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How to spot flood-damaged cars
Hurricanes Irene, Lee add to growing number of flood-damaged cars and trucks coming to market
In the wake of 2011's natural disasters, company provides tips to help consumers avoid flood-damaged vehicles
In 2011, Hurricane Lee had floodwaters rising in Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland. Hurricane Irene caused major flooding in the northeast United States, wreaking havoc in communities, and amaging homes, businesses and property. In the storms' aftermath, consumers in the market for used cars need to be wary of flood-damaged vehicles from hurricanes and other 2011 flooding showing up in their communities, even those across the border in Canada.
Flood-damaged automobiles will wind up on the used car market, in auctions and on dealer lots, all around the country as desperate vehicle owners try to salvage whatever value they can from a vehicle inundated by floodwaters, whether the flooding was caused by a hurricane or the record flooding that took place this spring across the US.
It's important for used car shoppers to know how to spot flood damage no matter where they live, because these cars can end up on a dealer lot anywhere, especially this year, said AiM Mobile Inspections' Carl Sullivan, who has 16 years experience inspecting vehicles. A car that's been in a flood, with the engine submerged for any length of time, will never be the same.
Even before Hurricanes Irene and Lee hit, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reported that 6.8 million acres of land had been flooded in the US in 2011 due to a severe winter and above-average rains in the spring. Some of the heaviest spring flooding occurred in Vermont, Kentucky, and all along the Mississippi River. For example, Natchez, MS, experienced a flood crest nearly four feet higher than the previous record, set more than 70 years ago.
The record flooding washed away roads, destroyed buildings and created havoc for homeowners and residents. It will also cause problems for unwary consumers shopping for used cars during the next 12 months.
Vehicle history reports
Many states issue a flood or salvage title to a vehicle that has been submerged or flood-damaged, information which can be found on a vehicle history report. Consumers concerned about flood damage should refer to the history report and also be ready to do some investigating of their own.
However, some sellers may try to unload their car or truck before a flood or salvage title appears on a vehicle's history report. To combat this possibility, Sullivan offered these warning signs to help identify flood damage in a vehicle:
A musty odour in the vehicle, which may be from mouldy carpeting or padding. If possible, pull up the carpeting to see how far water may have risen in the vehicle, and also if any moisture remains.
Mud in the seat belt tracks or seat belt tensioners.
Water or condensation in the headlights or taillights. Sullivan notes this could also be due to an accident, but water in these areas could also be a tip-off to flood-related problems.
Water in the spare tire well in a vehicle's trunk. If we see water in the spare tire well, it leads us to look a little further, said Sullivan.
A sagging headliner in the interior, particularly on a late-model vehicle.
Look under the seats. I found two fish under a back seat once, said Sullivan, who was inspecting cars in Florida at the time. That was a pretty sure sign the car had been flooded.
Corrosion in the vehicle's undercarriage, such as on brake lines or around the fuel tank. When corrosion appears near the top of the springs or shock towers are corroded, these are signs of flood-related damage.
A car's engine, electronics, fuel system, airbags and brakes are all extremely susceptible to flood water, said Sullivan. It's extremely important to find any water damage before you invest your money in a used car, and a professional inspection will find flood damage no matter how a seller tries to hide it.
Posted Sept. 10, 2011. ©CarTest.ca. Words and illustration courtesy NAPSI.