Document 109788

RACQ Pre-Purchase Inspection Checklist
Take a printed copy of this checklist every time you inspect a car – so you can compare vehicles "side-by-side”.
1. Vehicle details
Owner/Sellers Name:
Vehicle Make and Model:
Registration Number:
Engine Number:
Vehicle Identification Number (VIN):
Odometer Reading:
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2. Initial checks
Is a vehicle service history available?
Has it been regularly serviced?
Do odometer readings on service documents correspond with the
odometer reading?
Does the car have a current Safety Certificate (valid for < 2
months and 2,000 km for private sales and < 3 months and 1,000
km for dealer sales)?
Additional considerations for private sales:
Do the owner’s name & address, and the car’s engine number,
registration number & VIN match those on the registration papers?
Is there any sign of tampering around the engine number, body
number or compliance plate?
Does the compliance plate accurately reflect the car (body style,
seating capacity etc)?
Is the VIN on the plate the same as the number stamped on the
3. Exterior checks*
* Never inspect when it has been raining or at night, even if well- lit.
Almost every car has minor bumps and small dents that accumulate
from normal usage. Be more concerned about panels that don’t line
up and variations in paint colour and finish, these can indicate
previous accident damage and warrant further investigation.
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Check that all doors open and close smoothly and do not sag or
drop when opened. Make sure all windows wind up and down
freely and that all locks work properly. Torn or perished rubbers
may not appear significant, but can be costly to replace.
Look for bulges or blisters under the paint, particularly in lower
panels. Check under door seals, the boot well and the lower
sections of the mudguards. Lift mats and carpet if possible. Check
around front and rear windscreen openings and in the roof drip
rails. A fridge magnet can help identify where plastic filler has been
used to conceal rust. If the magnet doesn’t stick to “metal” body
panelling, it’s likely to be filled with plastic.
On 4WD’s look carefully at the chassis rails for scaly rust and a
build up of dirt and sand that can cause rust. Be suspicious of any
vehicle that has been freshly coated with “body deadener”, you don’t
know what’s under it. Very rusty vehicles should be avoided.
Push down each corner of the car in turn, it should bounce once,
then return to its normal position. Extra bounce suggests faulty
shock absorbers.
Stand back and look at the vehicle. It should be level with little
difference side-to-side or front to back. Unevenness may indicate
spring problems. Listen for knocks and unusual noises on rough
roads and bumps. This may indicate worn suspension components.
Legal tyres (for Safety Certificate approval) must have at least 1.5
mm of tread across the full face of the tyre that contacts the road.
Once the tread drops below this, the tyres must be replaced.
Check that the spare is in good condition. Tyres should be free
from cuts, bulges and uneven wear (which may indicate suspension
or alignment problems). Tyre specifications are usually listed in the
owner’s handbook and Tyre Placard (on the glovebox lid or in the
driver’s door opening). Check this to ensure the car has the
appropriate tyres fitted.
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4. Interior checks
Check all lights work and that lenses are not badly faded or broken.
Windscreen wipers
Check that they operate on all speeds and that the washers work.
Instruments and gauges
Make sure all instruments (including the odometer), gauges, and
warning lights work.
Check all speakers and radio/stereo controls work. If the radio has
a security code, remember to ask for the code before purchase.
Air conditioning
Air from the vents should feel cold when the air conditioning is
operating. The fan should operate on all speeds and the air
conditioning compressor should not be excessively noisy.
All seats should be securely mounted. Lift up any seat covers to
check the condition of the upholstery. Press along the seats surface
to check for broken or sagged springs. Check that all seat
adjustments operate correctly, particularly if power seats are fitted.
Seat belts
Fully extend all seat belts, they should not be badly sun bleached,
cut, frayed or in any way damaged. They should retract, and when
given a sharp tug, the retractor should lock. Check that all seat belt
buckles lock and release easily.
5. Under the bonnet
For your safety only remove the radiator cap when the engine is
cold. The coolant should be clean and full. Rusty coolant and/or low
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coolant levels indicate that the vehicle may not be well serviced.
Very rusty coolant or oil in the radiator are warning signs that the
cooling system, and probably the engine, requires repairs or
maintenance. Run your fingers over the radiator core fins. They
should be solid and not crumble when touched. If they do the
radiator has limited life.
If the radiator has plastic tanks, check they have not begun to lose
their black colouring, or to develop fine cracks. These conditions
mean that the tank or tanks should be replaced to prevent serious
engine damage.
Water hoses that are very soft and spongy or very hard will need to
be replaced to avoid serious engine damage.
The engine oil should be up to the full mark on the dipstick and
should not be too dark in colour or smell burnt. If the oil level is
low or the oil appears milky, dark, or smells burnt there may be
serious engine trouble. Check the ground where the vehicle has
been parked, there should be no evidence of oil leakage.
Automatic Transmission fluid
Automatic transmission fluid should be cherry pink. Dark, dirty or
burnt smelling oil is an indication of major problems or lack of
It should start easily and idle smoothly even when cold. Let the
engine warm up. Once warm, have someone rev the engine a few
times while you watch the exhaust for smoke. Blue, black or white
smoke may mean problems.
Listen for rattling and knocking while the engine warms up and then
again once it is fully warm. Have anything you are not sure about
checked before you commit to the purchase.
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6. The test drive*
*If possible take someone with mechanical knowledge along on the test
drive to help identify defects or unusual noises.
Before you take the car for a test drive make sure it is covered by
insurance. Failing to do so could leave you responsible for any damage
resulting from an accident. Also identify any existing damage to the
vehicle and draw it to the seller’s attention before the test drive.
Before you go too far on the test drive pick a safe place to try the
brakes. The pedal should feel solid when the brakes are applied and
the car should pull up in a straight line. The hand brake should
effectively hold the car on a hill in either direction. Brakes should
not make grinding or squealing noises, pull to one side or be
inefficient in stopping the car.
Clutch and transmission
Transmissions in both manual and automatic cars should shift
smoothly. Automatics shouldn’t have any undue delay in selecting
gears and manuals shouldn’t “crunch” during shifts. The clutch
shouldn’t shudder or slip. Remember to check reverse too.
Handling and noises
The car should drive straight on a flat road, if it pulls to one side or
has excessive free play in the steering there may be a steering or
suspension fault. Drive over a variety of road surfaces at different
speeds to find any abnormal behaviours and unusual noises.
Keep the windows up and the radio off while checking for noises. If the
car is front wheel drive, find a safe place to do some low speed
circles on left and right full lock. A “clicking” noise from either front
wheel indicates worn CV joints.
After the test drive
After the test drive while the engine is hot, check again for smoke,
noises and oil leaks. Also remove the oil filler cap while the engine
is idling to check for excessive fumes that indicate a worn engine.
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