Ferrari Club of America - Southwest Region

Tech Tip - Purchasing Pre-Owned, A Tech's Perspective

By A. Claudio Szyszkowski

Having specialized in service, repair, buying, and selling of foreign exotics for the last 8 years, I am commonly recruited to serve as consultant, mechanic, psychologist, and hand holder by clients who are contemplating the purchase of a "pre-owned" Ferrari. The following is a protocol I use when inspecting a vehicle being considered for purchase.

1) My first question to the customer is how they intend to utilize the car. Will they be driving it only on the weekends, or daily? The second questions is the asking price of the car. The next step simply enough is an overall visual inspection and then the first of two road tests. When road testing the car for the first time, I pay special attention to the feel and sound of the car, listening for every noise possible. I also scrutinize how the car behaves in turns and whether the gear box is smooth or harsh, while feeling for clutch slippage, and making sure there is no differential sound. The road test acts as the pre-cursor for my examination, providing me with a point of origin.

2) Now it?s time to place the vehicle on the rack. Providing that the car passed the road test and there were no discernible problems, first I will look for frame damage caused by accidents or some kind of off-road encounter. While under the car I will inspect for rust and or corrosion, and fuel line punctures. Then the wheels are pulled off to inspect the condition of brake, rotors, pads, lines and I?ll check end play of wheel bearings. The next details of the inspection include the front end evaluation, looking for wear and tear of ball joints, suspension arm bushings, tie rod ends, rack and pinion or steering box. If the particular car being checked is front engined then I check for oil leaks, condition of the cooling lines and motor mounts. I then check the external condition of the gearbox or transaxle, determining if it has been previously taken apart, and then remove the oil filter plug and take some oil samples. All of the above is done visually.

3) It?s now time to inspect the engine, starting by pulling the spark plugs and checking for unusual carbon deposits. A compression test is used as a partial indication as to the condition of the engine. It is used concomitantly with a leak down test to evaluate the condition of the piston rings, valves, cylinder head and head gasket. The next step will be to check the oil pressure. If there is suspicion that the gauges are inaccurate, then a shop mechanical gauge shall be used. While the engine is running I look for abnormal vibration or sounds. Also noted is the color of the smog generated through the exhaust. Then inspected are all the engine components including power steering pumps, air conditioning, smog devices, fuel injection or carburetors, hoses, belts, electrical harnesses, etc.

4) The step following the engine inspection is to check aesthetics of the vehicle. Within the interior, I first check window operation, heating and air conditioning function, and other accessories. Next I view the general condition of the interior including seats, door panels, headliner, dash, etc. Evaluation of the exterior will include checking for paint condition and body work, looking specifically for cracks and rust in an attempt to determine the originality of the car.

5) The second road test is now performed to clarify any original doubts since I am now familiar with the vehicle.

Throughout the inspection I take into careful consideration the service, maintenance, and repair orders previously performed on the car. It is crucial to verify the originality of replacement parts in order to maintain the value of the vehicle. Original parts used is also an indicator as to the quality of previous repairs.

Customarily, the inspection aforementioned takes approximately three hours. It?s a cheap investment to have the car thoroughly evaluated for wh

For a complete look at Sempre Ferrari, you may want to check out the rest of the articles from Volume 2, Issue 3 - April 1995