8 Ways to Check a Vehicle for Flood Damage

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Aug 20, 2014

Flooded cars

Thousands of flood-damaged cars are fraudulently sold in auto auctions. Floods, rising rivers, hurricanes, and other natural disasters damage a huge number of vehicles. Dishonest dealers buy these cars, restore them so that they look almost new, and sell at an attractive price. The buyers feel like they have a deal of their lives; however, chances are high that expensive problems appear some time later. What is more important, a flood-damaged car can be dangerous to drive.

So, how do you determine if a car has a history of flood damage? Here are 8 signs of a potentially water-damaged vehicle:

1. The car is sold at suspiciously low price. Suppose you were selling a great car, how much would you ask for it? If the car’s price is obviously cheaper than it should be, ask the dealer what’s the reason for this.

2. The vehicle comes from an area where hurricanes and floods commonly occur.

3. Signs of water damage, such as rust, silt, and mud. The dealer can miss locations where water is likely to collect. Check glove compartment and dashboard; look under the carpet and below the seats. These are common locations where you can find signs of flood damage.

4. Faulty fabrics. Take a look at the upholstery and carpet for signs of water damage (such as water strains, discoloring, or fading) or replacement. If the carpet is too loose or if the upholstery doesn’t seem to match, be suspicious.

5. Nonoperational electrical components. Take a test drive to ensure that all electronic components of the vehicle, including headlights, dashboard lights, turn signals, wipers, and radio, work as expected.

6. Changes in the viscosity and color of the oil. In a flood-damaged car, oil may change its color and be like white coffee instead of being dark. It may also be thinner and more sticky that usual oil.

7. Brittle wires beneath the dashboards.

8. Musty smell. It's very difficult to get rid a water-damaged car of its musty smell. Take a deep breath and sniff to find out if the car has flood damage or not.

If you still aren't sure enough that the car has not been flood-damaged, ask an expert to inspect the car. You can also ask to see a VHR toreveal if the car has ever been involved in a flood.  If the seller refuses to provide you a report, use the vehicle’s VIN to check the car’s history at Vininspect.com.

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