Engine Performance: The vehicle should be peppy whether cold or warm,
with adequate power and good pickup. It should respond smoothly through
Brakes: They should provide quick, firm stops with no noise, pulling or
Steering: Sure control with no binding harshness, or looseness and no
shimmy in the wheel should be expected. Noise or vibration from the steering
wheel when turning the vehicle means trouble.
Clutch (Manual Transmission/Transaxle): Clutch action should give quick,
smooth response with easy shifting. The clutch pedal should have free-play
before it disengages the clutch. Start the engine, set the parking brake,
put the transmission in first gear and slowly release the clutch pedal.
The engine should begin to stall when the pedal is 1⁄2 – 3⁄4 of
the way up.
Automatic Transmission/Transaxle: The transmission should shift rapidly
and smoothly, with no noise, hesitation, or slipping.
Differential: No noise or thumps should be present. Differentials have
no normal leaks.
Driveshaft/Universal Joints: Vibration and noise could mean driveshaft
problems. Clicking at low speed or coast conditions means worn U-joints.
Suspension: Try hitting bumps at different speeds. A vehicle that bounces
excessively has weak shock absorbers or struts. Clunks mean worn bushings
or ball joints.
Frame/Body: Wet the tires and drive in a straight line. Tracks should
show two straight lines, not four. Four tire tracks indicate a frame/body
bent by collision damage. If the tires can't be wet for this purpose, have
a friend drive along behind you and see if the vehicle appears to be traveling
in a straight line.