Pre-Purchase Used Car Inspection

Check before you write that check.

Before you spend your hard-earned money on that used car, have it inspected by a certified mechanic. To protect yourself in a private party transaction, or even if you’re buying from a car dealership, experts agree that used cars must be inspected before final purchase negotiation. The ordinary car buyer really can’t do it to the degree that a certified, independent third party mechanic can. If the inspection is done right, a good mechanic can tell you if you’re buying a good, reliable car or an unsafe, bucket of bolts that will cost you even more money once you drive it away.

Where do I start and what do I do?Image of smiling AAMCO mechanic

First things first – do your research and be ready with knowledge.

Before setting an appointment with the seller, research vehicle safety reports for the different makes and models you’re interested in. Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds are established authorities that publish owner surveys and reviews. They are good sources of information on vehicles and their performance records. Before you ever go shopping, on the lot or online, decide what type of vehicle you want and what models you will look at.

Check for Recalls and Defects

You’ll need the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) for this level of research. Check all four of the federal government’s databases ( for recalls, service bulletins, safety investigations and owner complaints on the make and model of the vehicle you are interested in. Service bulletins are notices that automobile manufacturers send out to dealerships to warn them about problems that have been discovered in vehicles and how to fix them. The only way to know if your vehicle was repaired for the problem already is to check with your local dealer’s service department and get a vehicle repair history from them.

Get an online vehicle history report.

If you’ve found the specific car you want to buy, it’s easy to get some additional important information on it from online services like CarFax and AutoCheck.

Tell the seller you intend to have the car inspected.

With planning and foresight, the inspection process can go smoothly and quickly, setting the stage for a good purchase or save you a lot of time and trouble. You’re the one with the money, so it’s your call. Most sellers will let you take the car to a mechanic for an inspection. If they are hesitant, you can propose to have a mobile inspection done at their location. If the seller balks at the idea of an inspection altogether, then you should wonder what they are hiding and whether this whole purchase process is in your own best interest. Don’t be scared to walk away.

Set up a test drive route.

The car should be taken for a test-drive over a predetermined route that includes level stretches of highway, city and stop-and-go traffic, as well as hills to detect engine performance issues. Uneven bumpy roads, or even speedbumps, are good for detecting suspension problems.

Bring a copilot.

Take someone you trust with you, not just the seller. This person can lend a second set of eyes and ears, and even a nose, to not only help detect problems, but help filter any sales pitches or talk to gloss over potential problems with the car. This person should also be a notetaker during the test drive. Have them write down any and all observations – things that seem wrong, such as strange noises, odd behavior of the car such as pulling to one side, vibrations, shuddering, lag in acceleration. Beyond performance of the vehicle, are there any unusual smells? Is there cosmetic damage inside or outside the car? Basically, anything that seems odd to you should be noted so you can present your findings to the mechanic when you take the car for inspection.

Go to a trusted mechanic for the inspection.image - Mechanic and customer looking at exhaust system under car on lift

Have the inspection performed by a mechanic you’re familiar with – not just a relative or friend, but a professional mechanic who knows cars and works on them. A trained inspector will know what to look for and can perform the inspection in a defined amount of time, providing a comprehensive report for you on the key findings.

How much does a pre-purchase inspection cost?

A pre-purchase inspection is a small price to pay for the peace of mind you will get out of it. Do you really want to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a car you know nothing about? Add to that the risk of the car being a lemon and costing you a fortune in repairs after you buy it. When you finally hand over your money, you should be confident that you’re getting a good, reliable car at an honest price. AAMCO Minnesota shops are independently owned and operated, and may vary in their fees for pre-purchase inspection, but you can rest assured that AAMCO Minnesota’s multi-point diagnostics and inspection will get the job done.

Aside from a verified checklist, the benefits you experience from an AAMCO Minnesota used car pre-purchase inspection are nearly priceless.

