We would like to think that a car with flood damage would never make its way onto a lot and into the garage of an unsuspecting buyer, but we know that it happens. Let us help ensure that Hurricane Sandy does not come back to haunt you long after the storm is over.
Laws against selling officially totaled vehicles vary from state to state, and unscrupulous sellers have found ways to avoid them. According to reports, the 2005 hurricanes Rita, Katrina, and Wilma caused flood damage to over 600,000 cars, and many of those still turn up for sale on reports by CarFax. NBC News also reported that after Hurricane Floyd, half of all the damaged vehicles returned to the road.
“A car that’s been in a flood, with the engine submerged for any length of time, will never be the same. It’s important for used car shoppers to know how to spot flood damage no matter where they live, because these cars can end up on a dealer lot anywhere in the country,” according to Carl Sullivan, an auto inspector for 20 years, in his interview with NBC.
Some flood damage is repairable and doesn’t warrant totaling the car, but if there is the tiniest doubt, the buyer should have the vehicle professionally inspected before purchase. “It’s extremely important to find any water damage before you invest your money in a used car, and a professional inspection will find flood damage no matter how a seller tries to hide it,” said Sullivan
If you currently own a vehicle that you fear was damaged by flood waters, it should be thoroughly inspected by a professional before it is driven. All electrical wiring and electronic components should be tested and operational, as they are the most vulnerable. A complete flush-and-fill of all fluids is recommended to remove any contaminants. Hoses, gaskets, and filters can also be weakened by water exposure and should be inspected and replaced if necessary. Fabric surfaces like seats, floor mats, carpets, and even head liners, should be cleaned and dried quickly to ward off mildew and mold.
There are some warning signs of flood damage that should not be ignored when buying a new vehicle as well. Mud, even dried, in the seat belt tracks is an indicator that the water level was above the level of the seats for a period of time. If a buyer notices a musty smell in the carpet or upholstery, the carpet should be lifted to look for residual moisture or a water line to indicate the flood level. Moisture within the housings of the headlights or taillights is another sign, as well corrosion around the gas tank, on the brake lines, or other areas of the undercarriage. Obviously, water pooled anywhere like console compartments and door pockets is a sure sign of a problem.
We recommend that you first contact your insurance company if your vehicle sustained flood damage. If you are concerned about detecting or repairing water damage, a service department near you can inspect the vehicle for you and make necessary repairs.