If you’re thinking about buying a secondhand car in Auckland (or anywhere else in NZ, for that matter), it’s worth remembering the severe weather events we’ve experienced – and the effects that excess rain and flooding can have on a vehicle.

Some used cars have made their way into the used car market, so it’s important to know what to look out for.

What are the main symptoms of a flood damaged car?

The main areas of the car that are damaged by floods are:

  • the appearance (e.g. upholstery, floor mats, mud on the inside and outside)
  • the electronics
  • the engine

If a car looks to have rust or corrosion, or if it smells or feels damp, ask the owner whether it was exposed to flood water.

Aesthetic flood damage or water damage, believe it or not, can be easily cleaned and repaired if the car is taken to a professional car grooming company. Even some rust and corrosion can be fixed by a professional panel beating team.

Damage to the electrics or the engine, however, may not be as easy to detect.

A few things you can do to try to spot flood damage include:

  • lift the carpets and look for water stains in the footwells
  • turn on the heating and see if the windows steam up, indicating that there is moisture in the car somewhere
  • sit inside the car with the doors and windows closed – does it smell damp? does it smell of perfume or car deodoriser? (a sign that the owner may be trying to mask the damp smell)
  • look for rust or corrosion underneath the car and around the tyres
  • turn on the engine and check for smoke coming from the exhaust
  • test all the electrics (lights, indicators, radio, defogger/demister, electric mirrors and windows, rearview cameras, sensors and sensor lights)
  • take it for a test drive and see if the brakes are slow to respond (also check the handbrake or emergency brake)

Can driving through flood water cause car damage?

Driving through flood water can indeed cause damage to your vehicle. The extent of the damage will depend on how deep the water was, how long you drove through flood waters, how much of the vehicle was submerged, as well as how much mud or debris was in the water.

Level of submergence

The deeper the water, the more vehicle parts will be affected. You may be looking at tyres, brake pads and components being affected by flood water. Or you may be faced with damage to electric components or corrosion to metal if the water was deeper.

It may also be worse if the flood waters consisted of saltwater from the sea. Rainwater or fresh water is less damaging, but if you’re in a seaside area and parts of the car were submerged in saltwater, there may be more damage.

How long was the car submerged for?

The damage to the car will be worse the longer it was in the flood waters – and whether it was parked or driven. If the water was quite muddy or sandy, or if it was saltwater, this will be an even bigger problem as debris will have entered the engine components and the salt may cause corrosion.

Wherever possible, find out as much information as possible about the circumstances surrounding the car being in flood water if you’re thinking of buying a used car that was in flood water. How long was it submerged? Was the water muddy or salty? How deep was the water – not just when the car was retrieved, but at the time when the water was at its deepest?

Flood damaged car problems

A car that has been through a severe weather event or flood will need to be dried, deordorised and cleaned of mud and debris.

It may also have mechanical and engine problems that need to be addressed.

Depending on how long the car was in flood water, and whether the water was sandy, muddy or saltwater, there may be rust and corrosion to the vehicle parts.

While some issues may be immediately apparent, other problems may surface only after the car has been driven a few times. These can include:

  • engine smoke
  • poor responding brakes
  • malfunctioning mechanical parts
  • filters not working properly
  • contamination of the fuel tank
  • dirt and/or water in the engine causing engine problems
  • faulty electrics (lights, media, heating, cooling)

Can a water damaged car be fixed?

Some water damage can be fixed. The first place to start is by asking for the report or assessment details from the insurance company. If a car was submerged or damaged by flood water, it’s likely that the owner will have lodged an insurance claim.

Next, ask for any paperwork from a panel beater or mechanic who may have assessed the vehicle. These documents will help us determine whether a water damaged car can be fixed – and whether it’s worth trying to do more repair work.

Is the warranty affected by flood damage?

While some water damage to a car from floods can be fixed, it’s also worth noting that an insurance policy or vehicle warranty may be affected (or voided) if the car has been driven through flood water.

If you’re buying a used vehicle that is still under the manufacturer’s warranty, double check the details. Having a car parked in the driveway during a flood is different from actually driving the car through flood waters – driving through a flood may make the warranty void. You’ll need to know this before you consider buying a flood damaged car.

How do you fix a flood damaged car?

The first step in fixing a flood damaged car is to have it adequately assessed. The key thing that needs to be determined is whether there has been any damage done to the mechanical or electrical components. This is usually determined by the depth of the flood waters.

If water entered the cabin of the vehicle, there is a very high possibility that the electrics of the vehicle will be affected. If this is the case, it’s not worth fixing the car.

In fact, in New Zealand, insurance companies will write off a vehicle that has had water in its cabin. There is too great a risk that the electrics will fail in the future, making the vehicle unsafe for driving.

Give us a call and we can discuss some options based on the extent of flooding and damage.

How much is it to get water damage fixed from the car?

Some flood damaged cars can be fixed, but it all depends on the level of damage and the parts that need to be repaired.

If there is engine damage, it may not make financial sense to repair a car with water flood damage.

If the car was only in shallow water, it would be wise to pay to have it professionally cleaned and groomed after a flood.

But there are risks to buying and fixing a flood damaged car. Be aware that if someone is selling a used car for a bargain price that seems too good to be true, there may be hidden flood damage that comes with it.

If you’ve found the car of your dreams, but it has sustained flood damage, get in touch with the team at Mt Roskill Collision Centre. We can assess any damage and repairs that have been done, and give you a thorough and honest assessment of the vehicle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *