Friday, February 14, 2014

How to Avoid Buying a Lemon

Buying a car is exciting.  But no one wants to buy a lemon.  

Wrecked cars, even after repaired, can have serious problems down the road.  And flood cars, which are becoming a large problem, are dangerous and should be avoided.  Here are some telltale signs that a used car has been in a flood or wreck:
  1. Paint that chips off or doesn't match indicates damage repair and poor blending.
  2. Paint over-spray on chrome, trim, or rubber seals around body openings reveals that the adjacent panel was repaired.
  3. A car can be repainted, straightened and buffed out. It might look good, but it could hiding damage. Run a magnet along the car and if the magnet drops, there's bondo under it. If it's a really large area, this is a car you don't need. If it's small, still question it.
  4. Misaligned fenders suggest a poor repair job or use of non original equipment manufacturer (non-OEM) parts.
  5. CAPA (Certified Automotive Parts Association) sticker on any part may indicate collision repair.
  6. Uneven tread wear reveals wheel misalignment, possibly because of frame damage.
  7. Mold or air freshener cover-up suggests water damage from a leak or flood.
  8. Silt in trunk may mean flood damage.  Another trick is to run your hand along the underside of the dashboard in the crevices and if you pull out a handful of dirt or dry mud, that's the best indicator of a flood car.
  9. Rust where it should not be is a sign of flood damage. If there is rust on the inside of the car for example on the door frames where the interior panel meets the frame that's not a good sign.
  10. Fresh undercoating on wheel wells, chassis, or engine strongly suggests recent structural repairs covered up.
  11. Door that doesn't close correctly could point to a door-frame deformation and poor repair.
  12. Hood or trunk that doesn't close squarely may indicate twisting from side impact.
  13. Dashboard lights, power windows, and other electronics with intermittent problems could be a sign of flood damage.
  14. Dashboard airbag indicator that doesn't light up could mean the airbag was replaced improperly--or wasn't replaced at all--after an accident.
  15. Big dents, kinks in structural components, or crimped or crunched fuel lines and pipes underneath are the easiest problems to find because re-builders assume you won't be looking there.
  16. Uneven surfaces on frame components could be filler, seam sealer, or welding beads.
  17. Damaged/gouged nuts and metal on top surface of strut tower (which connects the front wheels to the frame) in engine compartment may mean the frame was realigned.
  18. New metal on only one part of the hood apron shows section repair rather than replacement of the entire apron piece.
  19. Welding bead anywhere on heavy frame members underneath the engine suggests frame-rail sectioning or sloppy repair of a cutout made in the rail to perform repair work.
  20. Inconsistent welds around hood apron, door, door frame, or trunk exemplify a non-factory weld.
  21. Frayed safety belts or belt fibers that have melted together because of friction indicate a previous frontal impact above 15 mph.
  22. Missing car emblem or name on trunk may mean a non-OEM part was used.
  23. Missing VIN number plates.  Aside from the dashboard plate, every panel on the car has a manufacturers sticker with the VIN number. They are located on the underside of the hood and trunk lids, door jambs and on the bumpers.  If you notice any of them missing then the car more than likely was in an accident and the panel was repaired or replaced.

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