How to spot flood-hit used cars and avoid buying them!


Ever wondered what happens to the cars that get damaged during floods such as the ongoing deluge in Bengaluru? Ideally, these cars are supposed to be towed into workshops for an assessment and submitted to insurance companies for de-registration and scrapping. However, more often than not, a lot of these vehicles end up in the used car markets of other cities and Tier 2 towns to be sold to unsuspecting buyers. In many cases a flood-affected car can show up on an online used car forum or at a seller lot within two weeks of its unfortunate fate. Here are a few tips to spot a flood-damaged car, if you are looking for your next ride in the used car space.

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1. Check the car’s VIN number:
As a best practice, one should always check a used vehicle’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) before considering taking any further steps. The VIN can help you procure important information such as the car’s accidental or repair work history. In cases of flood-affected cars, the VIN can help identify if the car was damaged in rains and if it was repaired.

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2. Upholstery and odor inspection:
Hard press on the fabric seats, inspect the boot carpets and sit inside the vehicle for a while to observe any foul mouldy smells. Flood-damaged cars usually have signs of moisture or dampness trapped in the upholstery. While a dishonest dealer might have gone to lengths to sort out this problem, misaligned floor mats, head liner or boot mats are a tell-tale sign that these were removed and put back. Steer clear if you come across any such signs of moisture or foul smell. Discolouration of the upholstery is also a sign of water damage.
3. Check for corrosion:
Water and metal do not sit well with each other and a car that has been flood-damaged will show signs of corrosion at places where water would not reach in usual circumstances. While car components are designed to withstand rusting from light water contact, corrosion will appear on nuts, bolts and hinges found around the engine bay if the car was flooded. Check the extremities of the door panels and on the inside for any signs of corrosion as well.

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4. Comb through all electronic systems:
Electrical components of a car get damaged when in contact with water for extended periods of time. These are essential to proper operation of a vehicle and you can easily spot signs of damage in the systems. Turn on the electric peripherals of the car, check the infotainment screen for resolution. See if everything is in working order in the instrument cluster and if any warning lights are on. Turn on the air-conditioning to see if it is making any unusual noise or putting the vehicle under excess load.

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One sign of water damage to look out for is condensation, which can creep up at several places in a flood-damaged car. This can be found inside the headlamps or taillamps, within the instrument panel, on the corners of the rear windscreen and inside the fender mounted indicators. Muffled or cracking sounds from the audio system speakers are another sign of water damage. Modern cars have sensors for a variety of functions and flood-affected sensors can start malfunctioning quickly in succession after a bad purchase.
5. Engine inspection:
For this one, we recommend you to get a professional to come over and do an evaluation. In an event of a flood, water enters crucial engine parts such as its air intake, cylinders and pistons. If such a vehicle is turned on, the engine would try to compress the water which will lead to total engine damage as water cannot be compressed, then there is the issue of corrosion as well. One way to check an engine for water damage is to pull out the engine oil dipstick and look for signs of water.

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If water has entered a car’s oil chamber, the dipstick will show milky oil or water droplets on the stick as both do not mix well. The oil should further be smooth and not sticky upon touching, if sticky that means water has entered and mixed with the oil. A vehicle has various other types of oil-based fluids within it, such as transmission, power steering and brake fluid. The same inspection process should be applied to them for a thorough check.
Another sign of a possible flood-damaged car is the absence of number plates. If you see a vehicle on an online forum or a seller lot without any number plates and if the seller is unwilling to share the registration details, then it is likely that the car has an unattractive history and is possibly a flood damaged vehicle. When dabbling in the used car space, it is best to track down registered dealers or firms that conduct multi-point checks and offer warranty on the vehicle’s they sell. Be thorough in every step before your purchasing decision for a stress free ownership experience.





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