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8 Easy Ways To Spot Flooded Cars

Floods are a grim reality in India, and flooded cars, a sad reality for vehicle owners. Be it the metros or rural areas, flooding has a devastating impact on natural and manmade structures. Once water starts receding, the other shocker that awaits car owners is the damage caused to their cars due to flooding. 

Vehicles can also get water-logged even when there’s been no floods – vehicles parked in low-lying, underground parking can get water inside them. Even a light drizzle can leave your car water-logged if you forget to roll the windows all the way up.

It is difficult to detect the extent of deterioration on the surface. A car left sitting in the water for long could see irreparable damage. After the initial drying up, flood-damaged cars might look fine on the exterior, but there might be some underlying problems that will cost you later. Water might have seeped into unexpected corners and places in the car that are hard to detect with naked eye. 

Also read: 8 Car Care & Safety Tips for Rainy Season |Spinny Drive

What’s more, flood-ruined cars can be dangerous to drive. As car buyers, you must know whether you are investing in a car that was, at some point, waterlogged. Read on to find the 8 ways to spot flooded cars before buying a used car. 

What are the 8 Ways To Spot A Flooded Car?

1. Do the smell test

You can smell the car to check whether it is flood-damaged or not. A damp-smelling interior is a sure sign of flood damage. Getting a flood-damaged car rid of its stale odour is difficult, and signs of mould/decay formation are a clear sign that a car had been sitting in water for a long time.  

Still, if you are unable to detect any damp or foul smell, then sit inside the car with closed windows and doors and take a long whiff. If you are unable to smell anything unpleasant due to the strong smell of the air freshener, be wary that it could be a cover-up of some less-agreeable scent.

2. Touch to ‘feel around’ the car

Another best way to check for dampness and moisture in the car is to touch the structure to feel the wetness. At times water can get collected in certain areas of the car which had not come to the notice of the car seller. So, pat the floor carpet of the car for wetness or check for water stains. Or peel the carpet back to inspect the dampness between the carpet and the metal structure of the car. 

Other signs of flood-damage are to check for rusty surfaces, especially underneath the carpet,  inside the interior of the car and boot area. Any rust signs means that the car has been subjected to water damage. 

Also, check the spare tire in the boot area where water might have got collected underneath the rubber material. 

You can even check the seatbelts for water stains by pulling it all out and checking for discoloration down the strap due to flood water.

3. Spot the corrosion 

Check for rust and corrosion on metals on the exterior and inside the car. Even if days have passed by, corrosion will continue to eat away metals even after the car is dry.  If you notice rust on anything that is metal, such as the screws, door hinges, hood springs, and trunk latches, that means those parts had been substantially immersed in water. 

You can also do a thorough check by opening the doors and searching for the point where the door touches the body of the car, and look for corrosion in those corners, the bottoms, and inside-out.

Also, check with a mirror below the seats for rusted springs and the main cabin of the vehicle for metals that have decayed due to corrosion. 

If you do not know how to recognize rust, then look carefully at the car paint near the rubber or chrome, if bubbles appear it means there is rust under the new coat of paint.

4. Check the fabric or upholstery of the car

Do a close inspection of the fabric or upholstery of the car, especially the back and underneath the seats to check for spotted water stains. If the car to be sold is an old model but the upholstery is new, be cautious. 

When the upholstery does not match with certain sections in the car where you may notice a different colour fabric or even a faded fabric or patterns that don’t match, then it could be a sign that water-stained fabric has been replaced to hide the reality. Changed carpeting on the floor of the car also needs an examination

5. Go for a test drive

You must go for a test drive before you purchase a used car. To ensure all electrical components are working, first, turn on the ignition and listen for sounds emitting from the engine. If you hear any unexpected noise or a cranking noise as you turn the key, and watch out for smoke that may appear. 

A faulty electrical system may be fatal when exposed to high-level flood waters. You must keep an eye open for the new stereo system in the car because if water enters the stereo sounds, it will get ruined. And a replaced one is an indication that the car could be water damaged.

To check the other electrical components inside a car, bend your head under the dashboard, gently twist the electrical wires and check if they have turned brittle. If yes, then it’s due to water damage to the car. 

