There’s a lot more going on in a rebuilt car than immediately meets the eye, so it’s critical to take it for a test drive before laying down any money. Our readers have spent a lot of time around rebuilt vehicles and shared some of the more common issues that can come up in a test drive.
What issues can you find by test-driving a rebuilt title car?

Arnold Chapman

Arnold Chapman, Founder & CEO of

Things to Look for During the Drive

  • Missing car name or emblem
  • Doors that don’t close properly
  • Hood and trunk that don’t close squarely
  • Silt-in trunk
  • Only one part shows new metal
  • Chipped off paint or unmatched paint
  • Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) sticker on a specific part
  • Uneven surfaces, especially on the frame
  • Welding bead anywhere or inconsistent welds on the car
  • Body openings and broken adjacent panel
  • Misaligned fenders
  • Wheel misalignment revealed by uneven tread wear
  • Structured repairs on wheel wells, chassis, or engine
  • Electronics problem
  • Indicators that are not working
  • Frayed belt fibers and safety belts

Idle the Car and Test Drive in Stop and Start Traffic

Both of these methods of test-driving are very crucial in checking up a second-hand or rebuilt car.

When you start a car on your first test drive and let the engine stay on for some time, notice for any uncommon sounds coming from the engine, check for any warning lights on the dashboard, and turn on the AC, car stereo, heater, and lights to see how they are working.

Checking these will clarify for you about the vehicle’s battery power, radiator, and cooling or heating system. Additionally, when you start to drive the car, take a route that constantly pushes you to stop and accelerate the vehicle.

By taking a short rough ride, you will get to know about the quality of brakes, engine, steering, and lower body mechanism.

What issues can you find by test-driving a rebuilt title car?

Julian Goldie

Julian Goldie, CEO of Goldie Agency.
What issues can you find by test-driving a rebuilt title car?

Karen Condor

Karen Condor is a vehicle expert with

Five Issues You May Encounter

Test-driving a rebuilt title car can expose those repairs are not done completely or correctly and that your findings don’t match the documentation given to you and communicated to you regarding the repair work. You should look up your state’s requirements for a rebuilt vehicle inspection.

If you notice undue wear and strain on brakes, tires, and wheels, the car may have an unaligned frame. When you do an acceleration test, if the car becomes shaky as you increase speed, that can uncover a stability issue. You can also uncover an alignment issue if the car veers when you take your hands off of the steering wheel.

Doing a test of the brakes when test driving a rebuilt title car can uncover several issues, as the car shouldn’t slow down too fast when you gradually tap the brakes, and the car should stop straight when you brake.

When test driving a rebuilt title car, you can find issues by doing the 90-degree turn test. If you hear clunking, grinding, or whining noises when you turn the steering wheel as far as it will go, then there is a problem with the power steering.

You can find issues with the car’s suspension when you test drive a rebuilt title car over a bumpy road. If you hear any bangs or knocks, or the steering wheel does not stay firm, the vehicle has not been rebuilt correctly.

How to Spot the Issues of Rebuilt Cars

Buying a used vehicle can be a risk, then adding a rebuilt title to the mix only makes it an even bigger gamble. Just because it has been deemed rebuilt does not necessarily mean it is completely cleared of all issues.

Test driving a used vehicle with a rebuilt title can make you aware of suspension and alignment issues that can be caused by a severe impact. If the frame of the vehicle is damaged, some of those issues won’t arise until you’re on the road. Initially, you may think that it can be solved by swapping out tires, shocks, or getting the vehicle aligned, only to find out that it could be something much more costly. Pay attention to vibrations, wobbling, a feeling of instability, or clicking as you turn.

Motors and transmissions can be damaged in a severe accident and may only show signs of failure once test-driven. You should listen for noises when you first turn the vehicle on and then pay close attention to rattling, grinding, winding, humming, or any type of noise. You should also pay attention to any hard, delayed, or slipping shifts when the transmission goes into the next gear.

If the exhaust system or fuel system was damaged, a test drive can allow you to see the signs. Sometimes you can hear a loud rattle but another sign can be a sickening smell of fumes making their way into the cabin as you drive. Also pay attention to any smoke coming from the exhaust, any color, as it can translate to issues in these systems or the engine itself.

Pay attention to the dashboard when you test drive a rebuilt vehicle as it can be a good indicator of potential issues. If any lights flash on, take note of them. Check engines, ABS, traction control, and any other system failure lights are warnings that there is something seriously wrong that needs to be addressed. Also, make sure that all warning lights come on when the vehicle is started and that there is no flickering occurring as you drive as this could indicate electrical issues.

What issues can you find by test-driving a rebuilt title car?

Mark Beneke

Mark Beneke is the owner of Westland Auto Sales in Fresno, CA.

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