Flooding the Market, Special Report WFIE with Menke's Auto Repair
We were very proud to have been asked by WFIE NBC News 14 to provide information regarding the very real issue our local area is facing regarding the potential of purchasing water damaged vehicles. There are several places to look for evidence of water damage in the trunk, under the hood, under the car, on top of the fuel tank, and then inside the car as well. Vernie Menke - Owner Interviewed
EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - September 8, 2015 News 14 (6:00pm & 10:00pm On Air Reports) Posted by Jackie Monroe, AnchorThousands of water damaged vehicles are potentially for sale, right now, cleaned up and sent to auction or shipped out of Texas after the historic Memorial Day floods.
Where'd they all go?
Frank Scafidi with the National Insurance Crime Bureau told us, it's a good question because those cars continue to reappear month after month. They're for sale online, at auction, from private sellers, and even sometimes by accident, at used car dealers. But you won't always be able to spot one, just by looking at it or even driving it.
As many as 10,000 vehicles may have been impacted by the torrential rains that swallowed Houston last spring.
Water damage can destroy a vehicles electronics, computers, engine, transmission, even the airbags, but surprise! We're learning the damage doesn't always show right away.
“That's where we get into problems with innocent buyers seeing a car they like at a discounted price,” Scafidi told us. “They buy this thing not knowing it's been under water for a few days. Once they buy it, they find out all the problems with it."
Scafidi says, in a perfect world, a flooded vehicle should be retitled to show it's been Totaled Out. That way, you know going in, you're buying damaged goods.
But he warns, unscrupulous sellers will often buy these cars, clean them up, and retitle them out of state with a slight switch in the Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN.
“Essentially they're getting a clean title for a bad car. Once they have that, that's the Holy Grail,” Scafidi said.
It's called title-washing. And Newburgh auto-repairman Verne Menke tells us, it's illegal, but more common than you'd think, especially following natural disasters.
That’s why it’s a good idea to have that car checked out before you buy it.
If you know cars, go ahead and check the car out yourself, he suggests, but for the rest of us - there's a list of places your auto tech should check.
1. Anywhere there's fiberboard. That's usually the trunk, inside front side walls, and other spots. Fiberboard warps it's when wet. It's not something you can wipe away.
2. The oil based fluids - like in your engine, transmission, and power steering. They should be clean and clear.
Menke adds, “What we find happens is - if they have gotten water in these oils, they'll change ‘em once and they won't get it all, it'll milk up. They think it'll be okay but a lot of times we catch ‘em there."
3. Hard to reach, horizontal surfaces. Here - you're looking for sediment. Menke used a lift and a mirror to show us the places someone trying to disguise flood damage couldn't reach to clean, even if they wanted to.
4. Beware of overly perfumed interiors. That's right - a strong, pretty smell is a red flag, it means they might be trying to mask a musty odor.
Already bought the car? Scafidi says, your options for recourse are pretty limited. You'd have to find the seller again, then prove he or she meant to defraud you. It's a tough case to make... and likely, expensive.
That's why, if you're going to spend a little money, Scafidi says, it's a good idea to spend it up front.
“And really, it doesn't take an expert. If you're not that comfortable, it's worth it to spend $100 for someone to spend an hour of their time, as opposed to losing $20,000 in a bad deal."
The good news, there are plenty of places you can check to see if the car you want to buy has ever been sitting in water. Some of them are free.
Here are a few:
Also, be sure to watch the full length auto check how-to video by Verne Menke of Menke Automotive Repair.
Copyright 2015 WFIE. All rights reserved. *printed per request by Menke's Automotive as a participant in the video and in the interview as a special consultant.
VIDEO ONE: "Complete information on what to look for and where with Vernie Menke" 12 Minutes, 41 Seconds
VIDEO TWO: "Overview of the real issue facing consumers buying potentially water damaged vehicles" 3 Minutes, 43 Seconds
(INSIDE THE CAR)
1. Pat on carpet in hard to reach floor boards and under seats. Check for moisture.
2. Pull carpet up and check for moisture.
3. Look for new carpet in older vehicles compared to door panels, seats, and headliner. *Makes you wonder why carpet was replaced.
4. Carpet board warping on side panels. Check for water line.
5. Check glove box for paper products that have been wet and also residue in bottom of glove box.
6. Gritty sounding seatbelts.
7. Check for rust on seat rails, screws and brackets under dash.
8. Test all electrical accessories, if several are inoperable: BE AWARE!
1. Check on top of spare tire for debris or mud, and also check under the spare tire.
2. Check for spare tire cover board wrapping.
3. Check moisture under carpets.
4. Check for moisture and debris in lower side fender panels.
1. Check for proper color of all oil base fluids. They should not have a milky color.
2. Check to see if air filter has been wet or signs of water in air filter housing.
3. Look for high water line in engine compartment.
4. Check for debris that floated into radiator and A/C condenser lower mounting cradle.
1. Look for high water lines on frame rails, inside of wheels and tires, body panels.
2. Check for debris that has flooded into holes in frame rails.
3. Look for grass or yard debris on top of fuel tank.
1. Moisture in all headlights, tail lights, side lights, or high water lines.
1. Check to see if cabin air filter has been wet.
Thank you for visiting Menke's Automotive in Newburgh Indiana where we specialize in the complete maintenance and repair of all foreign and domestic vehicles. ASK ABOUT OUR FREE LOANER VEHICLES.