How to Avoid Flood Damaged Cars

Learn how to avoid flood driving and flood-damaged cars.

As the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers. Unfortunately, the rainfall now hitting parts of the country is more on the level of biblical deluge than nourishing spring showers. And that leads to flooded roads and potentially flood-damaged cars.

In addition to the safety hazard that driving in floods represents, owners of flood-ravaged vehicles often sell their once-soggy cars. If you’re not the ark-building type, check out the following tips on how to avoid flood driving and flood damaged cars.

Flood driving: Your car won’t always power through

Your best bet, when a local river or body of water is rising rapidly, is to stay off the roads in that area. But if you have to drive where flooding is a possibility, tune into a local broadcast for alerts on dangerous or impassable roads. In addition to chart-toppers from the 30s and 40s, you can typically find up-to-date driving news on your trusty AM dial.

Bottom line: If you hear that water’s on its way, try to get off the roads. Just 6 inches is enough to reach the bottom of most passenger cars.

Floods are unpredictable and can happen in seconds. So if you’re suddenly caught in flash flood conditions, try to avoid driving through pockets of water. Even shallow moving water can conceal missing portions of roads, bridges (really!), and other debris like tree limbs and stones.

Also, be sure to pay attention to your tires’ traction — a total loss of grip on the road could leave you at the mercy of extremely fast currents. And your local Main Street is the very last place you want to experience whitewater rafting for the first time.

If you’re driving through water and your car stalls, get out and move to higher ground immediately. Your vehicle is replaceable, after all. You and your passengers — not so much. As you exit your car, exercise extreme caution if the water is above knee-level. In faster, deeper floodwater, you could easily be overpowered by currents or injured by large moving debris.

But as with any list of bad-weather driving tips, the best advice is to stay put and wait it out.

How to spot flood-damaged cars

Even if floods aren’t a cause for concern in your area, flood-damaged cars are sometimes resold on the opposite side of the country.

Flood damage is hard to spot, and often impossible to see from the outside. While visible cosmetic damage will probably have been repaired, significant damage to the electrical and heating/cooling systems can remain hidden. Even after thorough cleaning, sensitive electronic systems can corrode and oxidize weeks or months after exposure.

In addition, mud and debris inside the engine and other mechanical systems can lead to excessive wear and early failure. That makes a flood-damaged car a classic lemon.

If you’re in the market for a used car, the only way to really know the full story is to have a qualified mechanic inspect it. You can also run a check on the car’s title history through services like CARFAX. These investigations will help ensure that the car you’re interested in isn’t a flood-damaged lemon in disguise.

Though it’s been a long, soggy winter, hang in there, rainy-weather drivers and used-car buyers. May flowers (and quality wheels) are just around the corner.

Related articles

Weather.com’s driver safety tips
Smartdriving.co.uk’s rainy-weather safety tips
Consumerreport.com’s tips on spotting a flood-damaged car
Nada.org’s inspection tips

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