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Guard against trade-ins that might be damaged by nation's flooding

November 23, 2010
Florida endured four hurricanes in six weeks recently, but the effects of nature's wrath could extend to the Chicago area in the form of vehicles damaged by flooding. Dealers should be alert for trade-ins that may be flood-damaged. There is no sure method to test for vehicle flood damage, but the National Automobile Dealers Association offers 10 inspection tips to detect significant water damage. At a minimum, a prospective buyer should: 1. Check the vehicle's title history, which may state whether the vehicle has sustained flood damage. 2. Examine the vehicle interior and the engine compartment for evidence of water and grit from suspected submersion. 3. Check for a recently shampooed carpet. 4. Check under the floorboard carpet for water residue or stain marks from evaporated water not related to air-conditioning pan leaks. 5. Look for rusting on the inside of the car and under interior carpeting, and visually inspect all interior upholstery and door panels for any evidence of fading. 6. Check under the dashboard for dried mud and residue, and note any evidence of mold or a musty odor in the upholstery, carpet or trunk. 7. Check for rust on screws in the console or other areas where the water would normally not reach unless submerged. 8. Check for mud or grit in alternator crevices, behind wiring harnesses and around the small recesses of starter motors, power steering pumps and relays. 9. Complete a detailed inspection of the electrical wiring system, looking for rusted components, water residue or suspicious corrosion. 10. Inspect the undercarriage of other components for evidence of rust and flaking metal that would not normally be associated with late model vehicles. While these inspection suggestions will not detect flood damage in every case, they do provide some tips to protect dealers and consumers from purchasing a vehicle damaged by water or flood. In any event, new-car and -truck dealers accepting a vehicle trade-in normally would require the customer to complete a detailed damage disclosure, to identify any damage from flooding or other, experienced by the vehicle. Dealers should tender a damage disclosure when selling a vehicle to a consumer. The NADA believes the safest way for customers to protect themselves against purchasing a flooded vehicle is to purchase from a franchised new-car or -truck dealer, who is subject to significant legal scrutiny.
 

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