Floods are a potential threat to any area prone to sudden or prolonged heavy rains. Vehicles caught in floods can undergo extensive damage, but not always. Find out what to do if your vehicle is flooded, how to assess and stop further damage, and how to spot flood damage when you shop for a car.
What to check if your car is flooded
Follow these important steps to inspect your car and assess flood damage:
Check your oil indicator
A reading of an oil level that’s too high may tell you there’s water in the engine. Do not start or run your car – it could cause severe damage.
Measure the depth of the water that submerged your car
It is possible water did not enter any parts that are susceptible to damage.
Determine how long your car was submerged
The shorter the time, the more salvageable any damaged parts may be.
Be sure to note the type of water that flooded your vehicle
Fresh water causes less damage to your car than salt water.
Check local weather reports for the temperature during and after flooding
Warmer temperatures may speed up corrosion, especially if your car was flooded with salt water.
What to look for when car shopping
Cars damaged by floods often show up on used car lots. Learn how to spot flood-damaged vehicles before purchasing a used car.
Buy only from a reputable dealer
You’re more likely to get the truth about a vehicle’s past life from a reputable dealer.
Ask the dealer if the vehicle has been flood damaged
Whatever the answer, get it in writing with the bill of sale if you buy the car.
Ask to see the title
If you think the vehicle was damaged in a flood and the title is not stamped “Salvage” or “Flood,” ask for the car’s history to see if it came from a state that recently experienced flooding.
Find out how extensive the flood damage was
In some cases, the damage cars sustain in a flood is serious, but if a car has sustained only minor flood damage, it can still be a good used car.
Look for obvious signs of damage
Check for dried mud or rust in the glove compartment, trunk, under the dashboard, seats and carpet. Look for discolored, faded or stained upholstery or carpeting. If the carpeting fits loosely or the color does not match the interior, it may have been replaced because the vehicle was flood damaged.
Check the instrument panel to see that all gauges are working properly. Check on the outside of the engine, inside garnish moldings and “kick plates” and inside the rear compartment or trunk for a distinguishing water line to see how deep the car was submerged.
Find out what kind of water damaged the vehicle
Ask if the car was flood damaged by salt or fresh water. Salt water is more corrosive and can cause more serious damage.
Have a professional inspect the vehicle
Get a pre-purchase inspection from a trusted mechanic and have them check for any signs of flood damage.
Spending a little extra time to thoroughly check out a used car before you buy it can save you a great deal of money in the long run.