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How to Detect Car Water Damage?

How to Detect Car Water Damage?

To detect car water damage, perform the following:

1.    Select the right place to buy

2.    Use the sense of smell

3.    Use the sense of touch

4.    Look for signs of corrosion

5.    Look for faulty upholstery

6.    Perform a quick test drive

7.    Look at the oil level

8.    Check the headlights and the taillights

9.    Look for signs of dirty details

10. Hire A mechanic


Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE

Many vehicles are swamped in stormwater at hurricane zones every year. These vehicles end up with major damages that make their resale value very low and discourages potential future buyers.

Although we expect that when you experienced car water damage, your vehicle will end up in the junkyard, however, there are many out there who performed quick fixes to the vehicles and sold them throughout the country without notifying the buyer.

With the increased numbers of hurricanes throughout the country, including hurricane Ida, experts notice an increasing number of flood-damaged cars and encourage future buyers and shoppers in the used car market to be aware of these cars and perform all necessary steps to prevent buying such vehicles.

This article walks through a list of recommendations from automotive experts about how to detect car water damage earlier before making a final decision and purchasing any vehicle.

How does car water damage impact your car?

Before we dive into the details about how to detect car water damage, you must understand the negative consequences of water getting inside your vehicle and the fact that your vehicle gets soaked in floodwater.

According to experts, water can negatively impact different components in your vehicle. For example, it can immediately cause significant damages to the electric components. Furthermore, it prevents all possible lubrication and eliminates any oil around important elements like the engine and the transmission. Finally, water can cause corrosion to build up on vital components, causing your car to break down prematurely.

Unfortunately, the impact of car water damage does not appear clearly on the vehicle. You will notice that many cars listed for sale look decent, but internally their flood-damaged. According to consumerreports.org, “even if a vehicle looks acceptable and may be working when you inspect it.”

Why is the car's history important in car water damage issues?

If you're not already familiar with how paperwork goals in terms of car water data, it is important that you understand how you can tell whether the vehicle was involved in a flood or not just by looking at the vehicle’s history.

When an insurance company claims a certain vehicle as flood damage, the vehicle will no longer have the same clean title. Instead, the flood damage will be labeled on the title, and the title will be either flood-damaged or probably salvage titles.

Therefore, before you even implement any ways to detect a car's water damage, you look at the vehicle's history and read carefully through the title to get any clue about whether the title can help you tell if the vehicle was flooded.

Many available online websites can get you an idea about flood-damaged vehicles. For example, you might want to check the AutoCheck website or probably the national motor vehicle title information system operated by the Department of Justice, which has information about reported flood-damaged vehicles.

Keep in mind that there are some workarounds to many car sellers’ scammers who probably sell the vehicle in another state without indicating that it was flood damaged. Therefore, you cannot completely rely on the car title or the history of the vehicle to get all the details, and you still are recommended to go through some tips and tricks on detecting car water damage by yourself.

How to detect car water damage?

Since automotive experts recommend avoiding purchasing a vehicle that got water damage, you must implement all possible tips and tricks to detect such vehicles, especially if you don't have enough experience in the used car market.

Typically, here's all you need to do to detect a water-damaged car:

1.    Select the right place to buy

When shopping for a used vehicle, you must start with a reputation as the first and most important element in your shopping priorities. While you can get a very good deal when purchasing a vehicle through classified websites like Craigslist or eBay motor, there's a very high chance that many smart scammers can't convince you to purchase a vehicle that was involved in flood damage.

Therefore, if you think you're concerned about purchasing a used vehicle, especially during different hurricanes, including hurricane Ida, you might want to pay a little more rather than risk purchasing a flood-damaged car just because you want to save a couple of hundred dollars.

You can also check with the dealership and request additional details about the vehicle's type of title. Most flood-damaged cars will have either a flood or salvage title, indicating that the vehicle was involved in water damage.

2.    Use the sense of smell

Typically, when a car gets involved in flood damage, it will have a mold-like smell. This is because no matter how much Sellers work to hide the flood damage, there will still be some indication that the vehicle is not dried out completely and the mold already built up between the internal components.

Therefore, automotive experts recommend sniffing the car and going through different locations to check for any weird, abnormal orders. Keep in mind that some smart sellers might even put extra pleasant since including strong air fresheners to hide the smell should not be a pleasant sign because they might be hiding something.

