Buying a Used Car: How to Detect Water Damage

If the car was once damaged by water, it will most likely cause some problems to the owner right after it dries out. And as all the moisture dries, the corrosion begins, which later provokes failing of the components of the car. And the electric failures are in the top of the list of things you should pay attention to. Here are some of the things you should look for when determining the problems of the car.

  1. Ask them to show you a title of the car. Most states require that the title of the vehicle is designed is such a way that it indicates if the car has been submerged, or if it was used as a taxi, police vehicle, or that it is sold as “salvage” or “rebuilt”. The “salvage” vehicle are usually those that has been indicated as the “total loss” by the insurance company because of the accident, submersion or fire. These may also have been sold as “repairable wrecks” and later restored to look like original one, but they usually have lots of other problems that may not be evident at once. Some may be purchased from salvage yards or insurance companies, and given the title of “rebuilt”. Be careful with all the cars that have any of these titles, as these should be thoroughly examined by a mechanic you can trust. The terminology may vary from state to state, so be careful with it.
  2. Notice any musty odors in the car – these are usually the signs of moisture in the vehicle. Such aromas are not unusual for old cars, but you still should be aware of you smell any. The water may get into the vehicle through the open or broken window.
  3. Note any heavy perfumes – using perfumes and other air fresheners may indicate the attempt of the owner to mask the musty smells that are in the car. The musty smelling trunk is a part of a car that is not that easy to mask, keep that in mind.
  4. Feel for dampness in the car. Press down the carpeting under the seats, and check out if it is not wet, and if there is no carpeting, peel back the rubber liner on the floor of the cabin, and look for any wet spots. It is hard for the moisture to evaporate in the space between steel and rubber or vinyl, and that is why moist usually stays there for a long time. The spare tire storage is as well a place where the water usually collects, so you should open the trunk and check it, as well as the area between both rear wheels.
  5. Water lines and dark spots on fabric usually indicate the place where the high water reached. If you notice them, that is a sign that the car has been in the water some time.
  6. Look for rust – it occurs on any steel surface exposed to the water, in case it was not painted. The rust inside the trunk is also a sign that it was exposed to water, which shouldn’t be done. This way any rusty spot in the cabin means there was water inside the car.
  7. Look for the new parts in the car, especially on the dashboard and its instrumentations. For example, of odometer shows a little value for the age of the car, it may indicate that the entire dashboard was replaced because of water damage.
  8. Get a history report of a car – ask the dealer or manufacturer to provide you with it. If not, address Carfax where they will provide you with all the information about repairs and damages for a symbolic fee. To look in the online database, use VIN, which should be visible on the windshield on the driver’s side, or the license plate.
  9. Shop at a reputable dealers that do not want the headaches of selling car with a questionable history. Dealers rely on their good reputation to stay in business. “Unhappy customer” stories spread much, much faster than “happy customer” stories, so most dealers do what they can to minimize this risk.

Hopefully these tips are useful for you. Buying a used car can be to an advantage by many reasons. You just need to be careful and take some time to do your research. Many good deals can be offered online as many car owners prefer posting some ads of selling their cars on classified websites such as Localmart. So take the time, do your research and then thoroughly check the car you pick. Good luck!


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