Nation's largest motor club offers tips to owners and potential buyers of flood-damaged cars
ORLANDO, Fla., March 16, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Heavy rain and rapidly melting snow can lead to vehicle flood damage, which often results in difficult and expensive repairs. To avoid causing additional problems, AAA cautions motorists that a flood-damaged car should not be started until a thorough inspection and cleaning has been performed.
"In addition to the obvious damage done to upholstery and carpeting, flood water is a corrosive and abrasive mixture of water and dirt that works its way into every seam and crevice of a vehicle," said John Nielsen, AAA National Director of Auto Repair, Buying Services and Consumer Information.
"Most vulnerable are the engine, transmission and drivetrain, along with the fuel, brake and power steering systems. Unless dirt and other contaminants are completely removed from these important vehicle components, increased wear and premature failure can result," Nielsen said.
Before attempting to start a flood-damaged car, a qualified technician should:
- Inspect all readily accessible mechanical and electrical components, and systems that contain fluids, for water contamination.
- Drain floodwater from contaminated components and systems, flush with clean water or an appropriate solvent, and refill with new clean fluids of the proper type.
- Inspect, clean, and dry electrical system components and connections.
If a car has been completely or partially submerged, extensive disassembly may be needed for a thorough cleaning. Depending on the vehicle make, model and age, the cost of such an effort may exceed the car's value. AAA encourages motorists to contact their insurance companies first for help in determining the best course of action when dealing with a flood-damaged vehicle.
"The car's electrical system also is subject to flood water damage," Nielsen explained. "Engine computers, sensors, sound systems and other electronic devices can sometimes be salvaged, but unless they are thoroughly cleaned and dried, inside and out, problems caused by corrosion and oxidation may occur weeks or even months after the flooding."
Many parts of a car are difficult to clean and dry because they are hard to access. Door locks, window regulators, wiring harnesses, heating and air conditioning components and many other small devices are tucked away in hidden spaces. These items may work okay initially following a flood, only to fail at a later date due to contamination by dirty water.
"Restoration of a flood-damaged car can be as extensive and expensive as restoring a classic," Nielsen warned. "Compare the value of the vehicle to be restored to the cost of restoration before proceeding with flood-related repairs."
In many cases, insurance companies "total" flood damaged vehicles which are then sold to salvage companies. However, rather than being disassembled for parts, some of these vehicles end up being purchased by individuals who restore them to operating condition—with varying levels of expertise. AAA warns car buyers in all parts of the United States that flood-damaged vehicles can be shipped anywhere for resale, and they often continue to appear in the marketplace for many months following a major flood.
The best protection against buying a flood-damaged vehicle is a thorough pre-purchase inspection by a qualified shop such as a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility. Nearby locations can be found at AAA.com/Repair. As part of their inspection, the shop will look for common indicators of flood damage such as dried mud under the hood or in body cavities inside the trunk. A damp or musty odor in the vehicle is another frequent warning sign, and new carpeting and upholstery in an older car can be a red flag calling for closer inspection.
Another good practice that can help prospective buyers avoid flood-damaged cars and trucks is the purchase of a vehicle history report. While such reports don't always catch everything, more often than not they will indicate when a vehicle has been in a flood or been issued a salvage title, indicating a major problem in its past.
As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 52 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.
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