How to spot a flood-damaged car - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

How to spot a flood-damaged car

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Car buyers beware: Superstorm Sandy can put a big damper on your upcoming vehicle purchase. Flooded vehicles are showing up all over auction blocks and online retailers.

Chris Basso of CARFAX is a flood damage expert when it comes to cars. He says some of the signs of having a flooded out car can be pretty obvious. He took a look at one of our news trucks took a major beating from Hurricane Sandy.

Chris says if you look along the back firewall you can see a water line along the back side that shows water was clearly in the engine compartment. Plus you can see rust on the engine. Those are pretty obvious. But there are other tip-offs you can see before you even open the door;

"Look at the window all the condensation that's built up on here, clearly this thing has been under water," Chris says.

But there's more. You could hide the rust. Maybe even wipe off the condensation, but take a whiff.

"The smell is your first clue that this car was under water," Chris says. "It's just almost unbearable, but you can see standing water in the cup holders here."

But what if you take the car to a good detailer?

"It's a temporary fix, it's a temporary fix," says Debbie Bjorkner of Auto Detailing Center. "But you're dealing with your health also, inhaling mold spores, you have children that are in these cars and their lungs aren't fully developed even as youngsters."

While Debbie says she'd never clean up a car just to dupe a buyer, there are those who do it. So, trust your nose.

But here's something only a mechanic can fix: condensation inside the headlights. It is impossible to hide without replacing the light.

Cracked insulation is also a problem. But, for a couple of grand all the insulation in the car could be replaced and you may not know the difference.

Tony Rota, the owner of Log Cabin Service, always reports repairs to CARFAX. But he says some repair shops see a quick buck.

If you think you don't have to worry about getting a flood-damaged car if you live in a place that was never flooded, think again.

Chris from CARFAX says flood-damaged cars, rotting from the inside out, are already showing up thousands of miles away;

CARFAX usually shows accidents, flood damage and repairs. And the car's title is supposed to show it too. But if you retitle the car in another state, the title may come back clean with no reference to flood damage. It's called title washing.

So there is a lot to look out for.

CARFAX does have a free service on its website if you want to find out if a car may be damaged in a flood. All you need is the Vehicle Identification Number.

www.carfax.com

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