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Eric's Autos: Avoid a "Harvey Special"

Eric Peters on

As the waters recede from Houston, thousands of flooded cars will be aired and shipped out to unsuspecting used car lots all over the country. Their titles as "washed" as their interiors (and the rest of them, too).

The cars -- many of them brand-new -- are declared total losses and the dealership gets compensated by the insurance company. The cars ought to be recycled at this point, some parts are still perfectly usable. But because it is not hard -- for the expert crooked car seller -- to pull out the carpet, dry the obvious things, clean the car up and then (critical) efface any mention of "salvage" or "flood damage" from the car's title/vehicle history report - and then sell the seemingly near-new/low-miles car far, far away from the source of its swim, he does exactly that.

And this is a ride you do not want to take.

It's always been bad news for a car to take a dip. Water in places it's not supposed to get to -- like underneath the carpets and underneath the headliner and inside the trunk -- generates both funk and rust. The car will smell moldy no matter what you do, unless you douse it with some overpowering other smell - which is common procedure with flood-damaged cars.

After the funk will come the rust.

The interior metal -- underneath the carpets, under the headliner, in the trunk -- was not meant to get wet and so is not generally rustproofed, as exterior panels meant to get wet usually are. Add to this the covering with carpet and other such that keeps the metal wet for a long time.

--Sponsored Video--

Flood-damaged cars rot out in weird and expensive to fix places. Like holes in the roof. Fred Flintstone-style holes in the floorpans are no fun, either.

But the real fun comes as a consequences of electrical components never meant to be immersed being immersed. Sensors on the engine; connectors in the wiring harness. The car's ECU -- the computer that runs the works. The body control module, which runs things like the power windows and door locks. The LCD/infotainment system. Imagine throwing your smartphone or laptop in the river, leaving it there a couple of days and then airing it out, wiping off the mud and then advertising it for sale online.

A modern car is a smartphone/laptop - just one that moves and is a lot more expensive to deal with when it needs fixing.

And sometimes, isn't worth fixing - just like a water-logged smartphone.


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