The steering wheel should work smoothly, without squeaks, groans, or shimmying. You should refuse at once any car that is too rusted. Look too for weld marks in the frame of the car, or have a LED High Mast Lamp mechanic check for them. The engine should pull easily. Check to see that the wheels are straight first when the car is standing still, then when it is driven directly away from you. Also, look out for wisps of blue smoke, both while the engine is idling and when it is raced. This may be a strain on the engine, but even so it should not buck, hesitate, or miss. Check the exhaust by holding a matchbook cover over the tail pipe.These simple checks when carried out can save you a lot of hassles further down the road. Make sure you test-drive the car over a rough, potholed road. Try to find corrosion at the bottom of fenders, around the head and taillights, and along the bottom of door and body. Check the car’s engine by accelerating suddenly from about 20 to 60 mph. It should flap in a steady rhythm. To test the brakes, first press the pedal down while the car is immobile. If you find the wheels are headed in slightly different directions, pass up the car immediately. This fault can usually be corrected by a simple adjustment of the carburetor. Such irregularities very often mean that the car has been in a major accident. If the brake fails to hold, this may mean only minor adjustment but it could also indicate major trouble. When you test drive the car, turn a few corners sharply. These condition show that the car has been in a bad accident, and are good grounds for rejecting it without further examination. Watch to see whether the light catches any bumps or dents in the surface. The emerging brake on the car should be checked by halting on a steep hill. Black smoke is a sign that the gas is of too rich a mix. Small blisters in the paint are sure signs of rust underneath.
Squealing or pulling brakes may mean a minor problem, but sudden swerving or grabbing are always warnings that serious repairs will be needed. If the pedal goes almost to the floor, this means the car probably needs new brake shoes. If the oil looks white, or is filled with white bubbles, this probably means the car’s cooling system is leaking into the engine block; and this means a serious problem. Another good engine test is to accelerate from slow to moderate speed while driving up a steep hill. Then pull up the oil dipstick. Let the car’s engine warm up for at least 15 minutes. If there are any defects in the body and suspension, this test will show them up. Stand ten to fifteen feet away from the car in a good light. When you are test driving, accelerate to about 40 mph and brake suddenly.