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How Not to Get Ripped Off When Buying a Used Vehicle

Before and After by Don Stec, author badge, myoutdoorbuddy.com

ne of the hardest things to do is…to tell a person the vehicle they just bought is not worth repairing. Improperly repaired vehicles are a major problem. Unfortunately most people do not know what to look for. Many of the vehicles that find their way to Coachmaster started because of a simple wheel alignment, or so the owners thought.

The majority of times the vehicles were purchased from a private party. They looked fine but it was noticed there was a slight drift in the steering. The alignment shop could not align the vehicle and recommended it be brought to a body and frame shop.

I remember a classic Ford Mustang bought off the internet. It was presented as never wrecked, and show ready. It just needed a wheel alignment. Our inspection revealed it was actually two cars welded together after it had been cut in half. Besides the Frankenstein weld all the way across the underside of the vehicle, it was welded ½ inch too short on one side. Repairs would exceed the value of the vehicle and it would never be a show worthy vehicle.

Another vehicle was a Luxury SUV. The frame was heated until the metal was weakened. Suspension parts that should have been replaced were heated and distorted. The body could not be properly attached to the frame.

If the buyers of these vehicles had only looked at the underside, the damage was very obvious.

The following photos should help when inspecting a vehicle of similar damage we commonly see under the hood.

Shows the mount to the headlight is broken off and replaced with a sheet metal screw. , photo by don stec
Shows the mount to the headlight is broken off and replaced with a sheet metal screw.

Shows the front of the wheel house shield missing a large portion, allowing debris to enter the engine compartment. Photo by Don Stec
Shows the front of the wheel house shield missing a large portion, allowing debris to enter the engine compartment.
Shows the radiator support still bent at the bottom. Welds top, bottom and sides are poor quality. Notice rust starting in the welded area., photo by don Stec
Shows the radiator support still bent at the bottom. Welds top, bottom and sides are poor quality. Notice rust starting in the welded area.
Look at the dashboard. This dashboard was repaired improperly and repainted. The repair is cracking and peeling., photo by Don Stec
Look at the dashboard. This dashboard was repaired improperly and repainted. The repair is cracking and peeling.

There are many people who buy and repair wrecked cars out of a home garage or a small stall in an industrial complex. I often hear they have disappeared when the buyers return to inquire about the vehicles they purchased.

If you can’t look under a car, take a mirror and a flashlight with you. I recommend as large a mirror as is practical. Mirror tiles are reasonable and available at home big box stores. You may be surprised what you find. Better yet have a mechanic inspect the vehicle.

Don Stec is the owner of Coachmaster Collision Repair, a technically advanced body shop in the North valley. We can be reached by phone at 530-243-1310 or at the business at 6851 East side Road, Redding CA. Check our websites coachmasterautobody.com or phone version Coachmasterredding.com

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