Water and electronics don’t mix. It doesn’t matter what the technology is: water causes electrical issues. This is why flood damaged cars should only be sold as salvage vehicles. A salvage vehicle requires repairs and an inspection before registering it as a driveable vehicle. Unfortunately, many vehicles with flood damage still end up on the market, and not all dealers will be upfront about this.
By following these five tips, you’ll learn to spot a car with flood damage and avoid a regret-filled purchase.
Get All the Information
The first thing you should always do when buying a used car is get all the information available. This will help guarantee you are talking to a reputable dealer and provide background information on the vehicle you are interested in.
In Ontario, private car sellers must provide buyers with a UVIP (used vehicle information package), which includes the vehicle’s details, registration history, and more. If you buy privately, insist on this information. If the private seller refuses to provide it, don’t proceed with the purchase. Once you have the UVIP, check the vehicle’s history for anything suspicious that may indicate flood damage.
You can also always run the VIN (vehicle identification number) through Carfax, regardless of whether the sale is private. This should tell you immediately if your car has been in a flood. If there is no record of flood damage, you are most likely safe. But it’s important to check the other steps as well, just in case.
Search for Rust, Dirt, and Water Lines
If a car has flood damage, chances are someone has cleaned it fairly well before they put it on sale. By checking places that are hard to clean or not cleaned often, you may find some hidden flood damage signs.
For rust, check the underside of the hood, inside the doors, the trunk, the floor under the interior carpet, and the bolts holding the seats down. Any rust in these areas is a warning sign. Likewise, check any hidden areas for signs of dirt from flood water. Areas like wheel wells, engine crevices, around any wiring, and under the glove box and dashboard are good to check for this.
While you are doing these checks, feel any material for signs of moisture that may have collected during a flood. You can also see moisture in water lines and the foggy appearance of headlights, taillights, and mirrors.
Inspect the Electrical System
As we mentioned, water hurts electronics. Check for signs of corrosion on any electrical wiring and test every electrical system in the car.
Electrical issues may take a while to manifest after flooding, but it’s good to check for any signs of problems. While checking the electric system, make sure everything sounds, looks, and smells like it should.
You should also test drive the vehicle to look for any electrical issues.
Check the Interior
When checking the interior of a car, start with your nose. A mouldy scent is a sign of flood damage, and an uncouth seller could try to mask it with a lot of air freshener.
After doing a scent check, look at the upholstery. Obvious water stains are a red flag, but so is an overly clean car. Dishonest dealers may attempt to use new upholstery, seat covers, and carpet to remove flood damage warnings.
The best way to make sure a car has no flood damage is to get a pre-purchase inspection done. Even if you are positive the car hasn’t been in a flood, a pre-purchase inspection can be useful in revealing other problems you may not notice.
A pre-purchase inspection is done by a mechanic who will be able to access and examine more of the vehicle. They are also more aware of problem signs and how to spot them. It’s always a good idea to get a pre-purchase inspection done before buying, but it’s especially important if you have any concerns about flood damage.
When looking to purchase a used car, find a dealer you trust and do your research. Cars with flood damage aren’t uncommon, but they are unfortunately on the market. Use these tips to protect yourself and stay flood-free.