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On the road again - More Economical Motoring

Is it Weatherproof?
Water leaks can lead to other problems. Check for traces under mats, around doors and especially in the trunk. Evidence is pretty obvious during the wet season, so when it's dry you'll need to look for rust and staining. Feel rubber seals lining doors and windows - they should be firm yet pliable, certainly not brittle and starting to crack. The same applies to the rubber seats of non-opening windows such as quarter-lights and rear screens. Pay particular attention to the windscreen seals, especially inside. Even minor leaks will show up somehow, often as small mud deposits where water has entered and puddled. While you were looking under the mats you may have come across the odd bead of glass, quite likely from a shattered windscreen which has been replaced. If the job was done properly, the screen will be watertight.

Good visibility is a must. Windscreens need to be clear and unmarked. Small stone chips can lead to cracks. Score marks from damaged wipers impair vision, as does pitting from dust and sand. Even if this isn't to the point of being illegal, it can prove dangerous in certain circumstances such as when bright sunlight hits the screen directly. Needless to say, the wipers should work properly and the blades need to be in good condition. The operation of screen washers should also be checked. Any window-tinting film should be unmarked and not showing signs of bubbles.

Under the Hood
Although the gadgetry under the hood remains a mystery to many, there are still a number of visual checks that anyone can perform. Note if the engine seems to have been recently cleaned - it could have been done to remove oil leaks. Depending on the severity of the leaks, you may still be able to locate the source of these by getting your hands dirty - bring a rag or two with you. If you can feel heat from the engine, it was running not so long ago. Maybe the seller warmed it up so that it started okay when you arrived - how about when it's cold? A warning before you stick your hands in - some parts may be hot; and be absolutely certain no-one else is going to start the car without your knowledge! Definitely, don't let one of the kids sit in the car for a play drive - it could cost you some fingers! If you are wearing a wrist watch with a metal strap, take it off - you'll get more than a mild shock if it shorts out the electrics. Test all rubber hoses you can get at for soft spots, visible cracking and any traces of leakage, especially where they are clamped. The fan will be next to the radiator which it helps to cool. Using the blades, try rocking it gently side to side - unless the bearings are worn, there should be little or no movement. Belts behind the fan should be checked for fraying and correct tension - there should be about 3/4 inch (20mm) play on the longest sides: too much and they could be slipping; too tight and they will be putting a strain on the bearings behind the pulleys. Next, have a general feel around, between and under to see if your fingers pick up oil traces.

The Cooling System
The cooling system is frequently a forgotten essential - check it out. To start with, you need just look. Modern cars are fitted with expansion tanks. These are usually plastic containers connected to the radiator overflow by a rubber pipe. Liquid in them ought to be no lower than the minimum mark on the side of the container, and it should be clean. Colouring - often pink or green - is coolant rather than plain water and is a good sign. If the plastic of the tank is impossible to see through because of heavy staining, especially the brown kind, there have been problems at some time in the past. Maybe they've been fixed, maybe not. You really need to have a look in the actual radiator. This is pressurised, so only remove the cap when it is cold otherwise you'll scald yourself. The cap may be a bit stiff to unscrew. That's okay as long as it's in good condition. Too loose means it has not been doing its job and will need replacing. There should be no signs of rust in the coolant and the level should be up to the neck, not close to or below the first layer of the internal parts. Evidence of rust and foam on the rubber seal of the cap is a bit of a worry.

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