How to Tell If Your Car Was Damaged During a Flood

Flooding can cause serious damage to your vehicle, even if it is not immediately visible (after cleaning). Unfortunately, this means that some vehicles that have suffered irreparable damage may be shipped and sold in other parts of the country, in particular in less flood-prone areas where buyers may not be aware of the problem.

The mechanical systems, electronics and / or lubricants of the vehicle may have been damaged during the flood but may be in good working order. Consumer Reports has put together a guide to help people find flood damaged cars before buying them. Here’s what to look for.

Signs of car damage from flooding

So what exactly should you be looking for? Some of the more common marks, courtesy of Consumer Reports :

  • Examine carpets to see if they are showing signs of waterlogging, such as a musty smell or stuck on dirt. Brand new carpets in older cars can be another wake-up call.
  • Check the seat mounting screws to be sure they have been removed. To effectively dry carpets, the seats need to be removed and possibly even replaced.
  • Examine the headlights. The waterline may still be visible on the lens or reflector.
  • Inspect hard-to-clean areas, such as gaps between panels in the trunk and under the hood, for dirt and debris.
  • Look at the bottom edges of brackets or panels, where dirt usually won’t settle.
  • Look at the heads of any unpainted open screws under the dash. Traces of rust will be visible on clean metal in flooded vehicles.
  • Make sure the rubber drain plugs under the car and at the bottom of the doors look like they were recently removed. Perhaps this was done to drain flood waters.

Finally, some buyers are aware and concerned about buying a flood damaged vehicle. So if you sell a car and live in an area that was recently hit by a flood, the Consumer Reports team recommends taking your car to a mechanic for inspection and requesting documentation of its (not flooded) condition.

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