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Flood-Damaged Vehicles

Major flooding across the U.S. in recent years has raised the need to inform consumers of the safety hazards associated with flood-damaged vehicles. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for cars that have spent days under water to be dried out, cleaned, and sold to unsuspecting consumers at car lots all over the country, including in California. Severe water damage can make vehicle's electrical systems, including their airbag sensors, prone to failure. When a car's electrical systems have been compromised, it may no longer be safe to drive.

When purchasing a used car, consumers should be on the lookout for tell-tale signs of flood damage. Typical signs of flood damage include:

  • A musty odor, especially in the trunk.
  • Water-spotted upholstery.
  • Rusty metal fixtures in the interior.
  • Seatbelt retractors that may be hiding moisture, mildew, or grime.
  • Mud and debris inside tail lights.
  • Silt around the air filter.
  • Discolored or painted hood insulation.
  • Brittle electrical wiring.
  • Grit in the engine compartment.
  • Damaged doors, speakers, windshield wipers, radio, and air conditioners.
  • New or mismatched items, especially in older vehicles.

Shop smart. Before you buy, always have a registered automotive repair dealer carefully examine the vehicle and lookup important vehicle history information through the National Motor Vehicle Title Information Search (NMVTIS) website at www.vehiclehistory.gov.