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Beware of Flood-Damaged Vehicles

Estimates range from hundreds of thousands to millions of vehicles in Texas and Florida that were damaged by flood waters. These cars should hit the salvage yards, but it's expected that tens of thousands will be cleaned up and show up on the used car market. Even if these cars are cleaned up, they can still have rust, mold, and all sorts of electrical issues.

Vehicles today are filled with computers and those computers, like any electronics, will fail over time if they've been exposed to moisture. Think of dropping your cell phone in water!

There are warning signs you can look for, like rust or water marks or a musty, mildew odor. But if detailers do a good job, you can miss them. Keep reading for important tips to avoid a flood damaged vehicle.

  • Have it inspected by an independent mechanic. A trained eye can spot things you would never see.
  • Check the vehicle history report. Find the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) which is located on the driver's side dashboard, visible through the windshield, and run it through CarFax, who is offering free flood history information. Visit CarFax.com/flood.
  • Use your nose. Beware if the vehicle smells musty or damp or if you smell some kind of air freshener. Close the windows, run the air conditioner and check for a moldy smell.
  • Look for dirt, mud, water stains, rust, and corrosion. Check the carpets, seat upholstery, and cloth lining inside the roof. If you see any dirt or mud stains, beware. Look around the doors, in the wheel wells, under the seats, under the hood and trunk, and inside the engine compartment.
  • Check the spare tire (or inflator) area. Look for mud, sand or stains on the spare tire and jack equipment and the well under the spare tire. Check under the trunk carpet for a rigid board and look to see if it is stained or has water damage.
  • Check out the dashboard, head and tail lights. Look closely to see if there is any water or fogging inside and if the gauges are foggy or contain moisture droplets.

Before you buy...

Now is an especially important time to be aware of buying a used vehicle, given the amount of hurricane-damaged cars expected to hit our market. But it's ALWAYS a good idea to prep yourself before you set out on your car-buying journey. Check out FREE member resources in the Oklahoma Central Auto Center.

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