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Sandy Grinnell, Staff Contributor
Sandy Grinnell, Staff Contributor
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Warning: Flood Damaged Cars May Soon Be on the Market

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With the extent of flooding here in Florida as a result of hurricane Fay, it’s safe to assume that more than victim’s homes were flooded – so were their vehicles. And those “restored” vehicles may soon be on the market, even in a non-flood-affected area.

It takes quite a lot of work, but a flooded vehicle can be restored to the point that, without careful examination, you might not even know it had been flooded. The vehicle needs to be dried out, the upholstery cleaned or maybe replaced, the engine steam cleaned, and the whole vehicle detailed. But just because a vehicle has been restored to look good, doesn’t mean it’s a good vehicle.

Since you obviously drive in rainstorms, the under-carriage of a vehicle is meant to take a lot of water so if the vehicle wasn’t submerged for too long, some of those components may be okay. However, the electrical systems, fuel injectors, air conditioning and many other systems may be ruined.

So how can you tell if the used car you’re looking at has been flooded? First you can use CARFAX to see if flooding has been reported on the vehicle. But absent this information, CARFAX recommends the following before you accept that “too good to be true” deal on a used vehicle:

  • Inspect the interior: Check the trunk, glove compartment and other storage areas, dashboard and underneath the seats for signs of sand, mud, moisture or rust. Check for frayed or cracked wires underneath the dashboard, and make sure all the gauges work.
  • Examine the interior fabric: Look closely at the upholstery and carpeting — if it doesn’t match the interior or fit properly, it may have been replaced. Discolored, faded or stained fabric may indicate water damage.
  • Test electrical components: Test the interior and exterior lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, stereo, windows, mirrors, seats and cigarette lighter.
  • Try the heater and air conditioner: Make sure both the heater and air conditioner work. While the A/C is on, check for musty odors.
  • Have the car inspected: Visit a trusted mechanic for an inspection before you purchase any vehicle