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Bought a car that died 4 minutes into its first drive. Help!

I bought a car two days ago. Test drove it, looked it all over inside and out, everything looked/sounded fine. So the next day I registered it and went to take it to the store. 4 Minutes down the road, the gas pedal stops giving it gas and the car slows to a stop. I thought maybe the car stalled (i couldnt tell if it was running or not) so i turned it off and restarted it. It got me about ten more feet before doing the same thing. I thought maybe it was out of gas so I called AAA. While waiting for them all my lights (interior and exterior) dimmed and died. They showed up, filled my gas tank. Nothing. Tried jumping the battery. Nothing. I’ve been told it’s probably the alternator? I spent my last couple dollars buying this car so i could get a job, I can’t afford major repairs. (or any at all for that matter). Any idea what might be wrong? Can I take it back since I’ve only had it 48 hours and it died right away? Help!

Chevy hasn’t made the Beretta in some time, so what year is this '92? You can call whoever sold you the car. If you bought it “as is” it would be up to their good nature to give you any help at all.

In the future whenever you buy a used car hold back some money for repairs. Used cars are usually on the market because the previous owner didn’t want to fix something. In this case it could be a new alternator.

You need to check the laws of your state about car sales. If this were a private sale between individuals you may be out of luck.

I would go ahead and get a charging system test (or get the battery and alternator each tested off the car) and see if the alternator and/or battery is at issue. If they test out OK, then other additional diagnosis is in order.

Unfortunately, the lesson here is to either know that you have some warranty concerning the used car, or don’t allocate all of your money towards the car purchase. As you can see, unprogrammed repair requirements pop up at inconvenient times.

It’s a '94. But aren’t there lemon laws?

Lemon laws apply to new cars, yours is 16 years old. There are laws against fraud, but you’d have to show that the seller guaranteed that all the systems on the car were OK. Some dealers sell cars with a 30 day warranty, and many cars are sold “as is”. With the age of your car my guess is that a dealer would sell it “as is”.

If there is a warranty you should have some papers and documents detailing what is and what isn’t covered.

Your battery has discharged. When a jump battery (or, vehicle) is connected, it needs to charge for 15+ minuets to get a little charge into the battery. Then, it might start.
If you can get it started, and take it to an auto parts store, and let them do a curb-side battery and alternator test (free). They can tell you if the alternator is charging and if the battery will accept a charge.
Many cars suffer from corrosion on the battery cable (between the cable terminals and the battery terminals). This corrosion will block charging to the battery. The battery cables can be disconnected and the terminals cleaned with a wire brush. This could help the charging problem.

Did you buy it from a dealer or private party? I’d bet it was a private sale, given that it is a 16 year old car. Where did AAA tow it? It could be an old battery that won’t hold a charge. A new one will cost about $80 plus installation. You can call the previous owner and try to get some information about the problem. If you get too upset or pushy they might hang up, though. You aren’t in an enviable situation, but at least it won’t cost an arm and a leg to repair.

Technically it was a dealer. Once that sells old cars. AAA towed it back to my house. Only place i could tow it for free. The sales man was the one who thinks it the alternator and says he’s “got a buddy who can fix it for $300” which sounds a bit shady to me.

I’m sorry to hear about your car problems.
If you bought this car from a private seller, rather than a car dealer, there will be no warranty–except perhaps if your state requires that a car must be able to pass a state safety/emissions inspection. However, this does not sound like an inspection-related issue.

Individuals who sell a personal car are not held to the same standards as a car dealer, so unless there is some unique law in your state, it will be up to the good nature of the seller regarding any assistance he might extend to you.

If you bought it from a dealer, there may be a brief warranty, but if the car was purchased “as is”, you have no recourse, even with a dealer. You should be aware of the terms of sale if this car was bought from a dealer, but if you are not aware of the terms of sale, they are sure to be listed on the bill of sale.

Unfortunately, buying used cars tends to be a bit of a crap shoot, especially if you don’t have the car checked out by your own mechanic prior to sale. If you were not aware of this previously, consider this to be a lesson learned the hard way. Any used car will have potential problems. A used car that is 15-16 years old is likely to have many problems, unfortunately.


Edited to add:
“Technically it was a dealer. Once that sells old cars.”

What does your bill of sale say, regarding any type of warranty coverage?

Just noticed that it’s “as is”… Ugh! Well now i’m stuck without a car, or a job, or money. At least I have a roof over my head, this month. =/

Thanks for the help so far guys.

Check with your state…Even though it is “As is”…Many states have an implied liability clause. You in good faith bought a vehicle that is suppose to run. If the vehicle isn’t running you can get your money back. Usually this is for 3-4 business days.

"Just noticed that it’s “as is”

For your own financial well-being, you need to be more aware of the terms of the sale when you buy something.

In my state, cars being sold “as-is” have a large printed form on the window stating, “AS IS–NO WARRANTY”. Your state may not have this requirement, but you do at least need to look over the bill of sale before you turn over your hard-earned money. That is just basic self-defense for a buyer.

I am not criticizing you, but I am trying to point out that you walked right into this without seeing the handwriting on the wall–or in this case, on the car window or on the bill of sale.

I am confident that you will be a much more cautious buyer next time!

This is more than a bit shady. I’ll bet his “buddy” will put in a boneyard alternator, when for $300 you should have a rebuilt. I’ll also bet the sale guy knew the alternator was shot.

Run from this guy…fast, hard, and far.

My guess is that the alternator is shot and the battery has been totally completely repeatedly drained. The battery drains when the altermnator doesn’t work. You may need a new battery too.

Since you’re budget sounds as bone dry as your battery, let me suggest that you get a boneyard alternator and bolt it in yourself. Perhaps a buddy who has some car knowledge and some tools can help. If he has a charger, you can try charging the battery and see if it’ll hold a charge. That’s about the most you can do without having the system tested.

Since car dealers (used, or new car dealers)–since they have “superior knowledge” in the eyes of the law, they are legally required to tell you about any major problems–IF you ask first.

So if you said something like “Hey, any major things wrong with this car?”, and they said no, they’re most likely liable. At least that’s the way it is in PA here. There’s gotta be a phone # in your state for free legal advice.

First thing I thought was alternator. Follow Hellokit’s suggestion: Check if the battery terminals are corroded. If so, then, if you can afford it, buy a cheap terminal cleaning brush (maybe 5 bucks at Autozone, etc.) Gotta get the right type, side-terminal, or top-post.

Ask the guy at Autozone, or wherever. I think yours are side-terminals. If they are, you also need a 5/16 inch wrench (an 8 mm will do) to remove the cable ends from the battery. Then go to an Advance Auto, Pep boys, Autozone–those kind of places, and have them check battery (charge test & then load test) then charging system output. That way you won’t have to remove any parts first.


Post back w/results.

Before replacing the alternator or sueing someone, have the positive battery cable assembly inspected.

The battery in your car is a side mount battery. And the positive cable assembly has two leads that go to two siameze connectors under the red rubber cover. Under this red rubber cover corrosion can form causing a poor connection between the battery and the vehicle. this would prevent the battery from being charged from the alternator, a drop in voltage to the vehicle where the lights go out, and would prevent the engine starting even if the battery were given a jump.

Have someone remove both battery cables. And then peel back the red rubber cover for the positive battery cable assembly. If a white/green powder is found under this red cover replace the positive battery cable assembly.

I suggest this because my 95 Beretta had the same problem with a corroded up positive battery cable assembly.


You don’t “buy” 16 year old Beretta’s…People just give them to you…