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  10 ways to spot an accident damaged car

Buying a second hand car can be a tricky business. There are plenty of people out there that will try and sell you a supercar that's actually more of a scrapper.

Here are 10 ways to spot if the car you're looking at could have been involved in an accident.

1. Number Plate

Look at the number plate. If the car has been smashed front or back, the number plate may have been cracked. A body shop will often have a new one made up with their name in small lettering at the bottom. Not always the case, but worth a look.

2. Boot floor

Check the boot floor for damage. Lift up the boot mat and take a look at the boot floor and spare wheel well. If it looks like it’s been crumpled and straightened out then it may have been in a crash at some point.

3. Paint work

Look for differences in paint colour between the panels. If the car has had a poor repair there may be an obvious difference in colour between two adjoining panels. The finish may also be dull and the panel looks slightly lumpy if the filler hasn’t been sanded down properly. Good repairs will be harder to spot because the body shop should blend the colour of the repaired panel into an undamaged panel.
One caveat is that the colour of the bumpers will often look slightly different to the rest of the body. This is because of the difference in the way the paint takes to plastic and metal. On some cars, this may apply if they have plastic front wings.

4. Over spray

Check rubber seals for overspray. A car that’s been badly masked up before painting may have paint spray on the rubber window seals. Take a look at the door and boot seals too.

5. Panel gaps

Check the gaps between the panels are uniform, as replacement panels may have been badly fitted. If the car has been in a heavy front end smash, the doors may rub on the front wings where they've been shunted backwards.

6. Doors, boot & bonnet

Doors, boot, bonnet. Open and shut all the doors, the boot and the bonnet. If you have to slam any of them to get them to close properly, it could be a sign they have been refitted at some point due to an accident repair.

7. Tyres

The suspension geometry may go out of alignment in a car that’s been smashed up, so check all four tyres for signs of uneven tyre wear. Bear in mind that uneven tyre wear may be a symptom of something less serious, like the tracking being out or wheels out of balance. This is easily remedied, but might call into question how well the car has been maintained.

8. Welding

Peer underneath the car and look for a welding joint across the width of the floor pan. If you see anything untoward, keep your chequebook firmly in your top pocket. It’s possible that the car you’re looking at is one car made from two halves, known as a ‘cut and shut’. It will be about as structurally sound as a bomb shelter made from blancmange.

9. Sunroof

An abnormally large sunroof can also be a sign that the car has a split personality. The big glass roof is used to disguise the welding bodgery that’s gone on.

10. Wing damage

On some cars you can peer inside the wings when you open the front doors. Look for signs of filler or creased panels that have been smoothed over with filler on the outside. Sometimes you can tell where the filler is by tapping along the length of the panel. Rust scabs where the wings (front or rear) meet the bumper may be a sign that the bumpers have been off at some stage and badly refitted.


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