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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
What is this? Well, I thought I'd concatenate the subaru 152-point checklist, some other guides, and some common knowledge to make one big master list of things to check on a used WRX that you're looking at. I'd like to keep it just for WRX/STi. PLEASE let me know if you spot something wrong or missing.

I couldn't sleep last night, so I decided to just take 3 hours and write this up. Hope the sleep deprivation doesn't show through :)

And remember - a perfect car can fail a few of these - a great car can fail even more. This list is so you can collect information, and make a more informed decision.

Talk to the owner/dealer
  • Get a vehicle history report. That'll help you answer some of these:
  • Was the vehicle in an accident, flood, etc.?
  • Does the vehicle have a clean title?
  • Do the odometer readings make sense?
  • Any open recalls?
  • Ask for a full service history. You may not get it (some folks are disorganized), but it REALLY helps.
  • When was the last oil change? What type of oil was used?
  • When was the last tune up (spark plugs)? What type?
  • When were the tires last rotated?
  • What aftermarket parts are on there?
Walk around the vehicle
  • Look at all the panels. ALL of them.
    • Do they all match EXACTLY in color? If not, why not?
    • Are there any paint deformations - scratches, rock marks, etc?
    • Are there any metal deformations - dings, dents, etc?
  • Has the car been debadged? Can you have the original badges?
  • Are there extra badges? Are they removable?
  • Try all 4 doors - open and close them with the windows up and down. Rattle is okay, but it should be easy and solid.
  • Are there any chips/cracks on the windshield or the other windows?
  • Are the wiper blades in good condition?
  • For each door (5 on the wagon/hatch):
    • Hit lock via the keyless fob. Did the door lock as expected?
    • Try the door - shouldn't open.
    • Hit unlock via the keyless fob. Did the door unlock as expected?
    • Try the door - should open.
    • When the door's opened, do the interior lights come on as expected?
  • Look at the wheels/tires - curb rash?
  • Is the spare in good condition and full?
  • Are there enough tools to change a tire in there?
COLD Underhood checks
  • Pop the hood. Is it an easy process?
  • Check oil level - since the car's COLD, the level should be low in the safe range - BUT IN THE RANGE.
  • Check coolant level - there's a fill line.
  • Check power steering fluid level.
  • Check brake fluid.
  • Check clutch fluid.
  • Check ATF or gear oil - the latter is the dipstick under the I/C.
  • Check windshield washer fluid.
  • Inspect the battery.
    • Does it look like there's been a wrench to it recently? why?
    • Is it secure?
    • Get a mechanic to check the chemistry (specific gravity, electrolyte level).
    • Run a load test
  • Get a compression test - are all four values in a decent range and close to each other?
  • Pull on the accessory belts (two of them - better have small hands :) ) - are they taut?
  • Look at those belts again closely - are they cracked or worn looking?
  • Look at all the hoses - are they in good condition?
  • Look at all the clamps - are they tight?
  • Look at the metal around here:
    • Do all the VIN's match?
    • Is there a catalyst sticker on the hood, and at least one sticker on the front frame?
    • Look carefully at the frame pieces (to which the body panels are attached) - ANY warping whatsoever?
  • Look at the _____, is it aftermarket? List: (not all under-hood bits)
    • Intercooler
    • Intake
    • BPV
    • Uppipe - this'll be hard to see.
    • Turbo
    • Downpipe - ditto.
    • Exhaust - get under the vehicle for this.
    • Suspension - springs, struts, etc.
    • Sway bars
    • Strut tower braces
    • Headlights/Taillights
    • Brakes - you'll see calipers and rotors.
    • Wheels
    • Body - body kits, spoiler, hood scoop, roof rack, roof, bumpers, etc.
    • Steering wheel
    • Gauges
    • Seats
    • Harness
    • Shifter/knob/boot
    • Anything else you can easily spot.
On-lift checks - some can be done off-lift.
  • Check the tires
    • Is the pressure correct?
    • Are all four the same? THEY MUST BE!
    • Is the tread alright? Do the penny/quarter test.
    • Is the tread even on all 4 tires?
    • The tire manufacture dates - are they matching and within the last few years? Guides online help you read these.
  • Look carefully at the bottom cosmetic bits for problems.
  • Check brakes
  • Check/fix lug nut torque
  • Check for ANY fluid leaks
