

Blow the horn, it should be strong and loud.

If the transmission is automatic, put on the parking brake and put it in gear. With a manual transmission, put it in first gear or reverse and try to take off. It should not move. If it does, theres your proof something is wrong. However, first make sure you press the brakes hard enough before you jump to conclusions about this car.

Hopefully, you brought a friend or relative with you for your car inspection. If you didn't you can always employ your trusty salesman to help you check all the lights. Make sure ALL lights work as they should, including headlights, bright and normal, tail lights, reverse lights, brake lights, both turn signals and the hazard lights.

You might want to look at the inspection sticker and see that it is current as well.

Having performed all of these checks, youíre now ready to drive the car. Fasten your safety belts and prepare for takeoff!

Questions are meant to be answered. This is why we hope that all your questions on car buying have been answered by this composition on your car buying process. Good luck!

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