The numbers on the illustrations refer to the numbers on this checklist.
- Mileage: Average mileage is about 15,000 miles (24,000 km) per year. More than average mileage may indicate hard usage. 1975 and later catalytic converter equipped models may need converter service at 50,000 miles (80,000 km).
- Paint: Check around the tailpipe, molding and windows for overspray indicating that the vehicle has been repainted.
- Rust: Check fenders, doors, rocker panels, window moldings, wheelwells, floorboards, under floormats, and in the trunk for signs of rust. Any rust at all will be a problem. There is no way to check the spread of rust, except to replace the part or panel.
- Body appearance: Check the moldings, bumpers, grille, vinyl roof, glass, doors, trunk lid and body panels for general overall condition. Check for misalignment, loose hold-down clips, ripples, scratches in glass, rips or patches in the top. Mismatched paint, welding in the trunk, severe misalignment of body panels or ripples may indicate crash work.
- Leaks: Get down and look under the vehicle. There are no normal leaks, other than water from the air conditioning condenser.
- Tires: Check the tire air pressure. A common trick is to pump the tire pressure up to make the vehicle roll easier. Check the tread wear, open the trunk and check the spare too. Uneven wear is a clue that the front end needs alignment. See the troubleshooting section for clues to the causes of tire wear.
- Shock absorbers: Check the shock absorbers by forcing downward sharply on each corner of the vehicle. Good shocks will not allow the vehicle to bounce more than twice after you let go.
- Interior: Check the entire interior. You're looking for an interior condition that agrees with the overall condition of the vehicle. Reasonable wear is expected, but be suspicious of new seatcovers on sagging seats, new pedal pads, and worn armrests. These indicate an attempt to cover up hard use. Pull back the carpets and look for evidence of water leaks or flooding. Look for missing hardware, door handles, control knobs, etc. Check lights and signal operations. Make sure all accessories (air conditioner, heater, radio, etc.) work. Check windshield wiper operation.
- Belts and Hoses: Open the hood and check all belts and hoses for wear, cracks or weak spots.
- Battery: Low electrolyte level, corroded terminals and/or cracked case indicate a lack of maintenance.
- Radiator: Look for corrosion or rust in the coolant indicating a lack of maintenance.
- Air filter: A dirty air filter usually means a lack of maintenance.
- Ignition Wires: Check the ignition wires for cracks, burned spots, or wear. Worn wires will have to be replaced.
- Oil level: If the oil level is low, chances are the engine uses oil or leaks. Beware of water in the oil (cracked block), excessively thick oil (used to quiet a noisy engine), or thin, dirty oil with a distinct gasoline smell (internal engine problems).
- Automatic Transaxle: Pull the transaxle dipstick out when the engine is running. The level should read Full, and the fluid should be clear or bright red. Dark brown or black fluid that has distinct burnt odor, signals a transaxle in need of repair or overhaul.
- Exhaust: Check the color of the exhaust smoke. Blue smoke indicates, among other problems, worn rings. Black smoke can indicate burnt valves or carburetor problems. Check the exhaust system for leaks. It can be expensive to replace.
- Spark Plugs: Remove one of the spark plugs (the most accessible will do). An engine in good condition will show plugs with a light tan or gray deposit on the firing tip.