5 Signs Your Should Walk away. Click image to enlarge
Article by Justin Pritchard
Most cars you’ll consider on the used market have two important things going for them. First, there are many copies of any given model to choose from, and second, most are in at least somewhat decent shape, if not better.
Most cars you’ll consider on the used car market have two things working against them, too. First, you probably don’t know who owned it before you, and before them, and before them, and so on – or how they took care of it. And, second, since that used car is a machine made of parts and components and assemblies, its mechanical condition is largely subject to how those former owners treated it.
Regular readers will be familiar with your writer’s ranting about common used-car checks to make, the importance of a mechanical pre-inspection, pre-emptive computer scans and fluid changes and how to tell if the sunroof is leaking.
This guide is a little different. It’s a straight-up look at some good reasons to walk away and find another copy of the model you’re considering somewhere else. Keep the following in mind on your test drive of any potential used car candidate.
Perforation: Look at key rust-prone areas on the car’s body down low – mainly the rocker panels and floor-pan. Older models may have excessive rust that leads to perforation, specifically, an actual hole through the vehicle’s body. Sometimes, shoddy patch-work will be used to cover said holes so the vehicle passes its mechanical inspection. Look for lumpy, unevenly painted rocker panels, or signs of sealant or sloppy welding on the vehicle’s underside as indicators.
Perforation is a bad thing. First, it means the structure of the vehicle is compromised, which is a massive safety issue. Further, holes in the vehicle’s body can allow exhaust gasses into the car and risk occupant exposure to deadly carbon monoxide.
If you detect signs of perforation, or smell exhaust strongly in the cabin of the model you’re test driving, advise the seller of your concerns and search out another unit.
Smoke: Gas engines that are healthy don’t emit smoke from the tailpipes. Though the odd full-throttle puff is considered normal as particulate is blown out of the exhaust or the fuel injection system richens up the air/fuel mixture for a moment, continual smoking, especially at idle, is never a good sign.
Blueish-white smoke at idle? Chances are the engine has bad valve seals or piston rings. Neither are cheap to change. White, oily smoke at idle on a turbocharged car? The turbo is probably ready to hit the junkyard. Very heavy, sweet-smelling smoke from the tailpipe? Coolant is burning up in the combustion chambers – meaning you could have a cracked block or head.
Minimum repair bill? Lots. Thank the seller for his time and head to the next unit on your list.