Q. I want to buy an expensive used car. Should I wear nice clothing so sellers won’t think I’ve got little money and are wasting their time? Anything special I should look at? I know it’s best to bring a mechanic, but that’s not possible for me. M.K., West Chicago, Ill.

A. Don’t dress like a bum, but don’t wear nice clothes, either. Wear older jeans or slacks so you’ll feel comfortable getting down on hands and knees to look under the car. Watch for uneven body lines and door, hood and trunk misalignment. All can indicate frame damage. Check for rust under front and rear carpets and trunk mats. Does the interior look decent and do all gauges, knobs, gadgets and exterior lights work? Front seats should slide back and forth easily.An oil-covered engine can mean big trouble. Engine oil on the dipstick should be relatively clean. Ask for maintenance receipts. Space here prohibits telling everything to look for on a test drive. But make sure it’s long enough, covers a variety of roads and that the car runs well, with no suspicious noises.

Q. I want suitable tires for my high-performance car and am looking for a place with tire experts who really know their stuff. – R.R., Chicago’

A. I’ve found one of the best outfits for advice is the Tire Rack (TireRack.com). It’s America’s largest independent tire tester and consumer-direct source for tires. A team of some 90 test drivers--the Indiana-based outfit’s sales team—tests tires from every major tire maker on its modern 10-acre testing facility. Findings are posted free on the Tire Research tab on www.tirerack.com. The Tire Rack has a new online enhancement to make tire buying faster and easier. The new feature allows for easier access to TireRack.com’s three consumer tire research pages: surveys, reviews and tests. Consumers now can navigate through TireRack.com’s tire performance comparisons and more than 150,000 consumer surveys and results in one place under the Tire Research tab. Previously, the three research sections were separate.

Q. I’m moving from dry West Coast roads to Midwestern wet and slippery ones and am anxious about driving on rain-covered pavement because I have had little experience with it. Advice? – L.L., Los Angeles, Calif.

A. Slow down and be more cautious. Stay toward middle lanes because water tends to pool in outside lanes. Keep a good distance from the vehicle ahead and try to drive in its (wet) tracks. Don’t follow large trucks closely because spray created by their large tires often reduces vision. Avoid using brakes—rather, take your foot off the accelerator pedal to slow down. Don’t use cruise control on rain-soaked roads. The deeper the water, the sooner you’ll lose traction—but even thin water layers can cause traction loss, even at low speeds.

Q.As usual, winter has left my area with many potholes. Many can’t be avoided. What damage can they cause? H.R., Chicago, Ill.

A. Sorry to say that a deep pothole can damage tires, wheels, steering and suspension components, besides wheel alignment. If your vehicle hits a bad one, watch for loss of control, swaying during routine turns, bottoming-out on city streets or bouncing excessively on rough roads. Those are indicators that the steering and suspension probably have been damaged. Together, steering and suspension largely determine your car’s ride and handling. Key components are shock absorbers and/or struts, the steering knuckle, ball joints, steering rack/box, bearings, seals, hub units and tire rod ends.

Q. I thought the severe economic recession would cause prices of collector cars—especially 1960s American muscle cars--to drop a lot in the past year or so. But I don’t find that to be the case, looking at the big collector car auto auctions on cable television. – E.W., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

A. Wealthy guys at the big televised auctions still look like they have lots of money to throw around for collector cars. For some, it’s an ego thing to outbid another rich guy for a car. As for collector autos, prices of some famous 1960s muscle cars, such as Pontiac GTOs, have fallen, but not as much as had been expected if they’re in top shape. Drawing top dollar are collector cars that have been expensively restored or are in exceptional original condition. Also, prices of some especially favored 1960s muscle cars, such as the 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, remain quite high. Prices of many collector cars in average or below average condition aren’t commanding the prices they did a few years ago, although desirable models still are far from cheap.

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