How to Properly Inspect a Vehicle

January 4th, 2019 by

Mechanic filling out a vehicle inspection form

Having a full vehicle inspection carried out by a professional is a great idea. A professional mechanic will know precisely what they’re looking for inside and outside of your car. However, it’s always useful to be at least a little informed yourself. In this blog, the team at Thompson Sales offers a guide for how to inspect your vehicle like a pro. Just keep in mind that if you’re not a professional, it’s always best to bring it to the shop for a full inspection.

Body Condition

Checking the general body condition of a vehicle is pretty simple, but make sure you pay attention while you do it. Walk around the vehicle and take a close look for any dents or obvious problems. Keep in mind there can be some more subtle signs of problems. Look for places where the body panels aren’t even, and open and close all the doors to make sure everything works as it should — this includes the hood and the trunk.

Checking the Tires

You should also check the tire and wheel condition. Are all the tires the same make? If not, you need to be sure to ask why. Check the tire pressure and take a look at the treads to see whether the tires have been worn evenly. If they haven’t, something could be off with the way the car has been driven.

Make Sure the Lights are Working

This is simple but absolutely vital for your safety. Check to make sure there are no cracks in any of the exterior light covers. You should also test the lights, including the turn signals, to make sure they’re working properly. This includes fog lights, emergency lights, brake lights, and high beams.

Examine the Interior

Now that you’re inside the car, it’s time to inspect the interior.


Check the seats for obvious signs of damage or cosmetic issues like tears or stains (depending on how picky you are). Also, be sure to check the actual function of the seats: make sure they can be adjusted properly, and that all the seat belts move and buckle like they’re supposed to.

Dashboard and Controls

Check that all of the lights and controls on the dashboard are working. You can do this by turning the ignition into “accessory” mode without turning it all the way on. This mode lights up the dash icons so you can make sure they’re all functioning. If certain lights don’t come on, or if they stay on when the others go off, there’s likely a problem. You should also test the A/C while you’re at the dashboard.

Interior Roof

If the car has a sunroof, make sure that it opens and closes properly. Check the rest of the roof for signs of leaking like damp spots or stains.

The Engine

The engine can be a little more complicated for a novice, but there are a few key things to look for. For your safety, never check fluid levels or reach into the engine bay if the engine is running or if it is still hot after running recently.

Fluid Checks

Check the fluid levels of a car by consulting the owner’s manual (which the seller should have), or having the seller or salesperson check them. This should include transmission fluid, oil, power steering fluid (if applicable) and the brake fluid.

Belts, Hoses, and Connections

Take a look under the hood to check the belts and hoses in the engine. You can check the hoses that are around the radiator and air conditioner just by feeling them for holes or cracks, and you can sight-check the drive belts to see if they are frayed. Again, if you’re not sure what you’re looking for it’s best to have a professional inspect it.

The Radiator

What you’re looking for here is the antifreeze — specifically the color. Antifreeze should be green or orange. Look inside the plastic reservoir that’s connected to the radiator. If you see fluid that’s rusty or milky then there’s probably a leak that needs fixing.

Visit Thompson Sales for Vehicle Inspections and Car Sales

If you’re looking for a professional inspection or repair, Thompson Sales has the best body shop in Springfield, MO. If you’re looking for a new or certified pre-owned car, truck, or SUV, we can help there, too. Contact our car sales team or visit our car sales lot in Springfield, MO today.

Posted in Used Vehicles