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How to Spot a Flood-Damaged Vehicle

This article provides information about how to spot flood and salt water damage in vehicles. This article is adapted from content by the Texas Department of Insurance.

How to Spot a Water-Damaged Vehicle

The following inspection tips may help detect significant water damage on a vehicle:

  • Examine the interior and the engine compartment for evidence of water and grit from suspected submersion.
  • Check for recently shampooed carpet, and check under the floorboard carpet for water residue or stain marks from evaporated water not related to air-conditioning pan leaks.
  • Look for rusting on the inside of the car and under interior carpeting, and visually inspect all interior upholstery and door panels for evidence of fading.
  • Check under the dashboard for dried mud and residue, and note any evidence of mold or a musty odor in the upholstery, carpet or trunk.
  • Check for rust on screws in the console or other areas where water would normally not reach unless submerged.
  • Check for mud or grit in alternator crevices, behind wiring harnesses and around the small recesses of starter motors, power steering pumps and relays.
  • Complete a detailed inspection of the electrical wiring system, looking for rusted components, water residue or suspicious corrosion.
  • Inspect the undercarriage or other components for evidence of rust and flaking metal that would not normally be associated with late model vehicles.
  • While these inspection suggestions will not detect water damage in every case, they do provide some information to protect consumers from purchasing a vehicle damaged by water, such as flood. If you are considering purchasing a vehicle that you suspect may have been damaged by water, consider having it inspected by a licensed mechanic.

See Beware of Buying Flood-Damaged Vehicles for more.