3.    Use the sense of touch

While smelling around the vehicle, you must touch the different components and monitor for any sign of moisture or water collected in certain hidden locations. Again, when the buyer tries to hide the flood damage, he cannot hide everything, and there might be some water collected in certain locations that the buyer could not reach and dry out.

A good place to start is by running your hands on the different cloth components like the carpets or the Pats, looking for any signs of moisture. You might even want to flip the carpet to perform a visual inspection for any mold signs indicating previous dried water.

4.    Look for signs of corrosion

One of the worst consequences of water damage is corrosion building up around different internal components or external vehicles areas. Unfortunately, sellers cannot completely hide all these corrosion signs no matter what. Therefore, you must perform a visual inspection and look for any small corrosion signs, especially at the external location of the vehicle, including beneath the car.

5.    Look for faulty upholstery

One of the first things that water can damage when a vehicle gets flooded is the upholstery. When you look at the vehicle’s upholstery, you'll either notice some water stains or probably fake fabrics added to cover something.

For example, if you notice that the vehicle is about 10 years old and a new fabric installed, you should be suspicious, although some drivers might improve the upholstery to increase the resale value.

6.    Perform a quick test drive

Whether the vehicle was involved in flood damage or any other problem, you must never purchase a car without performing a test drive. Of course, when you test drive the car, you'll feel about any weird behaviors, especially driving a vehicle before.

If you don't have enough experience detecting such problems, you must bring in a family member or friend who can help you with that. In some scenarios, you might even want to bring a special mechanic who can help you perform a pre-purchase inspection and effect any signs of car water damage.

7.    Look at the oil level

In most flood-damaged cars, the oil will not be as it should be. In other words, if you took a closer look at the oil by taking out the dipstick, you'll notice that the oil doesn't have the same amount of expected viscosity, and it will have a different color than it should. Usually, a flood-damaged car will have a coffee-like or a chocolate milkshake-like substance.

8.    Check the headlights and the taillights

If a seller is trying to sell you a flood-damaged car without telling you, you will be able to detect some minor elements that could provide you some hints. For example, the seller will be focused on getting rid of any internal what are signs. However, he might not pay attention to the condition of the headlights or the taillights. If you notice that these lights are foggier, it might indicate that water accumulated inside them, indicating a flood or water damage.

9.    Look for signs of dirty details

When a vehicle sits in flood for a long time, it collects a lot of debris and dirt, and it's very hard for the seller to cover all these details without you noticing. Therefore, before making a final decision about purchasing such a vehicle and if you're concerned about buying a flood-damaged car, you must take a closer look at some areas like:

  • Close to the wiring
  • Within the wheel wells
  • Under the seats
  • Around this spare tire
  • Inside the trunk

If you notice any signs of accumulated dirt, it might indicate that the vehicle was sitting in water for a long time.

10. Hire A mechanic

In some scenarios, as we indicated before, it can be a little hard for any inexperienced car buyer to define whether a vehicle was involved in flood damage or not. Therefore, the easiest and safest way is to hire a professional who has better experience detecting such issues.

Although hiring a mechanic can feel a little expensive and will add some to your budget, it's not as I think of a deal compared to purchasing a vehicle involved in flood damage. Therefore, if you're planning to buy a relatively expensive used vehicle, it won't hurt to add a couple hundred dollars to your budget by hiring a mechanic.


Buying a used vehicle can be a huge investment to many people and ending up with a car involved in car water damage can be very disappointing. Therefore, automotive experts recommend going through some tips and tricks to help you detect signs of car water damage in the vehicle, so you don't buy it.

To detect car water damage, start by reviewing the vehicle’s history report and looking for “flood” or “salvage” titles. Then, perform a visual inspection looking for symptoms of moisture or trapped water. Finally, consider hiring a mechanic who should have better sense about how a water damaged car should look like.

If, for any reason, you ended up purchasing a vehicle that was involved in flood damage, it's not the end of the world because you can still sell it. However, you don't want to repeat the same thing and sell it to another person without mentioning that the vehicle was involved in flood damage. The good news is that although there are not many buyers who are interested in purchasing such a vehicle, Cash Cars Buyer always does!

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  • Describe your car’s type and condition
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