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7 things to look for in a winter 'beater'

Loose steering can be hazardous
Loose steering can be hazardous © photka/Shutterstock.com

Loose steering can be hazardous

When cars become difficult to steer or start making odd sounds -- squeals or pulling noises -- it's an indication of tired or stressed components that are likely to fail at an inopportune moment, Marks says.

Visnic suggests testing the vehicle for an unusual amount of play in the steering.

"With the engine running, move the steering wheel side to side in small increments -- the front tires should respond without any delay," Visnic says.

Properly functioning steering and suspension parts are critical to maintaining control in challenging road conditions.

"If the vehicle isn't steering properly or there are faulty suspension components, those are variables that could contribute to loss of control when traction is at a premium," notes Visnic.

So if there are any signs of trouble, move on to another beater.

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