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Unread 01-29-2013, 11:57 AM   #1
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Default For reference - Used car check list

I found this list on a WRX forum and thought it was a really good, very thorough checklist to go through when looking at a used car. Some of them are WRX/STI specific, but I just thought it might prove useful to someone on here.

Talk to the owner/dealer

Get a vehicle history report. That'll help you answer some of these:
Was the vehicle in an accident, flood, etc.?
Does the vehicle have a clean title?
Do the odometer readings make sense?
Any open recalls?
Ask for a full service history. You may not get it (some folks are disorganized), but it REALLY helps.
When was the last oil change? What type of oil was used?
When was the last tune up (spark plugs)? What type?
When were the tires last rotated?
What aftermarket parts are on there?

Walk around the vehicle

Look at all the panels. ALL of them.
Do they all match EXACTLY in color? If not, why not?
Are there any paint deformations - scratches, rock marks, etc?
Are there any metal deformations - dings, dents, etc?
Has the car been debadged? Can you have the original badges?
Are there extra badges? Are they removable?
Try all 4 doors - open and close them with the windows up and down. Rattle is okay, but it should be easy and solid.
Are there any chips/cracks on the windshield or the other windows?
Are the wiper blades in good condition?
For each door (5 on the wagon/hatch):
Hit lock via the keyless fob. Did the door lock as expected?
Try the door - shouldn't open.
Hit unlock via the keyless fob. Did the door unlock as expected?
Try the door - should open.
When the door's opened, do the interior lights come on as expected?
Look at the wheels/tires - curb rash?
Is the spare in good condition and full?
Are there enough tools to change a tire in there?

COLD Underhood checks

Pop the hood. Is it an easy process?
Check oil level - since the car's COLD, the level should be low in the safe range - BUT IN THE RANGE.
Check coolant level - there's a fill line.
Check power steering fluid level.
Check brake fluid.
Check clutch fluid.
Check ATF or gear oil - the latter is the dipstick under the I/C.
Check windshield washer fluid.
Inspect the battery.
Does it look like there's been a wrench to it recently? why?
Is it secure?
Get a mechanic to check the chemistry (specific gravity, electrolyte level).
Run a load test
Get a compression test - are all four values in a decent range and close to each other?
Pull on the accessory belts (two of them - better have small hands ) - are they taut?
Look at those belts again closely - are they cracked or worn looking?
Look at all the hoses - are they in good condition?
Look at all the clamps - are they tight?
Look at the metal around here:
Do all the VIN's match?
Is there a catalyst sticker on the hood, and at least one sticker on the front frame?
Look carefully at the frame pieces (to which the body panels are attached) - ANY warping whatsoever?
Look at the _____, is it aftermarket? List: (not all under-hood bits)
Uppipe - this'll be hard to see.
Downpipe - ditto.
Exhaust - get under the vehicle for this.
Suspension - springs, struts, etc.
Sway bars
Strut tower braces
Brakes - you'll see calipers and rotors.
Body - body kits, spoiler, hood scoop, roof rack, roof, bumpers, etc.
Steering wheel
Anything else you can easily spot.

On-lift checks - some can be done off-lift.

Check the tires
Is the pressure correct?
Are all four the same? THEY MUST BE!
Is the tread alright? Do the penny/quarter test.
Is the tread even on all 4 tires?
The tire manufacture dates - are they matching and within the last few years? Guides online help you read these.
Look carefully at the bottom cosmetic bits for problems.
Check brakes
Check/fix lug nut torque
Check for ANY fluid leaks
Check exhaust system
Check steering linkage
Check struts
Check axles
Check bolts/bushings/fasteners
Check rear diff fluid
Generally look for damage

Trunk - sedan only issues

(Especially with modified spoilers) - does the trunk open too fast? When you undo the latch, the trunk should float a half inch up or so.
Is it smooth to open/close?
Does it latch/unlatch properly?

Hatch - wagon/hatchback only issues

Does the hatch open all the way by itself, or do you have to help it that last inch?
Does the hatch latch properly?
Does the privacy cover work properly?
Do the back seats flip down correctly?

