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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

Common Problems to Look for Before Buying a Classic Car or Truck

If you are in the market to buy a classic car or truck, it is extremely important to know how to inspect a vehicle for issues it may have.  The best way to know about issues a vehicle has is to know as much about that make and model as you can.  When you think you have learned enough about a specific vehicle, we suggest you keep researching! The more you know, the better you will be able to spot any issues before making a purchase.

There are common issues that all classic cars and truck share, but many of them are very much vehicle specific.  This is why we cannot stress enough the importance of knowing the issues for a specific make and model.

Two issues that are common amongst most classics are rust and evidence of a previous accident.  When it comes to rust, we can’t stress enough how much of a problem it can become during a restoration or even during simple repairs.  Rust can be the one issue that ruins even the most promising classic car affair.

If there is rust (or signs of rust repair) it will generally be found around the wheel wells near the bottom of fenders and around the bottom of doors and door sills.  There is also a good chance of rust in the floorboards and under the battery, so these areas should be the first place you look.

Being prepared to search for signs of rust is a huge advantage.  Be sure to bring a small flashlight, a magnet, and a telescoping inspection mirror to help you check for rust or body filler.  A magnet will only stick to the metal in the fenders and body.  It will not stick to body filler at all.  If you only have a light magnetic pull, that means there is more filler than metal.

In our opinion, if you see a little surface rust, it will likely be an issue you can overcome with some bodywork.  On the other hand, if you can stick your finger through a rusted out frame or fender, we highly suggest you find another vehicle to purchase.

Signs of an accident may be harder to spot.  One sure way to spot trouble is by examining the gaps on the doors, hood, trunk and between body panels.  If everything looks even and you don’t see any noticeable gaps, chances are the car or truck has not been in a major collision.

Some makes and models came with gapping issues when they came straight off the production line.  This is where it pays to have researched your vehicle to see if this was a common issue created during manufacturing.  Most vehicles did not have this issue.

Other signs of an accident may be harder to spot and will likely require you to inspect the underside of a vehicle.  It’s a good idea to dress appropriately when going to inspect a classic.  Chances are you are going to get dirty so don’t wear your Sunday best.

We suggest you thoroughly inspect for under-car damage to a cross member or lower suspension components that could signal abuse. This is also a good time to look for additional signs of rust.  If present, it will likely be on the frame on suspension attachment points.

There are certainly more things that need to be inspected like oil, brake fluid, and transmission leaks as an example, but looking for rust and accidents should be your first order of business.  It can be a very daunting thing to inspect a vehicle by yourself.  It often helps tremendously to bring another person with you as a second pair of eyes.

If you are even a little hesitant in your skills to spot these troubled areas, we then suggest you hire a professional appraiser to accompany you for the inspection.

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