What to Check for in a Flood-Damaged Car

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Floods, like any other natural disaster, bring a lot of destruction. When the flood waters recede, they leave trailing after-effects, which are often irreparable. Cars are one of the many things that see the maximum damage. Only in rare cases, the car owners can claim the insurance for a car damaged in a flood. Flood damaged cars can be repaired and made market-ready, for which expert advice and help is required. Recently, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill into law that was designed to protect buyers from cars damaged in natural disasters. Under this law, if a vehicle cannot be repaired, it needs to be titled as a flood-damaged car. It also needs to be specified that the car had an incorrect or tampered odometer, or the car has any of these issues from another state. The subject of flooded cars has been taken seriously because they can be a threat to your pocket book as well as your safety.

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Assessment of damaged cars

A proper evaluation of the damaged car is important to judge if the expenditure on the repairs would be economical or not. Though every car is judged on its own merit, it would be worthless to spend on cars where the flood water has entered the interior. In such cars, the water reaches the dash and it becomes too costly to repair. This may not be visible just at first inspection. It is possible that more damage would surface with the passage of time. Salt water, mud, silt and other materials are some aftermaths of a flood. Salt water has far more damaging effects than fresh water.

What to check

If the water enters the internal parts of the car, the following components need to be thoroughly checked and some corrective steps need to be taken:

  • Electrical components: Most of the electrical parts often start working when they are completely dried out. Parts like the starter, windows, wipers and other motors may become operative after drying up, but an extensive cleaning would still be required. If the components get damaged by salt, they may be irretrievable. When submerged in water, these parts often get corroded. If not replaced immediately, they may create problems in the long run.
  • Batteries: It is highly unlikely that the battery of the car will survive once immersed in water, unless it is locked. In such cases, a battery replacement is inevitable.
  • Engines & transmissions: The type of water, total time the car was submerged and how quick the repair work was started decides the extent of damage to the mechanical parts. Fresh water causes a lot less damage to the engine of the car. A mechanic’s advice is always required for assessment of the engine’s damage. Before starting the engine, transmission must be looked at.
  • Manual/ automatic transmissions: Contaminated oil needs to be drained out and then refilled as soon as possible. It would not be possible to salvage manual gearboxes that have been immersed in salt water. In automatic transmissions, water causes de-lamination clutch plates and bands, which may not appear immediately, but they would need overhauling anyway.
  • Brakes: Brake fluids absorb water and so flood water needs to be flushed out immediately to avoid any corrosion.

A word of warning here is that these flood damaged cars should not be started before an extensive cleaning and inspection. The engine and the under body of the car should be checked for any remaining debris.

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What to Check for in a Flood-Damaged Car, Seekyt
General Contributor
Janice is a writer from Chicago, IL. She created the "simple living as told by me" newsletter with more than 12,000 subscribers about Living Better and is a founder of Seekyt.