10 Tips for Avoiding Flood-Damaged Cars

By  //  August 29, 2020

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The hurricane season is here, and we have experienced a very active period so far. Flood events are usually characterized by extensive damage, deaths, and property losses. A significant feature of these events is the countless number of cars that are flooded.

The hurricane season is here, and we have experienced a very active period so far. Flood events are usually characterized by extensive damage, deaths, and property losses. A significant feature of these events is the countless number of cars that are flooded.

Not only do these cars get soaked, but they also sustain damage. It is essential that you understand the effects that flooding can have on vehicles. Floodwater often contains harmful substances, including salt, metals, acid, and silt. Each of these disrupt the functional parts of a car differently, especially the electrical system. 

Now, you may be wondering: how does this affect me? Let’s consider this analogy, for example. Martin, a retail manager, is excited about getting his first car.

Due to his tight budget, he decided to opt for a used car. However, Martin wasn’t well informed about the risks of buying flood-damaged vehicles and the ways to prevent himself from becoming a victim. Now, his car has a premature breakdown, and he has to pay extra costs for the repairs.

You have probably been in Martin’s shoes, looking for ways to get rid of your scrapped cars. It’ll gladden you to know that there are ways to avoid these kinds of incidents. 

The fact that a car looks all good and shiny is no guarantee that it will work perfectly. Many used car dealers refurbish their vehicles to look as good as new and then resell them to unsuspecting buyers.

In the summer of 2017, it was reported that an estimated 500,000 cars suffered flood damage due to Hurricane Harvey. 

These cars were declared a total loss by insurance companies, and prospective buyers received warnings to steer clear of them. However, private used car dealers overhauled roughly half of these cars and resold them.

Many of them intentionally conceal the cars’ histories as flood-damaged vehicles through a process known as “title washing”. 

This practice continues today, and it’s up to you to know how to identify flood-damaged cars and stay clear of them. But don’t worry. You’re not alone. Keeping the following tips in mind when purchasing a used car will go a long way in helping you.

• Shop Smartly

After deciding to buy a car, you first need to research where to get the car. An established dealership with an impressive track record will not risk its reputation. Visit reputable dealerships and ask relevant questions about the vehicle you want to buy.

The importance of getting the title of the car can never be underestimated. The label informs you where the car came from, and you might want to stay clear of cars that come from a flood-plagued region. Stamps with the words “Flood” or “Salvage” are a good way of spotting flood-damaged cars.

• Spot Unusual Odors Inside the Car

Prolonged exposure to floodwater will result in foul, musty or mouldy odours. Mildew buildup inside a vehicle is usually difficult to eliminate.

This is a sure sign that the vehicle has been exposed to a considerable amount of water. Be careful not to be deceived by the strong smell of cleaning solvents and air fresheners. The seller might have used these to conceal something. Sit in the car, turn on the air conditioner, and smell the odour coming from the vents.

• Feel Your Way Around the Car

Your sense of touch should always accompany your sense of smell. Sellers tend to miss some of the locations where floodwater can collect. You should run your hands along sections of the car to locate any moisture. You may also be able to observe evidence of water damage, such as rust and scratches.

• Check for Signs of Corrosion

Corrosion is one of the primary and most common problems associated with flood-damaged cars. Even after a car has dried out, it will continue to corrode. Rust is easily identified and often visible. Inspect metals that may have had significant contact with floodwater.

These metals include screws, hood springs, door hinges, trunk locks, and many others. You will never find rust and flaking on the undercarriage of a new car. So, be sure to check that too.

• Take a Test-drive

As previously mentioned, the electrical system of a flood-damaged car will likely be critically compromised. A damaged electrical system can prove to be life-threatening over time.

You should extensively test the car to ascertain if every electrical component is functioning correctly. Listen for unexpected noises and check for smoke. Ensure that all lights are working, and there are no signs of water damage.

• Inspect for Exterior Signs of Water Buildup

Some areas of a car won’t dry regardless of how thoroughly a person cleans them. These areas include headlights and taillights, wheel well, and the engine compartment. Inspect these places for signs of waterlogging.

• Dirt Buildup in Unusual Areas

If you notice dirt on the seat tracks or the upper carpeting underneath the glove compartment, you have reason to suspect that something is amiss. It won’t be a bad thing to get a mechanic to help you look for grit or caked mud in the car’s interior and exterior areas.

• Check the Car’s Oil

When water gets into an engine, the oil tends to change colour and viscosity. Doing an oil check will help you identify a car that has been damaged by flooding.

• Check the Condition of the Fabrics

Check the vehicle’s fabrics for discoloration, fading, and mildew on the upholstery and carpeting. Any signs of recent shampooing on these materials may be cause for concern.

• Seek Expert Advice

If you’re still unsure about the condition of a car after a personal inspection, seek expert help. These experts know where and what to look for to detect flood damage. Even when you’re buying a used car, you are investing. A flood-damaged vehicle will likely be very costly in the long run.

Therefore, it is crucial to make the best investment and protect it at all costs. The above-listed tips will equip you with the necessary information to achieve this, and help you avoid buying a flood-damaged car.