Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Signs of a flood damaged vehicle

How to tell if you’re buying a flood-damaged vehicle

A car or truck may look great but be hiding a nightmare of future problems because it’s a flood-damaged vehicle. How can you tell if the car has been cleaned and waxed? Ah, here are some insider tips on spotting a flood-damaged vehicle

• Water marks on the upholstered door panels and in the trunk

• The smell. Salvage vehicle sellers know you don’t want to smell mold and mildew so they saturate the car’s interior with odor masking sprays. Does the interior smell like Fabreze, Lysol, baby powder, or “new car smell” deodorizers? If so, the seller is masking something.

• New carpet. It’s just about impossible to get floodwater smell out of old carpet and padding, so salvage sellers usually rip out the old and install new carpet. How many used car sellers install new carpet? Right, none — unless they’re hiding something.

• New paint. Sellers want you to think they touched up rust spots, but the truth is after a flood, rust blooms appear everywhere. So the sellers sand them off and apply new paint. If you see new paint, assume it’s been in an accident or a flood.

• Severely rusted underbody and exhaust. These components rust naturally, but floodwaters accelerate the rust due to all the chemicals in the floodwater. Look under the vehicle and check for more brightly colored (almost orange) rust. That’s the sign of new rust.

• Inoperative or intermittent electrical issues. Once water gets into modules and switches, electrical components either stop working or work intermittently. Test the power windows and seats multiple times to make sure they respond as they’re supposed to.

• Cold weather issues that disappear as the car warms up is a dead-ringer symptom of a flood-damaged vehicle.

• Salt stains. Flood water dissolves road salt and street chemicals. Once they dry, they’ll leave salt stains on the metal and fabric.

• Title transfer date and titled location. If the Carfax or title information shows the vehicle came from an area that had recent flooding, be suspicious.

Always have a used car checked out by a professional shop before buying. The money you spend up-front may save you a bundle in future repairs.

©. 2020 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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