​Hurricane-Damaged Vehicles: 3 Ways to Spot a Flood-Damaged Car, Truck or SUV by 30Seconds Mom

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2 years ago

​Hurricane-Damaged Vehicles: 3 Ways to Spot a Flood-Damaged Car, Truck or SUV

When hurricanes, tropical storms and other weather events hit, vehicles are often flooded. What happens to these flood-damaged vehicles? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), the vehicles and vehicle parts can start appearing on the market for sale – even hundreds of miles away – which can then be sold to unsuspecting buyers.

The NHTSA says that "on first appearance, the vehicle may look fine. If the seller is using a fraudulent title, it may be even more difficult to determine whether the vehicle is flood-damaged. However, flood damage can affect a vehicle’s mechanisms for years to come, and may not always manifest as a problem right away."

Here are some tips from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for spotting flood-damaged vehicles:

  1. Sniff Test: If the car smells musty, there is a high likelihood it has been exposed to water. If it has a strong smell of deodorizer or air freshener, it is possible the seller is trying to mask the smell of mildew.
  2. Dirt and Grime: Mud, dirt or waterlines inside the vehicle are possible signs of flood damage. Don’t forget to check hidden spots for dirt and watermarks, like the trunk, glove box and under the dashboard.
  3. Rust and Corrosion: Check under the vehicle to see if there is an unusual amount of rust or corrosion for the vehicle’s age and location.

For more information, including how to handle hurricane-damaged equipment like car seats and tires, and the first steps in reporting a hurricane-damaged vehicle, visit NHTSA.gov.

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Donna John
This is such important information for people to know. I live in the Houston area, and we seem to flood all the time now. After Hurricane Harvey, that was a huge issue down here with people and even used car lots trying to sell cars that had been flooded. I flooded a car out years ago and even after having it repaired and cleaned, it was never the same. And yes, it had a musty smell we couldn't get rid of. Remember: don't drive through high water. Turn around, don't drown ... or ruin your car.
How terrible! Thanks for the heads up!
Elisa Schmitz
I hadn't thought about all of this, but wow, it's really good to know! Many thanks for sharing this very helpful information!

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