We all saw, both at first hand and in photos and on the telly, the swathe of destruction which the winter storms wrought on the south and west coasts of Ireland. Millions of Euro worth of damage was done, and of course our cars suffered as part of that. Remember those photos of the flooded seafront at Salthill in Galway? Many cars, with water up to their windows, marooned in the midst of an impromptu lake of muddy, swirling water. As we can all well imagine, it must have been a devastating moment for the owners of those cars to come out and find them like that.
So, what can you do if you ever, God forbid, find yourself with a flood damaged car? Well, actually, the best advice is to stand back and let the experts take over. Brian Greene is a Chief Motor Engineer from Assess Ireland, and he told us that the best thing to do with a car left in deep standing water is simply to wait until the flood has receded.
“Where you return to see your car in water, be particularly careful, as it is impossible to determine type of water it is, the depth of the water, whether there are hidden or uncovered objects (manhole covers for example), or even whether the water is still moving.” Safety first in other words. Leave well enough alone until the flood is gone, and then call in a professional recovery company to get the car out for you. And, of course, call your insurers as they are the experts when it comes to determining whether or not your car can be safely repaired.
Ah yes, repaired. It might have crossed your mind that in the next few weeks and months, if you’re heading out to buy a second hand car, that you could potentially be buying a car that was one of the unfortunate ones – one that was caught in flood waters.
“If you are considering buying a car in the next few weeks, we would always suggest that the first action should be to perform a vehicle history check. If a vehicle has been written-off for flood damage that should show up in the history report” said Brian Greene.
“It is possible nevertheless that a vehicle was damaged and not reported to an insurance company, and may not be recorded as being written off. In these cases, I would suggest that you consider asking an expert to view the vehicle for you, for less than the cost of your next service it is a very wise investment. We are one of the only companies to continue to offer this service and the findings can be shocking, considering the amount of outlay involved for someone.”
Sound advice, that. It may not, incidentally, be immediately obvious to the casual observer whether a car was flooded or not, but a few simple checks should either allay your worries or, potentially, give you cause to walk away from the deal.
First of all, have a good smell. Clearly, anyone trying to sell a flooded car will have thoroughly valeted and cleaned it, but there can still be a lingering scent of dampness. There can also be lingering wetness, no mater how thoroughly it has been dried out, so have a look under the carpets and feel around for wet or damp underlay.
Keep any eye out for anything that doesn’t look quite right – maybe the car has a brand new set of filters on it, but it’s not due a service. Maybe the owners manual is missing. Does the car smell strongly of air freshener? Little things, but they could add up.
Of course, electrics will be the first things to be damaged by any flood water, so be suspicious if there are non-functioning buttons and switches, or if things like the heater fan isn’t working properly. Finally, have a look under the metal runners that the seats sit on. You would never normally find corrosion or rust there, but if a car has been for a dip, then you might find some and that could be the giveaway.
Not every vehicle that’s been in a flood will need to be written off, and indeed not every vehicle that has been flooded and repaired is necessarily a bad buy. A well repaired car, with the work done by trained and diligent mechanics, can still be a good purchase, but you need to make sure that you are armed and ready to spot a bad one.
Needless to say, whatever car you’re buying, get it history checked by Motorcheck.ie first. Forewarned is forearmed!