Thursday, March 13, 2014

How to test drive.

A few of us at work are selling cars or car shopping, and I said, "What's a test drive anyway? I don't know what I'm supposed to do!" So Martyn wrote us this checklist. I include it with his permission, to benefit all car-buyers of little experience.

1. Is there an Owner's Handbook/Manual? If not, I suggest you proceed no further! If so, to whom was the car originally sold and where? (eg if it was originally sold to someone in Darwin, what is it now doing in Sydney?)
2. Is there a Service Record...if so have the services been done more or less in accordance with the manufacturer's recommended intervals? If not, I suggest you don't proceed...a "lost" service history may mean the seller has something to hide OR they or a previous owner were pretty slap-dash about getting it serviced.
3. Do they have the registration paper?

4. If the above points are OK, walk around and look for the following:
a) Signs of body repair eg panels that don't quite fit, non- matching sections of paint
b) Do all the tyres have plenty of tread?
c) Have someone with you to get in and turn on the headlights, blinkers, windscreen washers and wipers and horn
d) Open the bonnet and check that the Compliance Plate is affixed. Compare the details thereon with the registration paper ie the engine number and  "VIN"

5. Take the car for a drive and check for the following:
a) When you turn the key, does the engine start quickly? If it struggles to fire, the battery may be nearing the end of its useful life, or there could be other problems. Does the tachometer settle into a constant RPM reading (normally around 750) within about 10 seconds or does it fluctuate up and down above and below say, 1,000 rpm?
b) If manual, when you let the clutch out, does it 'take up' smoothly and progressively as you start easing the clutch or does it suddenly 'catch' and you lurch forward?
c) Are there any unusual sounds from the engine, exhaust or gear box when changing gears (manual or auto)? Leave the radio off and drive with the window down so you can hear the car. (Check the radio later)
d) Assume it has A/C, turn this on as you drive to make sure it works OK.
e) On a straight section of road, accelerate hard for a few seconds to check the response. Find somewhere without too much traffic and 'just' take your hands off the wheel - does the car continue to 'track' straight or does it pull to one side or the other?
f) Find a quiet street and check the brakes: accelerate to about 50 km/h then hit the brakes quite firmly. Does the car come to a quick stop? Does the steering wheel want to pull to one side or the other?

If there are one or two things on the above checklist which you are not happy about but otherwise the car seems OK, get an NRMA or other expert to check it out. If three or more problem areas you should probably keep looking!

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