12 Jan Vehicle Inspection
What actually gets checked during a vehicle inspection? Well, it depends on what type of inspection is being requested. Most customers that come in to us are owners of a vehicle that is between 4-10 years old. They know their car is used and don’t need a technician pointing out the functioning state of every little feature. For example, most people will go without the use of the rear seat heaters, once they find out it can be a potential $900 fix. Our goal during a vehicle inspection is to keep an eye on the things that will keep the car on the road the longest, while protecting its resale value.insert backlink to the value blog This is a different inspection than the one we perform during a new car or a pre-purchase inspection. During a pre-purchase inspection we are trying to assess if the value matches the asking price of the vehicle. During our PPI we will tell you the functioning state of all main and sub systems in order to help you get the best price on the vehicle your buying. We will even supply you with an itemized estimate to help you negotiate the price of the vehicle.
Below I give a rundown of a typical Fluid MotorUnion Vehicle inspection. This is the same inspection we do during every $65 Full Synthetic Oil Service. This is a great way for us to see the overall condition of your vehicle.
What “should” be checked during an inspection:
Malfunction and service lights.
Any and all Service and Malfunction Lights are always checked, we use the appropriate diagnostic tools in order to check all of the vehicles systems.
Fluids – for color and condition
Oil (color and smell)
should be gold to brown translucent, black is old and contains fuel and contaminates.
Burnt or fuel smell indicates poor oil condition and can indicate other running issues.
Traces of metal or a metallic sheen to the oil is the sign of metal on metal contact.
Coolant (color and protection level)
Use a coolant Hydrometer to see protection level or freezing point. Make sure it is appropriate for your area climate and age of coolant.
Color should coincide with whatever is color appropriate for the vehicle, but should be translucent.
Coolant should never have a fishy smell. This is a sign of old coolant that is high in acids. Acids can significantly shorten the life of metal and rubber components in a cooling system.
Brake (color and water content)
Brake fluid is hydroscopic- meaning it naturally takes water from the air. Over time this water will mix with the steel in the brake system and the microscopic rust will turn the brake fluid dark. Dark color is a sign of potential rust which can result in damage to the system.
Using a digital volt ohm meter, set it to the lowest voltage setting. If it reads at or higher than .3 volts, replace fluid. The voltage indicates a galvanic reaction which means there is an unacceptable level of moisture in the brake fluid.
Power Steering (color)
Power steering fluid should be translucent and should closely match the original color of new fluid. Brown or milky fluid indicate air and moisture mixing, which indicates a leak.
Transmission (color and smell)
A burnt smell fluid indicates high levels or stress, load and heat. The fluid is past its operation parameters and can no longer protect the transmission.
Metal flakes or bits indicate the failure of metal parts of the trans. This transmission could be on its way out. It may be best to leave fluid alone to prolong the life of the current failing transmission.
Non-metallic grit is a symptom of the clutch organic material failing from the clutch disks. If there are heavy amounts, it may be best to leave the fluid be.
Dark and dirty fluid is a sign of the protectant of the oil breaking down.
Soft rubber parts – for dryness, cracks, hardness and wear
Gaskets for leaks
Leaks are a sign of a failing gasket. Leaks always happen from top to bottom so always look for the highest point to find the gasket responsible.
Belts- Dryness, Cracking
Dry rubber will no longer have its elasticity and can tend to crack during operation. Cracks will lead to failure of the belt, which can leave you stranded.
Tires- Dryness, cracking, and irregular wear.
Old dry tires will not grip the road properly, and will also wear at an increased rate.Uneven wear can be a sign of a suspension problem.
Covers and boots- splitting and deterioration
Boots and rubber covers keep grease in vital components and debris out. With a boot failure, items like axles and ball joints are exposed and road grit can cause rapid failure if it contaminates the areas that allow for movement.
Suspension components – for play or excessive movement
Shocks, Most newer vehicles (2000 and up) won’t have shock issues unless the shock shows visual signs of leaking. That isn’t the only method of checking or verifying failure. A good old fashioned bounce test, or checking play why the vehicle is lifted, can quickly expose problem shocks.
In the midwest, the use of salt leads to rapid corrosion of mild steel alloys. Springs can start to rust, and when a pothole or other road hazard is struck, the spring can crack and break. Checking for spring sag is also a good indication of spring life.
Ball joints are designed to give a smooth range of movement to whatever part they are integrated. If there is any play or excessive movement, this is a sign of failure.
Control Arm and Bushings
Bushings are designed to limit movement of a part or component in a way that doesn’t degrade the ride quality. Any play or motion here can lead to poor ride comfort and control as well as potential failure of hard components, which can cause a dangerous accident.
Brake pads and surfaces
The pad and rotor is the friction surface that stops your vehicle. Make sure these are at good levels by measuring the amount remaining. Always check manufacturer’s rotor and pad specifications, as 3 mm for a German manufacturer such as BMW may be nearing the end, while 3mm for a Japanese manufacture such as Lexus, would be considered ok.
All rotors and calipers should look the same color and condition as its matching counterpart on the other side. For instance if one front caliper and rotor is the color of bare metal, and the other front is rusty, this could be a sign of failure or heat from lockup.
Dark or blue spots on the rotor can be a sign of abuse, glazed pads, or heat from a locked up caliper.
If the rotor has high and low spots on the same surface, it means that the rotor is warped. You can feel this in the pedal if it pulses during braking.
Because brake fluid is hydroscopic, the water that the fluid gathers will corrode the brake lines from the inside out.
Brake fluid leaks are an indication of a highly dangerous situation and must be fixed immediately.
Rust on the outside of the line can eat its way into the the line and cause leaks as well.
Sensors and Electronics
Old plastic on sensors will become brittle and can cause problems when removed. Many sensors may deteriorate, leaving exposed wires which will corrode quickly and cause electrical problems.
Body or Frame Damage.
Gaps, tape lines, off colors, or any mismatched panels can be evidence of major work. Knowing whether the vehicle has been in a major accident better allows us to devise a plan that keeps your vehicle on the road longer.
Unmatched undercoating can be evidence of frame repair, which can be the cause of suspension issues and accelerated tire wear.
Determine noises and general feeling of the vehicle.
If time allows, we take the vehicle on a quick, short test drive. Using our experience, we can quickly tell if issues are developing from the feel and behavior of the vehicle during the drive.
This is the most important part in which a customer will voice their concern about a specific problem. For instance, an engine noise, a warning light on the dash, a feeling while operating the vehicle, an intermittent issue, an interior noise, an electronic issue with the entertainment system, etc. This is where we can handle some quick diagnosis. Our extensive experience and knowledge allows us to give you an evaluation on any concerns you might have. If an issue is more complicated, we will let you know that we will need additional time for diagnosis than the inspection allows. If you want to schedule an inspection or oil change with us, don’t hesitate to give us a call.
That in short, sums up our inspection process. If you have any questions regarding our inspection process or any other of our services, please feel free to contact us directly at 815.230.2900.