Water Damaged Vehicles: A Warning for Used Vehicle Shoppers
In this guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about water damaged vehicles, from what they are and how to identify them, the risks they pose and the systems that are most commonly affected.
What is a Water/Flood Damaged Vehicle?
A water or flood damaged vehicle is exactly what it sounds like: a vehicle that has been damaged by water or flood. This can happen for a number of reasons, from heavy rain and flooding to hurricanes and other natural disasters. In some cases, water damage may be covered by insurance, but in others, the cost of repairs can be significant and the vehciles is deemed total loss.
Branded Titles for Flood Damaged Vehicles
When a vehicle is classified as flood damage, it is issued a branded title. These titles vary by state, but some of the most common include "flood damage," "water damage," and "salvage." In Florida, for example, a flood damage vehicle is issued a "flood" title, while in Texas, it may be issued a "nonrepairable" title. Please note that by the law in most states water damaged vehicles are repairable and can be issued a roadworthy rebuilt title. That's the reason why they end up in the used car market. However, the information about the branding is always present on the title. But even in case of title washing water damage records may be found vin VIN check and vehicle history reports.
Famous Natural Disasters that Added to Flood Damaged Fleet
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina affected more than 600,000 vehicles, while Hurricane Harvey in 2017 affected an estimated 500,000 vehicles. In 2018, Hurricane Florence affected around 20,000 vehicles, and the 2011 Joplin tornado damaged over 10,000 vehicles. All of them end up at salvage auctions. Some may be exported with clean documents and a VIN history report is the only way to know about water damage.
Risks of Owning a Flood Damage Vehicle
Owning a flood damage vehicle comes with a number of risks. First and foremost, these vehicles may not be safe to drive. Water can damage a number of systems in the vehicle, including the electrical and computer systems, engine, and transmission. Additionally, flood damage can cause rust, corrosion, and mold to form, which can cause health problems for the vehicle's occupants. The worst thing about it is that the effects of water reveal themselves only after some time after exposure to water and unexpectedly.
Systems Affected and Problems Caused by Water Damage
These systems include the electrical and computer systems, engine, transmission, brakes, suspension, and more.
One of the most common problems is damage to the electrical and computer systems. Water can cause these systems to short out or malfunction, which can affect everything from the headlights to the air conditioning. In some cases, the damage may be so severe that the vehicle won't start at all.
Another problem caused by water damage is damage to the engine and transmission. Water can enter the engine or transmission through the air intake or exhaust, causing damage to the internal components. This can lead to reduced performance, increased fuel consumption, and even complete engine or transmission failure.
Salt water damage is even worse. Salt water is highly corrosive and can cause significant damage to a vehicle's metal components. This can lead to rust and corrosion, which can weaken the vehicle's structural integrity and make it unsafe to drive.
Finally, water damage can cause mold and mildew to form in the vehicle. This can be a serious health hazard, especially if you or your family have respiratory issues.
In some cases, the damage may be visible, such as water stains or debris in the engine compartment, while in others, it may be harder to detect. The smell of mold is a good indicator as well. Please note that it is sometimes concealed by deodorants.
Should You Buy a Water Damaged Vehicle?
In most cases, it is not recommended to buy a water damaged vehicle knowingly. While the cost of these vehicles may be lower than that of a comparable vehicle with no water damage, the risks and potential costs of repairs are simply too high, as well as the changes of unexpected failures down the road.
Water and flood damaged vehicles present a unique set of challenges for body shop mechanics. By understanding the risks and systems that are most commonly affected, you can help ensure that your customers stay safe on the road.