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Test Driving Your Car.

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by: Tim Henry
Getting a new car thrills and excites. Sometimes it?s easy to get carried away in our initial response to a car. No matter how much you like a certain vehicle, take it for a long, serious test drive.

You should first plan on spending as long as possible on your test drive. Fifteen minutes isn?t enough time. You want to thoroughly examine the car and definitely have a mechanic check it out.

Take a look at the vehicle overall. Do the body parts line up? Does the paint match? Will doors open and close easily? Do the tires look like they wear evenly?

Check under the hood. You may not know exactly what you?re looking at, but that?s okay. Look for leaky hoses, worn belts, and dirty oil. Ask the dealer to show you the automatic transmission fluid. Smell it. If there?s a ?burned? odor, steer clear. The fluid should be clear and reddish. Transmission repair costs are not pretty.

Have someone show you the radiator water. It should have a light yellow or green color.

Make sure all of the warning lights and gauges work. Start the car and check all lights and functions. And here?s a no-brainer - make sure no warning lights remain lit on the dashboard.

Look at the airbag indicator lights. If these lights don't illuminate as you start the car, or if they stay lit after the car is running, they?re not working correctly.

Try on the seat belt. Test the vehicle in the early evening to determine the headlight visibility. If you already have a child safety seat, go ahead and install it. Not all seats are compatible with all cars.

Accelerate up to 35-40 MPH. Is shifting smooth and steering straight? When braking, a pull to the left or the right could indicate a problem.

If you buy via the classifieds, make sure to check the name on the title and match it to the name on the seller's driver's license. Just to be safe.

It?d be nice to find the little lady?s almost new car that wasn?t driven more than 15,000 miles a year. Of course, low miles on the odometer would be a big plus, too. Even then, you can't assume that a low-mileage car is necessarily in great shape.

One major concern is odometer tampering. So do your homework. Ask for a detailed service history report. If records weren?t kept, you can check things out for yourself with the vehicle identification number. Provide this VIN number to your state vehicle history company to get a record of the car?s former life.

Remember, no matter how in love you are with a car, think twice before purchasing one that?s been wrecked. You don't need anyone else?s problems. There are dozens of other cars you could enjoy just as much.

So test drive more than one car. You'll never regret a wise, well-thought out purchase.

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