Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

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USED CAR CHECKLISTS

Driveability 

  • Acceleration should be smooth.
  • Pinging may indicate a needed tune-up or may be poor fuel. Some pinging under hard acceleration may be normal.
  • Blue smoke indicates burning oil.
  • There should be no delay between engine speed and speed of the car. If there is a delay, car may have transmission problems.
  • If car has a manual transmission, clutch should engage smoothly and should not slip.

Suspension 

  • When safe, take hand from wheel. Car should not pull to one side. It's okay to drift slowly to the right due to crown of road.
  • In a parking lot, make a few slow, tight turns in each direction. Turn radio and everything else that makes noise off and roll windows down. Listen carefully for any noise coming from front wheels that might indicate CV joint problems. CV joints are expensive to replace and a bad one can be dangerous!
  • Remember to check for "dog-tracking". The inspection checklist tells how.
  • After a quick stop, car should not rock back and forth separately. If it does, car may need new struts or shocks.

Brakes 

  • Make both slow and hard stops.
  • Car should not pull to one side under braking.
  • A spongy or low pedal may indicate leaks or other problems.
  • Squeaking may indicate need for new pads or may be caused by glazed-over pads.
  • If car shudders under braking, it probably needs new, expensive brake rotors.

Comfort Equipment 

  • Check air conditioning for proper operation. A/C repairs and refills aren't cheap anymore!
  • Make sure heater and fan work properly. Drive car long enough for engine to warm up.
  • Check operation of defrosters.
  • Make sure all power options work.

If you still want the car after the test drive and inspection

  • Take car to a mechanic and have it checked. Make sure compression is tested.
  • Attempt to contact previous owner.