  • Check exhaust system
  • Check steering linkage
  • Check struts
  • Check axles
  • Check bolts/bushings/fasteners
  • Check rear diff fluid
  • Generally look for damage
Trunk - sedan only issues
  • (Especially with modified spoilers) - does the trunk open too fast? When you undo the latch, the trunk should float a half inch up or so.
  • Is it smooth to open/close?
  • Does it latch/unlatch properly?
Hatch - wagon/hatchback only issues
  • Does the hatch open all the way by itself, or do you have to help it that last inch?
  • Does the hatch latch properly?
  • Does the privacy cover work properly?
  • Do the back seats flip down correctly?
Get in the vehicle
  • Check for basic cosmetic issues - dirt, stains, rips, etc:
    • Steering Wheel
    • Instrument panel
    • Headliner
    • Sunvisors
    • Glovebox
    • Carpets/mats - are they all there?
    • Center console/cupholders
    • Door cards
  • Sit in the driver's seat.
    • Are the seats stained/ripped/etc?
    • Look in front of you, and at the interior stuff on both sides - are they dirty?
    • Does your seat belt work?
    • Can you slide forward and back all the way?
    • Can you tilt forward and back all the way?
    • Can you adjust up and down?
    • Can your headrest go all the way up and down (if it's supposed to)?
    • If the adjustments are electric, do they work? Do they remember positions?
    • Shut the door, hit the lock, try to flip the lock yourself
  • Sit in the passenger seat. Check all the above.
  • Sit in the 3 other seats. Check all above (all that's applicable).
  • Check the cabin air filter. Yeah, you'll probably need to replace this :) .
  • Check the child locks in the back - should NOT open from the inside when engaged, but should open from the outside.
  • While you're in the back, do the seats fold down correctly/easily if they're supposed to?
  • Back in the driver's seat - Are the pedals wobbly? Too tight?
  • Try working the gearbox into all the gears - do you feel any resistance?
  • Put it into neutral, make sure the handbrake is on. Get out and try to move the car. Can you?
  • Still in neutral, handbrake off, get out and push. Can you?
  • Adjust the steering wheel all the way up and down (and in and out, if you can). Easy?
  • Honk the horn. You should hear 2 distinct loud tones.
  • Hit the lock button. Do ALL the doors (5 in the wagon) lock?
  • Hit the unlock button. Do ALL the doors (5 in the wagon) lock? Repeat these two. Is the latching easy or forced?
  • Put the key in - you should hear a chime with the door open
  • Try the hazards - do they work with the car off?
  • Using the button on top of the steering wheel and other methods, check:
    • Headlights - low and high beams, turn/parking indicators
    • Fog lamps
    • Side markers
    • Taillights - brake, backup, turn (you'll see three different bulbs).
    • Brake bar - the red thing mounted higher.
    • Rear license plate lamps
  • Turn the key to Accessory.
    • Do the interior lights work?
    • Go back outside, pull the gas cap off. Do you get a warning light?
    • Play with the radio/head unit (nomenclature :) )
      • Is it the OEM radio?
      • Do all the buttons physically work?
      • Do all the functions (FM, AM, tape, CD, aux in - depending on what's there) work?
      • Turn it all the way up - is it loud?
      • QUICK - turn it back to normal! :) Are all the speakers outputting sound at the same level?
      • Can it turn off and back on?
  • Turn the key to ON. (most of these can be done later when the car is on to save battery)
    • Do all the dash warning lights go on momentarily, then turn off if they are supposed to?
    • If you've got the fancy gauges, did they dance for you?
    • Do the hazards still work?
    • Signal left. Check the front, side, and rear indicator.
    • Signal right. Same checks.
    • Tap the brakes just slightly. Are all three brake lights lit?
    • With the lights off, are the DRL's running (take parking brake off)?
    • Turn on parking lights (first notch) - do the right lights come on?
    • Turn on headlights (second notch) - do the right lights come on?
    • Point the lights at a wall - the driver's side should be aimed a bit lower than the passenger's.
    • Stand in front of the lights, on the driver's side, maybe 100' away. Are you blind?
    • Change the dash light level - do the dash lights fade in and out?
    • Does the rear defroster work?
    • If equipped, check the heated seats, windshield, mirrors.
    • Try the 12v outlet - does it power your favorite plug-in thing?
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
continued

