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How to Tell if a Hurricane Damaged Your Vehicle
By the RestorationSOS Educational Staff
Any time you have flooding, you can assume that there are going to be flood damaged vehicles. This doesn't mean that your car had to be swept away in a raging current either. Simple exposure to water in a large enough volume can be enough to cause serious damage to your car or truck. Before trying to drive it, or even start it up, you will need to give it a good, thorough inspection to make sure that it is in proper running order.
The reason is simple - motor vehicles use electrical components and introducing an electrical current into already damp components may produce less-than-desirable results. The good news is that even the most automotive-ignorant among us can successfully check for flood damage.
- Check your air filter for signs of dampness as well as the interior carpet and upholstery. If you find that it is wet, seek out a professional water restoration service to dry the car out. Simply leaving windows down will not do it, and drying with space heaters runs the risk of a fire.
- Check the oil. If it appears diluted or has an unusual color, chances are very good that water has gotten into the oil pan.
- Check the bumpers and grill for signs of mud, grass, or other debris that usually accompanies flood waters.
- Check all of the exterior lighting sources for signs of water. Water can often be seen standing in headlights and parking lamps.
- Look for signs of a water line in the engine compartment and the trunk.
- Look for rust in unusual places such as door hinges, hood springs, and trunk latches.
If you do find signs of such water damage, then contact your insurance company immediately. If you have comprehensive coverage, you should be okay. Liability insurance only is another story, however.
If there is water damage to the vehicle, do not attempt to start it. Accumulated water in the engine’s intake system can effectively bend piston rods or even crack the engine block. Once that happens, you are faced with the prospect of replacing the engine, and this is not an inexpensive proposition. The vehicle should be towed to a repair shop.
The damage may in fact be minimal, but you want to play it safe and have the vehicle examined. Remember that not all water damage is immediate. Water in the brake system may not present itself as a problem for days or even weeks, when the brakes begin to function below par or even fail altogether. Rusty suspension joints can also cause progressive damage to occur, so it is better to have the vehicle checked out by a professional mechanic who knows what to look for and where to look for it.
Some flood damaged vehicles also find their way onto used car lots, so always take the time to thoroughly inspect any used vehicle that you might consider purchasing.
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