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Old 03 Oct 2005, 06:53 pm
Big Earl
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Default Dealing with Flood Cars

I found this article at

and I thought it might be helpful with all the jerks trying to sell flood damaged cars.


In this edition of tech revving we are going to look at a very timely
topic. Flooded cars. With the 2 major hurricanes that hit the gulf
coast region there has been wide spread flooding. Though the
official numbers aren't in yet, you can bet that there will be many
ten thousands, to one hundred thousands of cars that were caught in
the flood waters.

While most of these cars will be towed and scrapped by the insurance
companies, many of them will be sold, and some will be sold by
unscrupulous dealers who don't let the customer know the car was
involved in a flood. In this article we will look at how to identify
a flooded car, what to do with one, and what happens when a car is
caught in a flood.

One of the first steps is to run a VIN code report on the car. If,
and only if, the car went through an insurance claim, then there is a
possibility that it will show up on this report. You can run a free
VIN check on our website at www. However, a VIN check is only the
first step. Physical inspection of the car is the most crucial
point. Only use the VIN as a first step to weed out unnecessary
physical inspection trips.

Any car you buy for the next year should undergo a flood inspection,
unless you are buying it from a dealer you trust. To look for flood
damage take the following steps.

1) Check the engine crankcase oil using the oil dipstick. If the oil
is cloudy or milky, that is a sign of water in the crankcase. If the
oil is perfect, a nice clear yellow, that is a sign of freshly
changed oil and might be a red flag.

2) Check under the carpets. Don't be afraid to peel the carpet back
from the area just below the front seats. Look for areas of silt,
sand, heavy dirt or water marks. A flooded car gets dirt and silt
EVERYWHERE. It is very hard to clean out without removing and
changing the carpets. New carpet may also be a red flag.

3) Check under the spare tire in the trunk. This is an area often
missed in clean-ups and will often show silt or water marks.

4) Check the transmission fluid and rear axle or transaxle fluids.
The rear axle is also a place that is often missed when someone tries
to disguise a flood damaged car. Remember, oil and water don't mix,
so look for signs of water contamination in these oils.

5) Check for things that have been recently replaced that seem
strange. This is a broad category, but using a bit of common sense
usually works. If a car that is not well restored has a new
headliner, or new seats, and other areas that would have been a more
logical investment have been overlooked, that could be a problem.

6) If you are still unsure, get a 3rd party appraisal. Any reputable
dealer will have no problem with the vehicle being appraised by a 3rd
party. If they do object, run, don't walk to the exit.

These are things that will help you avoid buying a flood damaged car
that you are unaware of. But what if you know the car was in a
flood? Is there any way you should still buy it?

The short answer is only in certain circumstances.

If a car is rare, or historically significant, then yes. But be
aware you are looking at a full nut and bolt restoration in many
cases. Water is a strange beast. Water can enter through a gasket
where oil cannot leak out. If a car has been under only a few feet
of water, the crankcase, trans and rear end housing will all be full
of water. Then it becomes a case of how long it was in that
condition. Rust starts almost at once. Rust=Pitting, and pitting
equals non-smooth surfaces. How quickly it was drained, dried,
treated and re-filled will determine the difference between minor
damage and major. Also, if the car was cranked while water was in
the crankcase, then you have issues with blown head-gaskets (you
can't compress water), journal scarring, etc.

The electrical system is another whole issue. Often cars have major
circuit burnout when placed underwater. As a former firefighter, I
remember working Hurricane Andrew and seeing cars completely
underwater with all the external lights on. Just imagine what that
electrical system will be like when the flood is over. Earlier
cars with less electronics are less likely to have major damage.
Later cars with computerized systems will likely call for total

Interiors will at the very least require extensive steam cleaning and
new upholstery. At the most total replacement.

Long story short, unless you are buying a car that has a book value
in the mid five figures or better, it is best to leave it alone.

We hope this helps, if you have specific questions, let us know. We
do offer a full appraisal service, pre-purchase consultation

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