Following one of the worst hurricane seasons in years and record-setting rainfall in many areas of the country, flooding has taken its toll on vehicles. And those water damaged cars and trucks are being refurbished and entering the used vehicle market!
If you are in the market for a used car or truck, beware! Check for signs of water intrusion or contamination. Purchasing a used vehicle and later learning it’s been flood damaged, can lead to a ton of problems, both safety and cost repair wise.
Worst yet, these vehicles can possibly expose you to mold and bacteria growing in the carpet and ventilation system. This, according to the non-profit Car Care Council.
According to the CCC, it all comes down to how much water the vehicle took in. The following steps are recommended when checking to see if your next used vehicle has been flood damaged:
- Take the sniff test. Close all the windows and doors and let the car sit for about five minutes then crack open a door and sniff. Mildew and mold have very distinctive smells and it doesn’t take long for that smell to present itself.
- Try the touch test. Get some paper towels and press them against the low spots in the carpet. The paper towels will draw the moisture out and reveal if the carpet is wet under the surface. Some carpets can be several inches thick to insulate from heat and sound. If the paper towel becomes wet it could mean water has gotten into the car.
- Investigate the interior. Look under the seats and dash for corrosion and rust and look for exposed metal that is untreated. There are metal springs under the front seats that are usually not painted. If they are rusted that is a sign the interior has been wet. Look for mud and debris in places it does not belong.
- Inspect the instrument panel. Turn on the key and perform a bulb test. Make sure every bulb lights up. If a system has an issue, removing the warning bulb can hide it. Many times vehicles that have flooded have malfunctions in their anti-brake and airbag systems. Ensuring the light comes on and then goes out after the bulb test is an indicator that the system is on and has no active faults.
- Take it to a professional. Let a service and repair technician inspect your vehicle. They can raise the car and look underneath to see if there is any mud, sticks or rocks in the suspension. A professional can check the oil in the differentials to make sure they contain no water in them. Spend a few dollars to have it looked over to give you peace of mind.
In addition to the previous steps, perform online searches (i.e. Carfax) to see the vehicle history report. Be safe, avoid the “lemons”…and the “wet sponges”.