ECU checks - you basically need a tactrix cable for this. Nice things to check if you can get one.
  • Can you do anything on the rom, or is it married to an ap/other tool?
  • Pull the rom - is it a stock one? WARNING! WILL reset ecu, including I/M readiness. Do this last, if at all.
  • Run Learning View
    • Any DTC's? You should check with another tool too.
    • Note the IAM. Check again after a (somewhat rough) test drive.
    • Take a screenshot of the FLKC table, compare to later. In general, how much is there?
  • Datalog during your test drive - this is to your taste, your preferred variables, whatever will give you a good idea of engine health.
  • (regular mechanic's OBD tool required): Is the I/M Readiness complete? If not, this can mask some serious DTC's that require $1k's of work.
In the car, with it on.
  • Try to turn the car on without the clutch pedal down. Shouldn't start.
  • Turn the car on (turn the key to start momentarily - c'mon, you know this :) ).
    • Did you hear the fuel pump cycle on?
    • How quickly did it turn over? Should be about 2-3 seconds.
    • How's the Idle? Should be a bit up and down, but after a minute or so, should stay steady.
  • The passenger airbag should be OFF.
  • Put a >85lb weight in the passenger seat (idk, maybe a person? :) ). That light should go off.
  • Put all the windows up and down, from the driver's control and the individual controls. Are they smooth and fast?
  • Does your auto-window work?
  • Try your sunroof if it has one - smooth?
  • Turn heat on full blast - check ALL vents, including the windshield one. Should be a lot of hot air.
  • Try the A/C - both with the A/C button on and off - it'll cool down better with the A/C button, but both should work after a while. Should be a strong, cold flow of air.
  • Listen for belt squeal, etc. with options on and off.
  • Put the car in first, handbrake up, slowly let out the clutch - should feel A LOT of resistance at one point, and should stall. Start again. (the owner will hate you, but it's good for seeing parking brake issues.
  • Try the windshield washers, front and rear (if equipped).
Test drive - be sure to have fun with this :)
  • Look out for the steering - turning radius, speed lock-to-lock, general feel while driving.
  • Listen for excessive rattles/other noises - yeah, the WRX is a rattlecan inside. Use judgment.
  • Your shifts should be smooth and effortless (um, assuming you're actually doing it right :) ). Going into reverse at first might be hard, and downshifting to first might be hard. Normal.
  • The clutch should be firm, not too light.
  • The pedals should feel responsive. Really responsive.
  • By about 3200rpm in 2nd/3rd, you should feel glued to your seat, and (if you've got a boost gauge) see about 13.5psi boost (I believe sti is 14.7, newer ones also have some different targets. What I'm getting at is that 7psi is too low and that 15.5 and up are definitely tuned or broken).
  • Is the clutch slipping at high rpm?
  • Go WOT (safely, of course), pull up to just under redline, let go. SHOULD slowly rev down, coast. Anything else happen?
  • Once you're done with the test drive, leave the car running, pop the hood and return to your normal underhood checks. Use your sense of smell more this time.
STi-specific things - fill in earlier
  • Check the Intercooler fluid level. Should be no more than half-full for cold weather.
  • Check the I/C spray operation.
  • Put the DCCD in manual mode, run through the settings - does the display change?
  • Try changing the tach warning system. Does it work?
Dealership-specific things - or, am I about to be scammed?
  • Look online for dealership reviews. A few bad reviews are common, but are there *any* good reviews? What do all the reviews say?
  • Are you buying with a 30-day guarantee, or is the sale "as-is"?
  • Will they at least guarantee inspection?
  • Are they fixing problems on new cars, or are they spending more time shining the tires?
  • Your test drive - are you allowed alone?
  • If not, does the guy direct you through a very specific short route?
Well, I hope that helps you buy a car... this should give you a good idea of the state of the vehicle, I hope.

