How To Buy A Used Car – Lesson Two (Part 2)

If you walk up to a used car and it has all new tires on it, feeling the tire tread wear may not tell you anything. So how can you determine if the car may have front end problems? Get in the car, put the key in the ignition and turn it so the steering wheel is unlocked and can be turned.

Without the car running, turn the steering wheel hard in both directions a couple of times. Hard left, hard right, hard left, hard right. Do you hear any clunking? Do you hear anything like clunk, clunk, clunk?

What this test is doing, is checking all the moving parts from your steering wheel down to your tires. If you hear any clunking, you may have:

  • A steering joint that’s bad.
  • A tie rod end that’s bad.
  • A steering knuckle that’s a little bit bad.

This also tests drag links, Pitman arms, and stuff like that. And if they’re bad, when you turn the wheel hard back and forth like that, you will hear a clunk, clunk.

Another way you can check this and see if there’s anything kind of shady is to go to the front end and push down on the fender. Don’t bend the fender. Don’t jump up and down on it with all your weight. The trick is just to get it to rock. Get it going. Get it going harder. Squeaking may mean the rubber on the sway bar needs lubrication, but you shouldn’t hear any clunking or banging.

Now get it going again. When you stop, watch to see how many times it bounced. It should bounce no more than about one and a half, maybe twice after you quit. That means the shocks are good. Sometimes they will just keep bouncing. That means the shocks or struts are no good and you are going to need them.

So there are two ways you can check and see if your suspension is any good.

Sometimes you can actually put a foot up on the bump and this one is a plastic bumper. I don’t recommend that unless you’re in the right area and you can feel when it’s solid and then you can use your foot on the bumper. Again, watch the bounce. If the vehicle needs a new set of shocks, you may want to negotiate it into the price. Let them put it on for you so your used car isn’t headed to the shop as soon as you buy it.

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