labels: passenger cars, guide
Looks can be deceptivenews
Many people fall prey
16 September 2003

Mumbai: As more and more people buy used cars in India there are increasing chances that some of them may get duped into buying cars that had to endure major car crashes.

In a startling revelation, a study done in the US recently found that most people are unable to spot cars that had earlier gone through major crashes from the ones that never went through any repairs.

In the US, consumers at a shopping mall were challenged to examine four used vehicles and select the safe, reliable vehicle they would buy. The catch was that three of the cars had serious accident histories, including one that had been completely wrecked in a crash.

The results of the challenge were startling. Despite rigorous scrutiny, most of the shoppers couldn't pick out the good cars from the bad ones.

This was just a game, but this means that a number of people are buying cars that aren't worth the money they pay for them. Unscrupulous sellers rebuild wrecked and mangled vehicles, dry out water-damaged ones and roll back odometers so that the vehicles look great to the average consumer.

Ultimately it is the buyers who lose out, as a previously badly damaged car will perform well for a short while before developing huge problems. Here, buyers can help themselves; they can take a number of steps to see that they don't get duped.

Some tips:

  • They can get the car inspected by a mechanic and this includes cars displayed in company-owned second-car showroom. Take the car for a thorough test drive, preferably with a good mechanic. During the test drive pay attention for any unusual behaviour of the car. Try and find an open and level stretch of road to see if the car tracks straight with your hands off the wheel.
  • Buyers should gauge the genuineness of the mileage on the odometer. A simple, though not tamper-proof method, is to check the date of manufacture of the tyres (embossed on the sidewall). In case the car has less than 35,000 km on the odometer, the date should match with the sale date in the registration book. If the batch number and registration book do not match, this means the odometer has been tampered with.
  • Buyers should ensure that the registration and tax papers are in order and the status of ownership is clean. Check for any unusual sounds from the front wheels that could indicate underbody damage. Typically, if the front lower arm gets a hard knock, the front stabiliser bar gets bent and hits the body whenever the front wheel goes up and down. Such a sound indicates a bent lower arm or in the worst cases bent lower arm mounts, which means an expensive chassis job.
  • The rear suspension is susceptible to wheel geometry changes and any misalignment shows up in the handling of the car. Out-of-alignment vehicles tend to pull to one side and display nervous handling. The critical factor here is the setting of the rear control rod, which checks the toe-in.
  • Never buy a used car without thoroughly checking it out for underbody damage. This can best be done on a hoist and under the supervision of an experienced mechanic. The main area to be looked into is the cross-member reinforcement on which the rear suspension lower arms are mounted. Signs of welding along these areas are a sign of the vehicle having been involved in an accident that has damaged the lower arm mounting points.
  • In the boot, the rear wheel arches should have a clean look and an even coat of paint. If the finish is dull or it appears to be painted, and the surface is kinked or looks like an accordion, the rear end has had a crash and in most cases, the part cannot be brought back to original specifications. If you suspect any damage in this area, just don't buy the car.

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Looks can be deceptive