Links:
Subaru's 152-point inspection
Unabomber's Manifesto - always good to link here :)
Timdog1650's REALLY nice info - READ THIS!
Popular Mechanics on the same info - not subie specific
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
one more post for good measure, just in case. Please contribute! :)

EDIT: aw, sucks that you can't change the thread title - I'm used to PHPBB...
 

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when i worked for subaru i took one of these certification checklists out of town with me so i could make sure my car was ok
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I added a bunch more stuff I got from my experience looking for my own car, and some insight my mechanic uncle gave me. I've looked less-than-seriously at probably 100's of cars since I got here, but really, truly, nearly-ready-to-sign on 2 - the second of which is now mine. The first was at a terrible dealership, selling "as-is", fitting 75 cars on a lot maybe designed for 25, clearing the DTC's as soon as they come in, etc. The car seemed great the first day I looked at it - honestly, I was completely satisfied. Frame and body in good shape, interior in okay shape other than dog scratches, engine and ECU apparently checking out, (short) test drive seemed okay...

...the second day, I looked at reviews online and brought my uncle. First off, the I/M Readiness wasn't done - possibly a O2 sensor, a cat, or a evap. emissions problem. He took a test drive (along the same route), and sure enough - there was some oil leaking and burning up right near the turbo that I had not seen. He did really like the shape of things physically, but mechanically, he said that it was not worth anywhere near what they were charging.

The second car I visited, I was more careful. I laid things out BEFORE I visited, seeing as the dealership was 2.5 hours north of me. I called ahead, saying "I'm coming up to check the car out, is it still there? Is the I/M Readiness done? Will I be able to watch your mechanics check this?" In the end, I didn't have to check this - I already knew the readiness checks were done, as Learning View picked up a memorized DTC for the front O2 sensor. Turns out they had already replaced this (or they were about to - one of the two), but just having that dtc tells me they never cleared things.

Plus, the fact that they had a 30-day complete guarantee, guaranteed inspection in a state stricter than my own, let ME (a 17yr old who admitted he had never driven stick) test drive it with my mom as the only passenger, and basically worked with me the whole way - PLUS the fact that I had to come in late on the day I got it, because they were replacing the timing belt and front brakes? This just rocked.

YMMV. I hope I can at least help you pull a good car from the hundreds available online.
 

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Great post! Just joined and was about to ask if a thread like this existed but I found it. Hoping to get a subby in the winter and it would be nice to know what to look for when buying one. Sticky material maybe? :thumbup:
 

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only one thing, its dumb but make sure the freaking trunk has all of the interior pieces, my trunk was completely gutted, idk why but i didnt check it the day i went to look at it, figured why would i wanna go in the trunk whats that matter, but now i am paying for my stupidity, just check it
 

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Didn't see any mention of transmission fluid level, which is also an indication of the level in your centre diff for a manual car. The manual transmission dipstick sits beneath the intercooler on the passenger side. Not familiar with auto's.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Didn't see any mention of transmission fluid level, which is also an indication of the level in your centre diff for a manual car. The manual transmission dipstick sits beneath the intercooler on the passenger side. Not familiar with auto's.
Thanks, added this. It's funny - I went around to check all my fluids today - gear oil was, indeed low... though, of course, I'll bring the car to my uncle later this week.
 

