The Effects of Hurricane Harvey

Beyond the devastation to homes, lives lost, and catastrophic damage to the greater Houston area, the reality of the over 500,000 vehicles expected to be totaled from flooding during the storm bring a real threat that some of these vehicles will make it to the retail market in the coming months.  When subjected to deep flood levels, soaked cars are often classified as totaled and are demolished. Some flooded automobiles, though, end up on dealership lots.

Your first protection against ending up with a flood damaged car, truck or sport utility is to ensure you purchase it from a reputable dealership.  At Knight Automotive, we guarantee we will not sell a flood damaged vehicle, and in the small chance that we have one slip through our reconditioning process - we will buy it back from you for what you paid plus tag and tax for up to six months from the purchase date.

Top Ten Ways To Spot A Flood Damaged Vehicle

In addition, we wanted to provide you with the top 10 list below to help you spot a flood damaged vehicle.  Not all dealers are up front when a car has flood damage, and it can cost you. Even if a car looks good and seems to run fine, expensive problems can appear later as corrosion continues to creep inside critical components. Flood-damaged cars can also cost more than money: These automobiles can be dangerous to drive and the results may even be fatal.  

Unfortunately, flood-damaged vehicles can be hard to spot, but knowing the signs can help.  

1. Be an Educated Shopper

A good place to start when buying a used car is to talk to a reputable dealer. Every dealership has access to Carfax or Auto-Check.  Ask to see a copy.  We use Autocheck and provide a link to the vehicle history on every pre-owned vehicle we sell. And we never sell a vehicle with a Flood or Salvage title.  It is seems to good to be true, our experience is that it probably is so be sure to look at the title as well. 

2. Use your Nose

The quickest way to sniff out whether or not a car has flood damage is to literally sniff it. It's very difficult to completely rid a flood-damaged car of its moldy aroma, and mildew formation is a sure sign that the car was exposed to significant amounts of water. This unpleasant smell is a helpful clue. If you smell the mold right away, you're probably looking at a flood-damaged car. If you aren't quite sure, however, close the windows and doors, sit inside, and give it a good long sniff.

3. Use your Sense of Touch

Water from flooding tends to collect in locations even the dealer may miss during even the most thorough of preparations. Run your hands along the carpet and pat it in different spots, such as the trunk and under the spare tire, to try to locate moisture. Peel back the carpet to see if you can feel moisture between the carpet and the car body. You may also see other signs of water damage, such as rust, by looking under the carpet.

4. Recognize any Rust

Corrosion is a common problem in flood-damaged cars. The damage you see today isn't the only ramification of rust: Corrosion continues to eat away at materials long after the car is dry. Look for signs of corrosion on metals both inside and out. If you see rust on screws, door hinges, hood springs, trunk latches or brackets under the dashboard, for example, you know those metals had significant contact with water. To check even more thoroughly, open the doors and look at where the door meets the body. Corrosion often occurs in that corner. In fact, check all four doors, including the bottoms, inside and out.Finally, use a mirror and look below the seats to see if the springs are rusty. Use the mirror again to check the undercarriage of the car for flakes, metal that's been eaten away and other signs of corrosion. 

5.  Inspect the Fabric

The upholstery that covers a car's interior can uncover a flood cover-up, too, with close inspection. Take a careful look at all the upholstery -- front, back and under the seats -- to spot blotchy, brown water stains.Another clue is the quality of the carpet. If the car is 10 years old but the carpet looks new, be suspicious. Likewise, if the upholstery doesn't appear to match, with sections that are a different color, faded, newer or with patterns that don't line up, then someone may have removed water-stained patches. Loose carpet, too, requires further scrutiny.Don't forget to compare the floor carpet to the upholstery on the doors and the roof to be sure they all appear to be the same age and color.

6.  Drive It

A compromised electrical system is a critical and potentially life-threatening hazard inherent in cars exposed to high waters for extended periods of time. You'll want to test the car extensively to ensure all electrical components are operational.When you turn the ignition, listen for unexpected sounds, and use your eyes and nose to see if smoke appears anywhere. Be sure all the dashboard lights come on, including the back lighting, and check headlights, turn signals and emergency blinkers.Turn on the air conditioning, wipers and cigarette lighter to be sure they work as expected. And don't forget to listen to the radio: Static-plagued or distorted audio or no audio at all, could be the result of water damage.

7. Check the Oil

Changes in the color and viscosity may indicate that water has gotten into the engine's oil. If you're accustomed to checking your own oil level and quality, you may be able to spot a flood-damaged vehicle by performing an oil check.Oil in a flood-affected auto will be a different color, sometimes compared to coffee with milk or a chocolate milkshake. The oil may be pale when it should be dark. Oil that's been affected by flooding may also feel sticky to the touch.While you're under the hood, check the paper air filter, too. If it has water stains, that's another clue that water has seeped in where it shouldn't have.

8. Signs of Sogginess

There are some areas of a car that won't dry no matter how hard someone tries to cover up flood damage. Look closely at all lamps. Headlights and taillights may appear foggy when water has accumulated inside. The same can be true of the instrument panel, and interior and exterior mirrors. If they appear foggy, they too may have moisture that has not yet evaporated. 

9. The Dirty Details

While a car is sits in a flood, the water carries all manner of debris, such as grass, dirt, sand and silt. When the water level recedes, the water itself may be gone, but much of the debris remains. It's difficult for someone cleaning a car to remove all of it. When examining a used car, you'll want to look in the places where mud and grass may remain after a flood. If you do find debris in these areas, the car may have been sitting in water for a while.

10. Rely on the Experts

Even a used car is an investment, and you don't want to buy a damaged car that will cost you tons of money in the long run.

Find an expert to inspect the car to help protect your investment.

By doing these ten simple tests, and relying on the experts to make sure your car is in proper condition, you can make sure that your new investment will last for a long, long time.