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How to spot a water damaged car

Simple checks can help you avoid a flood damaged car

cars flooded

There are plenty of used cars out there on the market that might be hiding some kind of damage that isn’t immediately recognizable.

We’re sure the prospect of sinking (pardon the pun) your money into a car that’s been up to its steering wheel (or beyond) in water is not one that fills you with a lot of enthusiasm.

Cars that have been flood or severely water damaged are usually written off by car insurers, but sometimes these vehicles are dried out, fixed up and find their way back onto the used car market.

But how do you identify a flood/water damaged vehicle? The non-profit Car Care Council says prospective buyers should follow these tips:

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 mould 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.

Often, vehicles that have flooded have malfunctions in their anti-brake and air bag 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.

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About Joel Helmes 3777 Articles
Joel is the founder and CEO of Behind the Wheel. Joel has a background as a radio broadcaster with on-air roles at 4BC, 4KQ, 2KY, 2LT and 2UE amongst others, as well as a news editor and program director. Joel’s relationship with cars stems back to his early childhood learning to change oil and brakes with his father and uncle. This continued on into his driving years owning an assorted collection of cars.

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