  • Protecting yourself from buying a used vehicle that may need costly repairs
  • Ensuring the vehicle is safe and reliable for the safety of yourself and loved ones
  • Paying the right price
  • Knowing the vehicle won’t break down in the near future
  • Verification of the equipment and options on the vehicle

Other benefits of an inspection include:

  • Reveals hidden problems with the engine, frame, and body.
  • Alerts mechanic to engine codes that can indicate larger engine problems.
  • Reveals previous repair work done on the car.

What Does a Pre-Purchase Inspection Cover?

Inspection of a used car before you buy it – a pre-purchase inspection – includes important mechanical checks that should be performed by a professional mechanic. When you bring the car to your local AAMCO Minnesota auto mechanic, we’ll run our multi-point inspection diagnostics that include:

Vehicle Performance Multi-Point Inspection

  • Transmission & Clutch
  • Engine Performance
  • Brakes
  • Steering
  • Shock Absorbers
  • Heater & Air Conditioning
  • Instruments & Controls
  • Headlights & Foglights
  • Brake & Back-up Lights
  • Interior & Warning Lights
  • Turn Signals & Flashers

Under Hood Multi-Point Inspection

  • Fluid Level & Condition
  • Drive Belt
  • Battery
  • Starter
  • Charging System & Alternator
  • Idle Speed
  • Engine
  • Intake System
  • Fuel Delivery System
  • Ignition System
  • Computer Systems
  • Cooling System

Under Car Multi-Point Inspection

  • Steering & Front Suspension
  • Brakes
  • Rear Suspension
  • Engine Mounts
  • Transmission Mounts
  • Engine Seals
  • Transmission Seals
  • Clutch & Transmission Linkage
  • Driveshaft
  • U-Joints
  • Drive Axles
  • CV Joints
  • Exhaust System
  • Rear Axle

AAMCO Minnesota is Here for You

From auto inspection to repairs and maintenance, we’re here to help.

While no inspection is guaranteed to find every flaw in a used car, an experienced, trained mechanic can help you avoid serious and costly problems. An AAMCO pre-purchase inspection is good insurance and peace of mind when buying a used car.

AAMCO Minnesota is Here for You

From auto inspection to repairs and maintenance, we’re here to help.

While no inspection is guaranteed to find every flaw in a used car, an experienced, trained mechanic can help you avoid serious and costly problems. An AAMCO pre-purchase inspection is good insurance and peace of mind when buying a used car. Visit an AAMCO Minnesota transmission repair and total car care center near you. When issues arise and you need affordable, honest auto repair, schedule an appointment with your locally owned and operated AAMCO Minnesota transmission and auto repair center. If you have questions about your car’s road readiness, or about car repair and maintenance topics, AAMCO Minnesota is a great resource for expert automotive repair and maintenance information. Feel free to call or visit your local AAMCO Minnesota transmission and total car care center.

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What Happens if You Skip Oil Change


What Happens When You Skip Oil Changes?

The much-repeated saying is that you should get your oil changed every 3,000 miles or three months. On modern cars that use synthetic oil, the limit is much higher. Skipping those oil changes, no matter how frequently (or infrequently) your owner’s manual says they are needed, is a recipe for trouble. Going a long time between oil changes (thousands of miles past the due date) is like playing with fire.

Engine Oil Checkup

Here’s why oil is the lifeblood of your car…

image - mechanic laying under car draining oil into a pan.In order to help them diagnose what is ailing you, a doctor will have you go to the lab to have blood drawn and analyzed. The lab will run it through a bevy of tests to determine how you compare to a baseline on certain things, and what might seem out of the ordinary. Basically, the condition of your blood gives the doctor clues to your overall health, as well as to more specific things.