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It's an easy one to miss, doesn't exactly jump out at you. Good, comprehensive list you've got going.
 

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poly,

Do you want me to edit the title to remove the [wip] tag?

BTW, thanks for the work. This is a very complete list and should be a very useful resource for any buyer.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
poly,

Do you want me to edit the title to remove the [wip] tag?

BTW, thanks for the work. This is a very complete list and should be a very useful resource for any buyer.
Yes, please - I threw that up so that I would have the thread to myself while I was fixing any last issues I had, thinking once I pasted everything in that I could just remove it - I'm used to other forums, where the title can actually be changed. If you get a chance, please remove the WiP tag, thanks.
 

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Iam in the process of looking for an sti and this list seems really helpful. I really want a 2005 sti but i was curious about mileage. How many miles is too many for this year? I dont know too much about how long these engines last so any info will help. Let me know what you think!
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Iam in the process of looking for an sti and this list seems really helpful. I really want a 2005 sti but i was curious about mileage. How many miles is too many for this year? I dont know too much about how long these engines last so any info will help. Let me know what you think!
Mileage is not as important a factor as you'd think. A 2005 is about 6-7 years old now, so the "average" driver would have put somewhere between 72k and 100k on it. If a car has significantly less (around 30k or so), it probably wasn't used as anything but a track car (you can say this about STi's - a wrx with oddly low mileage was probably just mistreated). Just make sure the service records go by time and not mileage, and it's good. If the car has significantly more than that (around 150k), somebody liked the car. Just make sure the service records go by mileage and not time. Also, anything above about 100k - MAKE DAMN SURE that somebody either took care of or is taking care of the timing belt - or be prepared to do it yourself.

In all, the shape of a car is quite a bit more important than the arbitrary number of miles it's gone. There are a lot of high-mileage (300k) original engine cars which I would much rather take over a car with 50k, a ton of bolt ons, and that's never been tuned for those bolt-ons.
 

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Mileage is not as important a factor as you'd think. A 2005 is about 6-7 years old now, so the "average" driver would have put somewhere between 72k and 100k on it. If a car has significantly less (around 30k or so), it probably wasn't used as anything but a track car (you can say this about STi's - a wrx with oddly low mileage was probably just mistreated). Just make sure the service records go by time and not mileage, and it's good. If the car has significantly more than that (around 150k), somebody liked the car. Just make sure the service records go by mileage and not time. Also, anything above about 100k - MAKE DAMN SURE that somebody either took care of or is taking care of the timing belt - or be prepared to do it yourself.

In all, the shape of a car is quite a bit more important than the arbitrary number of miles it's gone. There are a lot of high-mileage (300k) original engine cars which I would much rather take over a car with 50k, a ton of bolt ons, and that's never been tuned for those bolt-ons.
QFT!!!! ^^ This, by a long shot!!!!
 

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Alright so basically as long as it has been well taken care of, the mileage isnt that big of a deal. Most of them i have seen have been around like 60k plus mileage, what is a good price for this year? I have seen them from like $15,000 all the way to like $21,000....
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Alright so basically as long as it has been well taken care of, the mileage isnt that big of a deal. Most of them i have seen have been around like 60k plus mileage, what is a good price for this year? I have seen them from like $15,000 all the way to like $21,000....
Take a look at KBB - this will give you a vague idea of what's worth what. Also, just keep looking at cars for sale, and see what they're going for.
 

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Hey guys, first time poster here in need of some guidance. I have all but fully committed to trading my Mazda6 for a 2002 wrx this coming weekend. I will be meeting him in Memphis, TN (about 5 hours away) to do the trade.

Here is the vehicle's listing on ebay: Subaru : WRX - eBay (item 130493742188 end time Mar-14-11 08:04:44 PDT)

I am in no way a car guy, but the major things I am concerned for are the turbo and the transmission. What are some signs that the turbo may be giving out? It appears to be a very well cared for WRX, but one can never be sure.

Should I have a shop in Memphis take a look?
 
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