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Used car buyers should still beware of flood damage

The Eastern States and the Mississippi River Valley have been in the news since April with flooding or tornados and the worst may be yet to come as hot weather and record snowpack begin to collide in the Rocky Mountains. Sometime during the next 12 months, those attempting to recoup some of their losses to these events will be selling their cars across the country. Then again, there may be more floods yet to come, extending the buyers period of necessary wariness.
Posted: June 7, 2011 - 8:43PM
Author: Don Bain

According to, flooded cars may not immediately show their flaws, but if submerged, even in relatively clean water, those problems are sure to crop up soon.

If water got into the engine or transmission, long-term problems may include sand in the engine, misfiring or blown gaskets. As if that’s not enough, submerged vehicles will often develop electrical problems and you know what a headache that can be.

Perhaps worst of all, your sickly car could make you ill if it was dipped in untreated sewer water. Unless the dealer replaced the vehicle's carpet and padding, disinfecting the interior, bacteria levels could be dangerous to your health.

A CarFax or other history will help you determined where your potential vehicle has been.’s Vehicle Resources suggest you should look for obvious signs of damage. Check for dried mud or rust in the glove box, trunk, under the dashboard, seats and carpet. Watch for discolored, faded or stained upholstery and carpeting. Loose fitting or discolored carpeting may indicate the car was flooded. Non-matching carpet may mean it’s been replaced due to water damage.

Check the instrument panel and that all gauges are working properly. Look in the engine compartment, inside garnish moldings and in the trunk for a distinguishing water line to see if the car was submerged to what depth.

If possible determine what kind of water damaged the vehicle - was it flood damaged by salt or fresh water? Salt water is more corrosive and can cause more serious damage. Of course you should take a vehicle to a trusted mechanic for any signs of flood damage.

"A car that's been in a flood, with the engine submerged for any length of time, will never be the same," Carl Sullivan, of AiM Mobile Inspections, is quoted as saying in an article by Michelle Koueiter, posted on yesterday.

AiM Mobile is a car-inspection service in Long Beach, Calif.

He added buyers should be sure to look under the upholstery. "I found two fish under a back seat once," he recalled. "That was a pretty sure sign the car had been flooded."