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Buyer Beware

If you’re in the market for a new car, you will want to be extra vigilant now in the wake of the recent hurricanes.

Many cars that have suffered significant water damage soon will hit the market. Water can cause many problems in vehicles, including electrical problems, engine damage, difficult-to-remove mold and mildew, premature corrosion and rusting, and seizing mechanical parts, such as ball bearings.

Chris and his team at CARSS are urging you to know the signs of water damage before you shop so you don’t run into these problems down the road.

One of the easiest things to do is to perform a VIN – Vehicle Identification Number - check.

The 17-number VIN can be found on the driver’s side dashboard, and is visible through the windshield. If you have the VIN, you can obtain a detailed vehicle history report from reputable sources, such as CARFAX and AutoCheck. The report will tell you if there have been any title issues relating to water damage. The report cannot detect all instances of water damage, but it will find many.

Another way to look for water damage is to check for premature corrosion.

Vehicles that have been submerged or that have water damaged usually will have corrosion, or corrosion in unusual places, compared to vehicles in normal conditions.

You will want to look for white, green or bluish fuzz on the vehicle’s electrical components. Consider the vehicle’s age though, when assessing corrosion, as some is normal as a vehicle gets older. You will also want to look for sheet metal rust. Any interior parts that are rusty can be a sign of water damage.

A third method to help detect water damage is to check for electrical issues. Make sure all of the electrical systems are working. Try them several times.

Also, check all of the lights to ensure they work. A bulb could be burned out, but other signs indicate more serious issues. For example, if the left turn signal illuminates but doesn’t flash when it is turned on, there could be an issue related to water. Also, roll down the windows and make sure the power locks work.

A fourth way to spot water damage is to look for any water staining on the upholstery. You also will want to look for water lines or stains on the door panels, and look at the carpet for water exposure.

A fifth way to look for water damage is to inspect the mechanical system.

For example, check all of the fluid conditions. If there is water damage in mechanical areas, it can turn the oil a milky color and consistency.

Of course you also will want to test-drive the vehicle.

If the engine is running rough or the transmission isn’t shifting well, there may have been water in them. While the cause might not be water damage, it can be a sign. You also will want to set the cruise control, and listen for any abnormal operating noises such as squeals or grinding.

As go through these steps, be sure to note anything out of the ordinary. If you prefer to have a professional check over a potential purchase, contact Chris at CARSS, and he and his team can help you out.

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