RAC Cars News


Making the most of the test drive

By raccars Published

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Test driving the car you’re interested in buying is an absolute must. The car may have rave reviews, look great, have low mileage and be offered at a fair price, but you need to get behind the wheel to make sure it is the car for you. So what should you be looking for during a test drive?

Firstly, you should make sure that this is actually a suitable car for you. Are you able to get in and out easily and is there enough room for any family or regular passengers? Make sure that you can achieve a comfortable driving position and that you are happy with the visibility. If you are buying from a dealer, they have a legal duty to inform you of any accidents or damage in the history of the car, but it is still worth having a look at the exterior. Check that the gaps between body panels is even and look for signs of paint overspray on the rubbers around the windows and boot sills. Either of these could be a sign of accident damage. Although you are probably not a mechanic, it is worth popping the bonnet and checking the engine compartment. You can take off the oil filler cap and have a look for `gunky' mayonnaise, which could be a sign of engine damage. Check the dipstick to see that the oil level is adequate and looks clean. Ideally, the engine should be cold, so as not to hide any starting problems.

Once inside the car, it is a good idea to check the operation of all the switchgear before you set off. It is safer than being distracted while driving. Make sure all of the equipment works because fixing even a minor fault later can be expensive. When you start up the car, check for smoke from the exhaust as this, again, could be a sign of engine damage. Out on the road, the steering should be sure, without pulling to either side. There should be no vibration and very little 'play' on the steering wheel. Braking should be positive and halt the car without swerving. Make sure that the clutch bites before it reaches the top of its travel and ensure the car changes gear smoothly and the engine pulls, without labouring or misfiring. At the end of the test drive, make sure it idles easily.

As a golden rule, walk away if you have any doubt. There are lots of good used cars for sale and you will always find another which you feel happier with.

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