You were excited about purchasing a car. You visited several showrooms and spent hours looking for the right vehicle. Now that you have it, you realize the car has unexpected issues and maintenance problems. Unfortunately, you may have bought a lemon. Such vehicles appear to have continuous mechanical defects in their system, which can cause you severe frustration in addition to costing you extra money.

The watchword for every car you buy is “buyer beware.” It is difficult to tell whether you have purchased a good car or a lemon until you take it home. Even so, you can look for common signs before buying a car. These signs can tell if the vehicle you are considering to buy is worth the risk. If you know the signs, you may be able to detect a lemon before giving away your hard-earned money. Michael J. Goodman’s Law Office in Mesa, Arizona, suggests you look for these warning signs before purchasing the car of your dreams.

Sign 1 – Read the Seller’s Body Language

A person’s behavior and body language tell the whole story. You must have a keen eye to look beyond the words to what the seller’s body is really telling you. When a dealer sells a car, read their body language to gauge whether they are trustworthy and telling the truth. You may not be a professional sleuth, but you should be able to recognize negative signs like these:

  • Quick changes in head position
  • Change in breathing patterns
  • Standing exceptionally still
  • Repetitive words or phrases
  • Touching or covering the mouth
  • Covering vulnerable body parts, like the throat
  • Shuffling feet
  • Long stares without blinking

Aside from observing the seller’s physical reactions, ask a lot of questions and see if they answer quickly and forthrightly. Or are they trying to evade your questions? Ask if they have the required documentation for the vehicle. Can they show the car’s maintenance records? Can they provide its history report on demand? These questions are common, and you should detect no nervousness from the seller when you ask them. If the seller refuses to answer any of your questions or seems uncomfortable answering, it is a sign that the dealer can’t be trusted, and neither can the car. Just walk away and look for another seller.

Sign 2 – Ask for the car’s history report

To find out if the car you are purchasing is a lemon, check the vehicle’s complete service and repair history. In the United States, Carfax and AutoCheck are two top-rated services that deliver the vehicle’s comprehensive report for a small fee. Ask if the seller already has a history report or will provide one for you at no cost. Many reputable dealers will honor this request.

Regardless of which service you use to get the information, you must provide the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). Enter the VIN into the report request form on the reporting company’s website and get every detail about the car. The report will tell about the vehicle’s previous owners, inform you if it has experienced any accidents, how many times it has been to the repair shop, and who the current title holder is.

Sign 3 – The Car Hisses and Knocks

While buying a vehicle, your sense of hearing is as vital as your vision. Notice if a car is making sounds that aren’t normal and may be problematic. Especially, listen for hissing and knocking sounds coming from the engine. A hissing sound in the engine compartment could be leaking fluid hitting the hot engine. A knocking sound could mean the car’s head gasket is about to blow, or there is a problem with a piston. None of these sounds are usual. If you hear these, rethink if this car is worth buying.

Sign 4 – Shaking and Pulling

After listening to the car, take it for a test drive, and make sure you drive it on the freeway. Once on the freeway, accelerate the car up to at least 60 miles an hour. Once it reaches freeway speed, notice if the steering wheel shakes or the car pulls to one side. Either of these signs indicate the vehicle has a serious alignment issue, or worse, it may have a major engine problem. Think carefully about whether you want to buy a car that shakes when accelerating or pulls to the side. These kinds of problems can cost you a lot of money for repairs and may pose a serious safety issue. These warning signs should be deal-breakers.

Sign 5 – Check Engine Light

When the Check Engine light glows on the dashboard, it usually indicates that a sensor is picking up an abnormal reading. It can be caused by something as simple as not closing the gas cap properly, or the light can mean a catastrophic problem, such as a worn out catalytic converter, an evaporation leak in the fuel system, a misfiring spark plug, or a cracked engine block. If the car is experiencing problems that cause the check engine light to come on, the seller may simply reset the light and hope it doesn’t come on while you are testing the car. To prevent a surprise after you leave the lot, turn the ignition on and off several times before driving the car, then restart it again several times after returning from the test drive. This is not a foolproof test, but generally if a car has a check engine light problem that the seller has masked, it will show up after a few stops and starts.

Sign 6 – Look for Leaks

When the car leaks fluid, it could be a sign of a problem. Not every drop of liquid, however, is a warning sign. For example, on hot days the car’s air conditioning system may build up excess moisture, which drips from the compressor under the car. If the drip is water, not to worry. On the other hand, troublesome leaks that should cause you worry include:

  • Antifreeze from the radiator
  • Oil from the engine block
  • Transmission fluid from the center of the car
  • Power steering fluid under the front half of the car
  • Brake fluid from anywhere under the car

Before you take the car for a test drive, look at the ground where it has been parked. Then, after you return from the test drive, let it sit for a while and check the ground underneath again. Another good check is to open the hood. Engines and the engine compartment may be dirty, but they should not be wet or show signs of spray. You don’t want a car in which all liquids are not sealed properly.

Other significant signs may indicate potential problems, such as interior damage, loose steering wheel, low oil level, misaligned body parts, manipulated odometer, stiff bumper, window and lock problems, and uneven tire tread.

A modern automobile is a complicated machine comprising thousands of individual parts, any one of which may be defective. Even after scrupulously following these guidelines and using your very best judgment, you may still end up with a defective car or truck that eventually becomes a lemon. If your vehicle has been in the shop for warranty repairs more than four times or has been out of commission for more than a month, talk to Michael J. Goodman’s Law Office in Arizona. You may have a claim under the Arizona Lemon Law for a refund, a replacement vehicle, or other compensation.