Engine oil can be analyzed and used in the same way to help diagnose problems, or explain trouble symptoms, with your car. For instance, high concentrations of iron indicate that steel engine parts, such as the camshaft and cylinder liners, are not properly lubricated and wearing out. Metal content collects in the oil, and the oil filter eventually becomes overwhelmed and incapable of filtering the metal out of the oil. Traces of other metals in the oil can indicate the need for an oil change – and possibly other repairs. Chrome indicates ring or gasket wear. Aluminum is from pistons and bearings. Silicon might be dirt, and means the air filtration system should be checked.

Of course, you should not wait so long that such an analysis of the oil is what it takes for you to realize your car is in desperate need of an oil change. With the evolution of engines, the general rule today is every 3,000 to 10,000 miles.

Oil Lubricates and Cleans the Engine

What does engine oil do and where does it go?

Oil is a lubricant and prevents metal engine parts from coming into contact with each other. If parts do come into unintended contact, the engine can overheat and eventually the metal parts wear out, break, or even melt. Oil contains detergents that lift out contaminants and carry them to your oil filter, where the dirt is filtered out of the oil.

What Happens When You Skip Oil Changes Pouring oil into the engine is one thing, but do you know where it goes or what parts actually get lubricated? Check out this image that shows the parts and areas of the engine that the oil runs through, lubricates, and protects.

Oil eventually wears out and needs to be changed.

Oil is subject to consistently high temperatures and breaks down over time. Sludge can form throughout the engine, making it difficult for oil to flow between moving metal parts. Viscosity modifiers also break down over time, which makes the oil thinner and less effective at lubricating moving parts at high temperatures. Also, metal, dirt, and other particulates build up in the oil, much of which is too small to be captured by the filter. Over time, detergents and additives meant to combat the contaminants and dirt will break down become less able to protect the engine. The oil becomes abrasive and speeds up wear on vital parts and systems, and shortens the life of the engine.

Get an Oil Change

You can prevent all of this by – you guessed it – flushing out the crud with an oil change. If you don’t change your oil and oil filter, eventually the filter will stop working and dirt will accumulate in the engine, contaminate the oil, and compromise its ability to lubricate and clean. Over time, even the best oil will lose its lubricating and cleansing qualities. Because of all the dirt and abrasive crud in the oil, metal engine parts will experience severe wear, risking failure and potential damage to the engine. Eventually, the whole engine will seize up and stop working, maybe even catch fire.

Conventional Oil or Synthetic?image - engine oil pouring out of bottle

The next big question is what kind of oil should you use? AAMCO Minnesota can help you make the right choice. Check out this great infographic to help you understand the different kinds of oil and which to use in your engine.

Come to AAMCO Minnesota for All Your Car Maintenance & Repairs

Now that you know the importance of regular oil changes, it’s probably a good idea to come by your locally owned and operated AAMCO Minnesota Transmission and Car Repair Center for an oil and filter change or a multi-point inspection. Whatever you drive, you can count on AAMCO Minnesota Transmission and Total Car Care to service and repair your automobile.

If you have questions about your car’s engine, oil changes, or about car repair and maintenance, AAMCO Minnesota can help. Stop by or call a local AAMCO Minnesota repair shop for a Multi Point Vehicle Courtesy Check for your transmission and related systems. We’ll winterize your car and get you ready for the cold, snowy winter driving months ahead. We can handle all your scheduled car maintenance and repairs, from brakes to factory recommended maintenance.

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Daydreaming on Your Cell Phone While Rubbernecking

Watch this video and learn why there is only one place to go – AAMCO. We’re the transmission experts with over 50 years of experience rebuilding and replacing transmissions, and all their 800 pieces. We’ve fixed over 40 million transmissions – way more than our competitors. And we offer a lifetime warranty. Because we have the skill to fix an 800-piece transmission, we can easily fix the rest of your car – brakes, shocks, mufflers, even your engine. Lots of things can make your engine light come on. Today it can be hard to tell what’s wrong with your car, especially if it’s your transmission. Our technicians are trained to keep up with the complex engineering of today’s cars. So, next time something goes wrong with your transmission or any other part of your car, bring it to your local AAMCO.