Thinking about buying a classic car? Do your homework and watch this how-to inspection guide first. There can be all sorts of hidden terrors on old cars, and Hagerty’s Randy Clouse is here to help you sniff them out so you know exactly what you’re getting. While these tips can go a long way in preventing you from bringing home a junker, Hagerty always suggests hiring a marque expert to inspect any vehicle you may be interested in purchasing.
It starts with a detailed walk-around of the vehicle’s body to check for chips, scratches, paint work, or evidence of body filler. You’ll want to take a close look at all the panels and at all the doors to check that everything lines up as it should. Moving under the hood, general cleanliness in the engine bay is a sign of good care and regular maintenance. Oil is the first thing you’ll want to check out—if it’s everywhere, that’s not good, and on the dipstick it should be nice and clean rather than black and sludgy. Next up are the the cables, battery, and hoses. Squeeze the hoses to make sure they’re nice and pliable, and note any hardness or cracking. The radiator fins should look good, too.
Once you finally start the car up, make sure it’s running okay by looking at the engine and listening for any abnormal knocks, rattles, or things like that. Look at the belts and check to make sure those are running fine, but don’t mind a little squeaking, which is normal. Check all gauges in the instrument cluster for things like oil pressure and voltage, and then (if the car uses a manual gearbox) test the clutch for normal operation.
That’s just scratching the surface of what Randy can teach you what to look out for, so if you want to be prepared on your next pre-purchase inspection, watch the full video above.