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The best tools you need to quickly assess a used car

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Not long ago, the 50,000-mile mark separated a old car from something that has been chewed too much. Now, who needs to go back to the odometer? Sam Fiorani, Global Vice President of Vehicle Forecasting at Automated Forecasting Solutions, said, “The quality of vehicles has improved so much that a mileage of 150,000 kilometers has been achieved. Toyota Camry “His assessment is no exaggeration either, as cars with six figures on the odometer sold for record prices in June 2021, according to Edmunds.

However, buying a used car is still a minefield, especially in a time of high demand like today. Ideally when you find a seller or a private seller with a car you want at the price you want, you know what to look for. To help fulfill that commitment, we’ve put together a set of vehicle testing tools to help diagnose whether you’re looking for a gift or a trap.


Goggles and gloves: Yes, you will look like an automotive tech when you put these on, especially when wearing an outfit that you don’t mind getting dirty. And yes, this can raise an eyebrow from sellers. None of that is a problem. These items are indispensable. You will compliment those glasses the first time liquid splashes on your face or a layer of frame rust falls on your eyelashes.

When you want to shake a chassis or tire part, a mechanic’s gloves will keep you satisfied. But we also recommend solid color disposable exam gloves or even dishwashing gloves in the light colour. Anything that is not black. When you dip your gloved finger into the liquid reservoir or scrape the underside of the oil filler cap, you need to know what color the liquid is. These gloves are also good for the seller and the vehicle; When you’re wearing gloves and leaning against the fenders to check the suspension’s operation – before touching anything under the hood – you won’t leave fingerprints on the paint.

Napkin or tissue: Every generation in my family turns their glove compartment into a napkin holder. I was programmed to do the same thing, so I always have something to wipe up spills. When inspecting a car with dipsticks, you’ll need a swab to remove them. These are also good for removing dirty engine parts so you can see part numbers or specs.

Headlight or flashlight: You want to investigate your potential new trip outdoors on a clear, sunny day on flat ground. Sometimes that’s not possible, and you’re crawling through the dirt in the back of the shed at dusk (another reason you’re getting dressed to get dirty). Even on sunny days, the massive blower crammed in and around modern engine bays offers more hiding spots than the Batcave. That’s it, humble flashlight, good for checking belt cracks and checking for seepage around oil filters buried in the guts of the bay. Many vehicles come fitted with climate-enhancing panels under the engine, and a flashlight allows you to see from the top of the engine clearly to see what fluid may have accumulated at the top of the vent plate. I like the headlights better leave me hands free while I mess around.

Inspection mirror: The perfect flashlight partner because, again, unexplored crevices in crammed engine bays. Want to see the dark spot behind the A/C compressor? Tell everyone to stand still while you play pro, extend your telescope mirrorand make a diagnosis.

Voltmeter or multimeter: we prefer multimeter, but either tool will tell you about the vehicle the battery and generator health. If you haven’t used it before, you can learn how to measure voltage and learn the measurements to take in minutes.

Sadly, they don’t use them for personal use to check the status of plug-in-hybrid and battery-electric vehicles. They must be checked by an expert.

OBDII reader or scanner: A good reader is a great tool – a good scanner (even a phone app with a Bluetooth dongle) is even better. The reader is simpler and easier to use, while the scanner can monitor the engine operation while the engine is running and provide live data. These are invasive tools, though, so they come with a caveat: You’ll want to ask permission to plug a tool into your vehicle’s ODBII port. It’s very unlikely that you’ll cause real or permanent damage to a vehicle using a reader or scanner, but it is quite possible, so don’t be surprised if the seller is extremely wary or refuse your request. If you get it all right, know how to use your reader or scanner and understand the information it provides. Do not ask the seller to explain what the code is or why you received it.

For vehicles older than 1996, before the ODBII port came out, look up the specific way to pull the code. It usually involves some small length of metal or wire. In my 1994 Toyota land cruiser, I can use a paperclip to connect two terminals under the hood to pull the code.

That’s it. An entire shebang fits in a shoebox and can be purchased for under $100. And honestly, we think you should keep these tools in your personal vehicles, as they also sometimes break down and need diagnostics.

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