If you are in the market for a classic car you need to be very attentive when you choose it as due to the age of these vehicles, some problems might occur and you need to be aware of all the facts before making the acquisition. The classic car inspection should start with the verification of the VIN, checking out if it matches with the one on the original paperwork.
If the car that you want to buy has been restored, you should ask the seller to give you some photos taken before, during and after the process has been completed. Needless to say, it is highly recommended to check the car’s service history for repairs and scheduled maintenance to verify if the previous owner(s) took good care of the car.
Time has come to start the car and check to see if there is any smoke coming out of the exhaust. After doing that you should listen carefully to the engine while idle, when hot and cold. Next, reeve the engine and listen to any noises. Don’t stop the car, keep it running until the engine gets hot and verify again if there is any smoke coming from the exhaust.
The most comprehensive inspection you can do to a car, regardless if it is a classic car or any other type is to take it for a road test. If the seller of the vehicle will not allow you to test drive the car, you should look for another vehicle as that one most likely has serious problems. While driving the car, inspect the performance of the engine while accelerating and list to the noise coming from it at low and high speeds. Also, verify if there is any noise coming from the transmission or the transaxle. If the car is fitted with an automatic gearbox, check to see if the gearshifts are done in a smooth manner at all the shift points.
Check for any noise and vibration coming from the vehicle’s drive axle or the transfer case bearings. If the car is equipped with a manual transmission, verify the state of the clutch for slippage, chatter and engagement. Take the car on a road where you know that there are a lot of curves so you can see how the steering feels, if it is responsive and smooth. You will also have to thoroughly verify the condition of the brakes for effectiveness and operation, making sure that there are no noises.
Have a closer look at the speedometer, odometer, tachometer and the rest of the gauges to see if all work properly, including the ones for the oil, temperature and battery. In addition, take the car on a rough road to see how the suspension handles.
Now you should inspect the outside of the classic car to see if there are any signs of rust or damage. You will also have to verify the state of the tires to see if they need to be changed. After doing so, check the car’s body panels for any dents, dings, mismatched paint and other flaws. Do not forget to look for any improper repairs and chrome damage. Check to see if the doors, hood and trunk open properly. Look closer at all the windows for any signs of pitting, damages, cracks, repairs or wiper marks.
Verify if all the lights are operational: tail, brake, parking, hazard, reverse, turn, license plate, fog, interior and the ones on the dashboard.
A proper classic car inspection also includes verifying the condition of the interior. First of all, make sure that all the seatbelts (including the ones in the back) are operational. Next, test the heating system and see if the AC (if it has one) works as it should. Verify the audio system to see if the sound is crisp and clear. Here are other things that you can verify: horn, glove box, armrest, rear view mirror, fuel filler and interior trim, including carpets (look under to see if there are any signs of rust or repairs).
Don’t forget to verify the condition of the upholstery for any signs of wear, stains, fading, cracks and rips. Look more attentive at the dashboard for any signs of water damage. If the car is a convertible, inspect its folding mechanism.
After you have done all of the above, you should open up the bonnet and check for oil leaks. You should also inspect the air filter for oil and verify the condition of the timing belt/chain. Verify the oil for water, sludge, level and clarity. In addition, it is recommended that you should inspect all of the wiring, engine mounts, hoses, fluid levels and the belts (for wear and fraying).
In the end, there are a couple of miscellaneous things that you can verify, like the tires to see if they all have the same size, pressure and tread depth. Also, look at the spare and see if it matches the ones that equip the vehicle. Don’t forget to verify the condition of the windshield wipers.
Here is one last piece of advice that you should take into consideration when you decide to purchase a classic car. If during this inspection the seller of the vehicle attempts to point you in a different area of the car, it means that something is wrong with it so you should have a closer look to see what he is hiding. Write down any imperfections you find as these will “help” you lower the price tag of the vehicle while negotiating with the owner. As an example, if the tires need to be replaced, write that down and tell the owner that you will have to pay a couple of hundreds of dollars for replacing them so he should lower the asking price.
Lastly, get in touch with a mechanic and find out how much money you will have to invest after buying the car. Again, this will help you while negotiating the final price of the classic car.