How do I tell if a car has been flooded?

* What to do if you meet a flood * Fixing a flooded car * Buying a flooded car...

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Jim Holder
11 August 2011

• Take a deep breath - if a car has been in a flood but not been properly repaired, a musty odour will be a sure giveaway;

• The simplest test is to run your hands over the boot carpet or around the spare wheel well and feel for water, although this is more indicative of a leak than flooding;

• Check below the seats, dashboard and in the glove compartment for signs of silt, water marks or rust;

• Look closely to see if all the upholstery matches and fits well. Look for signs of water damage such as discoloured, faded or stained materials;

• Turn the key in the ignition - do all the warning lights come on as they should? If the electrics are faulty, water could have damaged them;

• Start the engine and look for smoke and listen for unusual noises. If the engine doesn't start, it may indicate electrical problems;

• Likewise, test everything electrical - windscreen wipers, indicators, the radio, the cigarette lighter and air-conditioning;

• Gently flex the visible wires under the dashboard, as wires that have been submersed in water will eventually become brittle;

• Check the engine oil for signs of a pale sticky emulsion, which indicates water in the engine;

• If you have any doubts but still want to buy then get an expert inspection - it will prove cheaper in the long run if the car has got a problem.