How To Check For Flood Damage In A Car

This article was originally published in Malay here.


As the year is coming to an end, are you looking to buy a secondhand car in the hope of getting a good discount? Is the car salesman offering you a “special price” in conjunction with the upcoming New Year celebration? If the price is too good to be true, then beware. It’s been raining heavily hereabouts and that “cheap” car could have been flood-damaged. How can you tell? Here are FIVE ways: –

  1. A Funky Smell


If you detect a mouldy and musty smell, it could be a bad sign. When you’re test-driving the car, keep the windows closed and take a deep breath. If you see moisture absorbers and air fresheners placed around the interior, then it’s cause for suspicion.

2. Visual Damage


Four visual damages that you can look for: rust, water stains, fabric damage and carpet damage. Check the spare tyre well, which is often overlooked, for rust or erosion. See if the upholstery or carpet is faded unevenly or newly replaced…if the car is only three years old, it’s strange that the previous owners had new carpets put in, no?

3. Sweating Headlights


If there are droplets inside the headlights, then buyers beware. While it may not always be a sign of flood-damage and could simply be caused by a difference of internal and external temperatures, a high amount of moisture in the headlight could also mean a cracked housing or damaged sealant. And it could also be evidence that the car had driven through water as high as the headlights.


4. Look Under


Use a mirror if you won’t want to sprawl on the ground. Inspect under the seats for signs of peeling or mud. Then, look at the undercarriage—if a 5-year-old car is rusting like it was 15, then it could have been submerged in water before.

5. Engine Oil


Engine oil is usually dark in colour. If it is a milky colour, it could indicate flood-damage. If its viscosity is thick and sticky like glue, then it has been contaminated.


Okay, besides the above, here are a few other ways to determine flood-damage:

a. Bring an expert. Your friendly neighbourhood mechanic will be able to point out faults and damages.

b. Check the car number plate. If the car comes from a place that has recently experienced a bout of flooding, then let it go to be safe than sorry.

c. Research. It’s not difficult in the day of the Internet to make a market comparison of similar make and model. If the price is too good to be true, then it probably is.

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