5 tips for test driving a used car
Everyone thinks it’s childishly simple. After all, you’ve probably been driving for years, and you know exactly how a car should perform.
There’s a big difference between a Sunday outing with the family, commuting to work in traffic, and assessing a vehicle during a test drive. You don’t want to end up with a totally uncomfortable, unreliable used car. So here are five things to check during a test drive.
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1- Listen to the engine
Do all engines look the same to you? Don’t worry. You just need to pay attention to the sound the engine makes when you start it, as you accelerate, and when you stop in traffic. If the engine sound is rough rather than smooth, if you detect a knocking sound, or if while accelerating sharply you feel a strong vibration, there’s a problem!
2- Test the brakes
Don’t hit the brakes as if your life depends on it. When you stop, simply press the pedal all the way down. If there’s too much resistance or not enough, the braking system needs to be looked at. Also, try the handbrake (or electronic parking brake, depending on the model). Just activate it, and accelerate gently. You’ll see whether it’s able to keep the car in place or not.
3- Check the transmission and clutch
While you’re in the car, press the clutch pedal. The pedal stroke should be even and without hitches. Check the transmission. Is the gear shift solid with the knob securely in place? If the car is manual, you should be able to change gears smoothly while your foot is on the clutch. If the gear shift is not engaged, it should return to the centre position without intervention. If the car is automatic, gently shift the gear selector into all of the positions, and check that it fits properly.
4- Take to the road
While driving, check for any form of vibration – there should be none. Make sure that the steering is precise, meaning the steering wheel doesn’t require a half-turn to change lanes, for example, and the car doesn’t try to change directions on its own. Check for excessive rattling, and monitor the engine temperature throughout the test. If it’s too hot or too cool, you could have problems on longer trips. Listen carefully when the steering wheel is fully turned in either direction. If there’s rattling sound, the power steering may need to be inspected. Finally, check the transmission response. If the gears change too quickly or too slowly, beware!
5- Test the comfort
You’re sitting in the car, so it’s a good time to test the comfort accessories. Make sure the air conditioner works without emitting a foul odour, the sound system operates properly and the windows function without slipping down!
Once these checks are done, you’ll be well equipped to decide whether the car suits you. You’ll also have the details you need to guide the mechanic you’ve chosen to inspect the vehicle. Because regardless of how you felt driving the car, a mechanical inspection is always a must.