Also, examine the dashboard lights, the headlights, turn signals, and emergency blinkers. Inspect the AC and the wipers, and listen to the radio too. If there is a static sound or no audio sound at all from the radio, it could be due to the water damage to the vehicle.

6. Look for wet spots in the car

While inspecting a car look for places that won’t dry up so quickly, such as the lamps, headlights, and taillights which may appear hazy if water accumulates inside them. 

Even in the instrument panel, interior, and exterior if they appear cloudy then it means they too have had moisture in them that has not yet evaporated. 

Check for signs of dampness or corrosion inside the wheel well as water tends to remain in the overhang. Also, examine the doors and the boot for any water lines as they would indicate how high the water level would have risen on the car when it was flooded

7. Check the dirt pile on the car

If you ever notice a car sitting in flood water for a long time, once the water recedes, check for the debris such as the grass, dirt, earth, etc. It is usually difficult to get rid of all the debris and that’s what you should look for while inspecting a used car. 

Look for the signs of remnants in places like the inside and under the glove compartment, engine crevices, trunk/boot, under the spare tire and the dashboard, below the seats and seating tracks, in the wheel wells, and around the wiring. If any of these areas you spot any debris that means that the car has been sitting in the water for a while.

8. Consult an expert

If you wish to buy a used car then it is an investment too, but buying a damaged car will give no return to you in the long run. Even after your initial scrutiny of the car, if you are still unsure of your judgement then take an expert’s advice.

An expert will know where to look for flood damage remnants like in the alternator, wiring mechanisms, etc. A professional will also be able to check by taking the wheels off and inspecting the brakes and wheel components that might have the remains of earth and slime washed inside due to the high water level.

What should you do if your vehicle is damaged by waterlogging or flooding?

While owners of damaged vehicles should be quick to check their cars, they must act with caution as advised by experts. The first thing they should avoid is starting the engine without knowing whether water has reached the engine. Water and gathered dirt on the car can also result in damage to the electrical parts of the car. One must also check with their car insurance company to see what damages are included and what aren’t. 

When a car gets damaged due to sitting in the water for a long time, sometimes days, repair of those cars is best avoided. But some cars are often repaired partly to be sold out to a new buyer. And if the new buyer is a novice, finding out whether the used car has been water damaged can be tough. Thus, knowing about the basic and simple ways to spot flood-damaged vehicles is necessary. Hopefully, the article helps in spotting a flooded car.  


Can a flood-damaged car be repaired?

You can get a flood-damaged car repaired by an experienced mechanic. Repair work also depends on the severity of the flood and the damage done. When a vehicle sits in water for days, it is often considered irreparable. 

When you have a flooded car, the worst case is hydro locking. When water enters the engine, severe damage is caused to the pistons and cylinders; it’s best to avoid turning on the car engine. Due to waterlogging or flooding, rusting is another critical problem in the car. 

Wires are the first components to get affected by flooding, and it’s best to consult a professional mechanic. Other parts such as the brake, clutch, and accelerator can also get damaged in a flood as these are moving components and water can easily seep into them and cause severe damage. 

Should I buy a flood-damaged car?

A flood-damaged car can be less expensive, but whether it is wise to buy it depends on the extent of damage done to the car. At times, a repair can be worth the shot but again in certain situations, the car might be damaged internally to a great extent which can result in costly fixes. 

How can you determine whether a car is damaged due to flood or waterlogging?

The signs to look for to check whether a car is a flood damaged are – stale interior odour, carpeting inside the car that does not match, rust appearing around the doors or inside the car, and moisture in the instrument panel and interior lights, etc. 

What is the cost of repairing a flood-damaged car?

Repairing a flood-damaged car or vehicle can be expensive depending on the length of the damage done. 

Does flooding or waterlogging destroy a vehicle?

Yes, flood water or water logging due to heavy rains can destroy a vehicle if it gets submerged in the water for too long. Electrical components can be destroyed with damages to the other parts of the car. Water can lead to the growth of mould and fungus on the seats and other areas of the vehicle.

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