Action News Troubleshooters: How to avoid buying a flooded car

ByHeather Grubola WPVI logo
Thursday, August 6, 2020
How to avoid buying a flooded car
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Waterlogged vehicles can be downright dangerous causing mechanical, electrical, safety and health issues.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia has the dubious distinction of being the third top city with the most number of flooded cars. Now, following Isaias, car buyers need to be more careful than ever that they don't end up in a water-damaged vehicle.

"Unfortunately we've seen an increase in the number of vehicles coming to market in recent years that have some sort of flood damage event in their history," said Emilie Voss, of Carfax.

And waterlogged vehicles can be downright dangerous causing mechanical, electrical, safety and health issues.

"Floodwater goes into this component and what happens is you will lose your anti-lock braking system and traction control," explained a mechanic.

Water damage can also affect the engine, steering, seatbelts, airbags and more.

Carfax hired mechanics to fix and clean a car that was waterlogged from Superstorm Sandy. They managed to make it look pretty good in just five hours essentially washing away any visible signs of its waterlogged history.

"It doesn't take these con men long to turn these vehicles over and get them back in the market," said Voss.

There are some telltale signs of flood damage to look out for.

"Just like this fuse panel over here. You can clearly see this was completely underwater. You can see all the corrosion inside these fuses," said Voss.

Other signs include a musty odor, which sellers might sometimes try to mask with a strong air-freshener, so beware of that, too.

"Look at the upholstery and carpets. Do they match? Is there some that look newer than others that may have been replaced," said Voss. "Is there rust underneath the door and dashboard? Look around the pedals, the hood, the trunk,"

Also look for fog or moisture beads in the lights and always have the car inspected by an independent, reputable mechanic.

And check the vehicle's history, even if the car has very low mileage, since flood damage can happen at any time.

You can check for flood damage for free through Carfax.