When buying a used car, it can be difficult to determine whether you have found a diamond in the rough, or if you will be stranded alongside the road within a week or two. Whether the car is a temporary way to get back and forth to work, or it will become the main family vehicle, it is vital to know exactly what you are getting into. This is where a 100-point check comes in, as it can put your mind at ease and ensure you are getting the most out of your money. While some prefer to leave the 100-point checks up to a mechanic, you can perform one yourself to save money. With so many things to look over, it might seem overwhelming, but when you see it broken down, navigating your way through the list is possible. When making the list or referring to one already created, it helps to group things into sections.
Checking the body is perhaps the most time consuming portion of the 100-point check as there are several things to look at. Starting with the doors, make sure the seams are even and straight. Do the same for the fender, boot and bonnet seams. Look at the body panels and fenders closely to determine if repairs have ever been made. Another way to check if the car has been damaged or repainted is to check the mouldings, the boot, the bonnet and door edges for overspray.
After the body has been checked, move on to the tyres. Check all four for adequate tread and look to see if they are all the same size. See if the vehicle contains a spare that is properly inflated, a tyre lug wrench, a jack and if applicable, a locking hubcap key.
For this part, make sure the vehicle is level. The easiest way to determine this is if the vehicle is parked on a clean, level area. Get in and out of the vehicle and push up and down on each corner of the car to check for squeaks.
Next check the frame to ensure it is straight and free from major rust. Check the inside of the boot, inside the wheel wells, under the bonnet and on the frame's outer edge. Look for any areas that may have been repaired, painted or scratched.
Gas Cap and Neck
Take the gas cap on and off to see if it fits correctly and if it locks, a key is handy. Remove the cap and look at the filler neck to detect rust or any other issues.
The interior check is also time consuming. First start with the upholstery and look for tears, stains, burns or rips. Go over the dashboard, headliner and carpet to look for the same. Adjust the seats to ensure they are in good working order and play with window cranks, locks, handles and dash controls. Turn on all lights inside and check the carpet under the dash. If it is wet, this may indicate a heater core or air leak.
Checking the steering requires driving the vehicle to ensure it does not pull to one side. You should also make sure the steering wheel is not too stiff and that the vehicle does not shake or vibrate when driving at high speeds. Listen for unusual noises as you turn the wheel.
Transmission and Clutch
When driving, pay attention to shifting. The vehicle should shift from gear to gear smoothly and quietly. Take note if the car grabs during take off or if it accelerates hard while going uphill. If the engine's rpms increase without the vehicle's speed increasing, this can mean a problem with the clutch.
Check the brakes at various speeds. Stop suddenly and determine if they pull to one side or make noises. Suddenly stopping also alerts you as to whether the ABS is working. Test the parking brake and release it.
Check the air conditioner. It should cool down quickly and adjust as you change the settings. Do the same with the heater. If an alarm or GPS system is in place, spend a few minutes operating these to ensure they work correctly. Turn on the stereo and listen to all speakers to determine if any are blown.
Under the Bonnet
Check the levels of all fluids. Smell for leaks or smoke. Listen for noises such as clattering, tapping or hissing. Try to determine if any parts are missing or in poor shape.
Check under the vehicle for signs of leaking fluids. Pay attention to the axles, the brake lines and the transmission. Look for missing bolts, clamps or cables and take note of any rusty spots. If the vehicle is emitting smoke, determine whether it is white, blue or black.
Start the engine and let it idle before driving it. While driving, look for any acceleration hesitation. Check the cruise control and for any warning lights.
A 100-point check may seem like a lot to go through, but when you know what to look for, it is not as overwhelming as it may seem. Taking the time to do the check can ensure you are investing in a vehicle that will get you where you need to go.