posted on Apr, 14 2009 @ 12:21 AM
That's a nice, clean looking falcon. I'd be on that in a heartbeat if I could find one.
- good flashlight
- mirror onna stick
- magnet and a piece of cloth (don't put the magnet directly on the car and start sliding it around - you can find yourself scratching the car up
fairly quickly that way)
- mechanic's stethoscope
- IR camera (hey, it's ATS, never know what people have kicking around. A couple of IR shots will show you immediately if any bodywork has ever been
done on the car. Plus, it scares the living crap out of the sales guy. If you don't have one, use the magnet and cloth to check for bondo, if that's
important to you).
1) The "bubble rust". This stuff can be nasty. It means the metal is corroding from the backside. One good poke with a finger can often break right
through the metal, depending on the size of the "bubble". Use the mirror and flashlight to get a look at the backside if you can.
2) Check the frame for rust and rot. Get 'em to put it on a hoist if you can, so you can walk under it. If there's a bit of surface rust, that's
fine, but if there's actual scaling, flaking rot - that'd be a dealbreaker for me - or a significant discount. Also check the condition of the
engine mounts while you're under there. If they show signs of crumbling, or signs that they've been moving around at all, make a note of it and
either deduct a few hundred from your offer or budget for replacements. It's a fairly simple backyard job if you've got a few friends and beer.
3) The transmission: check the fluid. Make sure it's clear. Any used car dealer worth their salt knows that you can temporarily fix auto transmission
hesitation and stutter by adding AT conditioner to the AT fluid, and you won't notice for a few thousand KMs. If it happens, add more. Most auto
parts places will stock it.
4) The horn. Simple enough. Pay them to do it, just on the off chance that it's connected to an electrical fault somewhere along the line.
5) Check for evidence of water damage, flooding, etc. Poke the mirror under the seats and look for mould. Look behind the dash for anything that looks
like mud. It's a US import, and a lot of problem cars - ie flood recoveries - get bought from the insurance companies, cleaned up, and shipped out of
the country. Not likely, but worth the few seconds it takes you to look.
6) Wheel bearings: while they've got it on the hoist, give each wheel a spin and listen. If you hear it grinding, you'll have issues fairly soon.
Also try to rock the wheel back and forth (ie. towards and away from the car). If you've got significant movement there, you will have repairs coming
(ball joints or bearings or both).
7) take the flashlight and check the springs for breaks (again, while on the hoist)
8) Engine: Use the mirror and flashlight to check for evidence of leaks. If they've shampooed the engine bay, they will be hard to spot, hence the
mirror. Check the hoses and belts for wear.
9) If you've brought the stethoscope along, turn on the car and use it to listen to the bearings in the engine. For the love of god, don't use a
medical stethoscope, or you'll never hear anything again. A mechanic's stethoscope has a long pin connecting to an oil filled chamber, to which the
hearing tubes are attached.
10) As them to preform a compression check. That involves running the engine, and removing one spark plug at a time, and measuring the compression of
each cylinder. I can't remember where they were supposed to be stock, probably around 140 psi, but that doesn't really matter. What you're looking
for is one or two numbers that are significantly higher or lower than everything else. Like - 140 - 210 - 140 - 61 - 140 - 75. That's probably the
best heads up you can have to future engine troubles. Means you've got problems with the rings, usually. It'll equate to lower gas mileage and lower
power over the short term, and a fairly expensive job down the line.
If you've done all of that, without saying much, and making notes carefully to yourself into a portable tape recorder and frowning a lot, your
salesman will probably be sweating profusely and ready to deal just to get you out of there, providing he doesn't have someone else on line for the
I'd pass on it if there was significant frame rot, if the compression was showing nearly dead cylinders, or if it looked like it'd been flooded.
Anything else, I'd probably use as a bargaining point. But that's me.
After that - and regardless of anything, really, check your local area for courses in basic auto mechanics. Take one. Take another. First, it'll give
you some valuable knowledge that you'll always find a use for. Second, it'll give you a place to take your car and fix it yourself, if anything goes
wrong down the road. That'll take care of the other half in a hurry. Make a point to buy better tools than he has, and especially to buy specialty
tools that he wants, but doesn't have. Then paint them pink, and refuse to lend them out.