Mitsubishi Mirage This sport compact offers economy without compromising comfort.

1997 Mitsubishi Mirage

Old 05-01-2013, 08:33 PM
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Join Date: May 2013
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Default 1997 Mitsubishi Mirage

Hello everyone,

I am thinking about buying a Mitsubishi Mirage for 1400 with 162K. It is in good condition. Can anyone tell me if this is a good idea. I need a small inexpensive car fast!
Old 05-02-2013, 10:17 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 16,176

It's cheap, and it's got high miles. If you can't afford to lose $1000 on top of that asking price, then I would say you're putting yourself in a compromising position.

Cheap affordable high mileage vehicles are a good idea if you're mechanically inclined, or have someone at hand that isn't scared to change engines/transmissions.

Here's what I would do:

Show up, keep a straight face. Don't smile, don't look interested. Look like you mean f-ing business.

1) Make sure the car wasn't warmed up before you got there. If it was, just walk away.
2) Have someone watch the tail pipe when you start the car. Blue smoke = bad valve stem seals. Not detrimental to the engine, it's just ugly. White = head gasket/Walk away. Steam is normal. Coolant will smell sweet, like burning syrup.
3) When driving, make sure it goes through the gears normally. Pay attention to jerky shifts in an automatic, or slipping shifts where it doesn't appear to grab the gear properly. Make sure it goes into overdrive (fourth gear). Check reverse!!!
4) Ask when the oil was last changed, and with what. Conventional oils leave junk behind when left in above 3-4k. Check the dipstick for the oil level, and condition. You want a nice golden brown oil, NOT black. If they are lying, it's obvious.
5) Look under the oil cap, look for any black/sludge deposits inside the valve cover. You may need a flashlight. If there's white mayonnaise looking stuff on the oil cap, that means head gasket.
6) If there is a transmission dip stick, check that. The fluid should be cherry red, and should not smell burnt.
7) Make sure there are no check engine lights, ABS lights, or anything of the sort. If there is, go to your local auto parts store and have them scan the codes, they do this for free. Write them down, look them up, and make sure they are nothing serious. Emissions codes like a failed catalytic converter are expensive to rectify. o2 sensors, not too bad.
8) Check your tires for wear, and observe the brake rotors. If the rotors have a lip on the edge of them, that means they are likely at the end of their lifespan. Sometimes you can't get a good look at the brake pads, but that can also be a bargaining chip.
9) Play with everything in the interior. Make sure everything works. The gloveboxes on these cars break, check that too.
10) Make sure the car drives in a straight line, and that the steering wheel isn't crooked. Pay attention to any noises while driving.
11) If you see any chalk pen under the hood, that means those parts have likely come from a junk yard, and means the car was repaired cheaply. Also use this to your advantage.
12) Turn the wheel all the way to the right, and head over to the right side corner. Check the ball joins. They should not be leaking grease. If they are, they will need to be replaced. They are cheap parts, but the labor will be costly. Expect to spend a couple hundred bucks changing ball joints/tie rod ends at an alignment shop. Do the same with the other side. Also check out your CV axles, and make sure the rubber boots aren't torn.

Finally, my advice to you is make everything sound like a bigger deal than it is. You've got to change this, replace that, fix this, that, what ever. All parts for these cars can be found in junk yards and over the internet for fairly cheap anyway. Don't be afraid to diagnose/fix it yourself! We can help you with that, most of the time. Make sure your offer is not actually what you want to pay, he'll only haggle you up from there. Start a couple hundred below what you want to pay, and let him feel like he has the upper hand. Don't be afraid to play hardball.

As long as the engine and transmission are in solid shape, usually the rest of the car isn't far off. An obviously abused car will show signs of wear and tear everywhere, I would walk away from something that wasn't cared for.

Tires cost about $35-$50 used, and $80-$100 new. Keep that in mind. An alignment is usually about $60. An engine will set you back probably $500 used, and another $500 to pay someone to install it. A transmission will cost slightly less to remove and replace.

Hope that helps! Good luck.

Last edited by Sebba; 05-02-2013 at 10:22 AM.
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