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Dealing with Flood Cars

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Big Earl

Oct 3, 2005, 7:01:40 PM10/3/05
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 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 replacement.

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 consultations and


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Oct 4, 2005, 8:54:43 AM10/4/05
On Mon, 03 Oct 2005 18:01:40 -0500, Big Earl <>

Also, if it keeps turning over and doesn't start, plus you smell gas,
it may be flooded. ;)

lab~rat >:-)
Do you want polite or do you want sincere?

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