What you need to know if your vehicle is flooded

By Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Dangerous floodwaters can damage your car, costing you thousands of dollars in repairs, if they don’t destroy the car altogether.

So, if your car is ever submerged in water or you find it sitting in high water after a storm, the No. 1 rule is: Don’t start the engine.

If you start that car up, you could do far more damage than you already have.

If you can’t get the car towed immediately, the best thing to do is to start drying out the car.

Begin by opening the doors and windows.

Pull up the carpet from the floorboards and take that out.

Next, drain all the oil and the transmission fluid out.

Disconnect the battery to prevent any further electrical damage.

Another big concern after any flood is that flooded cars might suddenly show up for sale at local car lots and online.

So, remember, if you are trying to buy a used car several weeks or months after a big flood, you have to do your homework on that vehicle.

“Take it to a repair shop first before buying it, to check it out, 'cause the first thing they will do is look up underneath the car to check for any damage, rust, mildew, mold … That’s a dead giveaway,” said Roger Morris, with the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Morris tracks flood-damaged cars for the bureau and he warns against buying cars online.

“If you’re buying from Craigslist, those cars may not have been insured. They may have been damaged. They may be flooded. And you’re getting scammed if you buy one of those cars," Morris said.

There are other visible signs to look for.

“Look for a waterline on the firewall inside the engine compartment and even in the trunk,” Christopher Basso, with Carfax, said.

Also, get the vehicle identification number and punch that into the National Insurance Crime Bureau website to check their database on that car.

Carfax offers the same kind of service.

And one last tip: If you are test-driving the vehicle, turn on the radio and listen for any distortion from speakers that may have been waterlogged at some point.

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