Get in the vehicle

Check for basic cosmetic issues - dirt, stains, rips, etc:
Steering Wheel
Instrument panel
Carpets/mats - are they all there?
Center console/cupholders
Door cards
Sit in the driver's seat.
Are the seats stained/ripped/etc?
Look in front of you, and at the interior stuff on both sides - are they dirty?
Does your seat belt work?
Can you slide forward and back all the way?
Can you tilt forward and back all the way?
Can you adjust up and down?
Can your headrest go all the way up and down (if it's supposed to)?
If the adjustments are electric, do they work? Do they remember positions?
Shut the door, hit the lock, try to flip the lock yourself
Sit in the passenger seat. Check all the above.
Sit in the 3 other seats. Check all above (all that's applicable).
Check the cabin air filter. Yeah, you'll probably need to replace this .
Check the child locks in the back - should NOT open from the inside when engaged, but should open from the outside.
While you're in the back, do the seats fold down correctly/easily if they're supposed to?
Back in the driver's seat - Are the pedals wobbly? Too tight?
Try working the gearbox into all the gears - do you feel any resistance?
Put it into neutral, make sure the handbrake is on. Get out and try to move the car. Can you?
Still in neutral, handbrake off, get out and push. Can you?
Adjust the steering wheel all the way up and down (and in and out, if you can). Easy?
Honk the horn. You should hear 2 distinct loud tones.
Hit the lock button. Do ALL the doors (5 in the wagon) lock?
Hit the unlock button. Do ALL the doors (5 in the wagon) lock? Repeat these two. Is the latching easy or forced?
Put the key in - you should hear a chime with the door open
Try the hazards - do they work with the car off?
Using the button on top of the steering wheel and other methods, check:
Headlights - low and high beams, turn/parking indicators
Fog lamps
Side markers
Taillights - brake, backup, turn (you'll see three different bulbs).
Brake bar - the red thing mounted higher.
Rear license plate lamps
Turn the key to Accessory.
Do the interior lights work?
Go back outside, pull the gas cap off. Do you get a warning light?
Play with the radio/head unit (nomenclature )
Is it the OEM radio?
Do all the buttons physically work?
Do all the functions (FM, AM, tape, CD, aux in - depending on what's there) work?
Turn it all the way up - is it loud?
QUICK - turn it back to normal! Are all the speakers outputting sound at the same level?
Can it turn off and back on?
Turn the key to ON. (most of these can be done later when the car is on to save battery)
Do all the dash warning lights go on momentarily, then turn off if they are supposed to?
If you've got the fancy gauges, did they dance for you?
Do the hazards still work?
Signal left. Check the front, side, and rear indicator.
Signal right. Same checks.
Tap the brakes just slightly. Are all three brake lights lit?
With the lights off, are the DRL's running (take parking brake off)?
Turn on parking lights (first notch) - do the right lights come on?
Turn on headlights (second notch) - do the right lights come on?
Point the lights at a wall - the driver's side should be aimed a bit lower than the passenger's.
Stand in front of the lights, on the driver's side, maybe 100' away. Are you blind?
Change the dash light level - do the dash lights fade in and out?
Does the rear defroster work?
If equipped, check the heated seats, windshield, mirrors.
Try the 12v outlet - does it power your favorite plug-in thing?

In the car, with it on.
Try to turn the car on without the clutch pedal down. Shouldn't start.
Turn the car on (turn the key to start momentarily - c'mon, you know this ).
Did you hear the fuel pump cycle on?
How quickly did it turn over? Should be about 2-3 seconds.
How's the Idle? Should be a bit up and down, but after a minute or so, should stay steady.
The passenger airbag should be OFF.
Put a >85lb weight in the passenger seat (idk, maybe a person? ). That light should go off.
Put all the windows up and down, from the driver's control and the individual controls. Are they smooth and fast?
Does your auto-window work?
Try your sunroof if it has one - smooth?
Turn heat on full blast - check ALL vents, including the windshield one. Should be a lot of hot air.
Try the A/C - both with the A/C button on and off - it'll cool down better with the A/C button, but both should work after a while. Should be a strong, cold flow of air.
Listen for belt squeal, etc. with options on and off.
Put the car in first, handbrake up, slowly let out the clutch - should feel A LOT of resistance at one point, and should stall. Start again. (the owner will hate you, but it's good for seeing parking brake issues.
Try the windshield washers, front and rear (if equipped).

Test drive - be sure to have fun with this
Look out for the steering - turning radius, speed lock-to-lock, general feel while driving.
Listen for excessive rattles/other noises - yeah, the WRX is a rattlecan inside. Use judgment.
Your shifts should be smooth and effortless (um, assuming you're actually doing it right ). Going into reverse at first might be hard, and downshifting to first might be hard. Normal.
The clutch should be firm, not too light.
The pedals should feel responsive. Really responsive.
By about 3200rpm in 2nd/3rd, you should feel glued to your seat, and (if you've got a boost gauge) see about 13.5psi boost (I believe sti is 14.7, newer ones also have some different targets. What I'm getting at is that 7psi is too low and that 15.5 and up are definitely tuned or broken).
Is the clutch slipping at high rpm?
Go WOT (safely, of course), pull up to just under redline, let go. SHOULD slowly rev down, coast. Anything else happen?
Once you're done with the test drive, leave the car running, pop the hood and return to your normal underhood checks. Use your sense of smell more this time.

STi-specific things - fill in earlier
Check the Intercooler fluid level. Should be no more than half-full for cold weather.
Check the I/C spray operation.
Put the DCCD in manual mode, run through the settings - does the display change?
Try changing the tach warning system. Does it work?

Dealership-specific things - or, am I about to be scammed?
Look online for dealership reviews. A few bad reviews are common, but are there *any* good reviews? What do all the reviews say?
Are you buying with a 30-day guarantee, or is the sale "as-is"?
Will they at least guarantee inspection?
Are they fixing problems on new cars, or are they spending more time shining the tires?
Your test drive - are you allowed alone?
If not, does the guy direct you through a very specific short route?
Current Car
2002 WRX Stage 2+ w/ Cobb intake, Cobb EBCS, Mishimoto performance radiator, Cobb 3" downpipe, Greddy Evo2 3" Catback, StopTech slotted rotors & pads, stainless steel brake lines, 17x7.5 Gold BBS
Past: 2005 Volvo S60 R, 2003 VW Golf, 1998 Honda Accord

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