Cars damaged by Eta floodwater in Tampa Bay could end up for sale

Better Call Behnken

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Many drivers in the Tampa Bay area tried to drive through floodwater this week during Tropical Storm Eta and ended up with damage to their vehicles. And their problem could become your problem if you are not careful.

According to Carfax, those same flood-damaged cars could end up for sale. So far this year, Carfax reports 446,836 flooded cars back in use nationwide. A spokeswoman said 5,200 of those are in the Tampa Bay area.

And get this: Florida had 31,300 flood-damaged cars for sale – the second-highest in the nation, according to Carfax.

Selling a flood-damaged car that’s been repaired isn’t illegal, as long as it is disclosed to buyers. But consumers complain to 8 On Your Side that they’ve purchased damaged cars without knowing in the past.

David Cohen, a mechanic at A&D Automotive in Tampa said he doesn’t recommend buying a flood-damaged car, even if has been repaired.

“That water can be really intrusive. It finds its way into different modules and different computers, so even though you have a great running vehicle at this point, later on, you have component failures that a little more premature because that water has gotten in and caused damage,” he explained.

Carfax has a free flood check tool on its website.

If you drove through floodwater this week, it’s recommended you go see a mechanic. Cohen told us drivers usually underestimate the risk of driving through floodwater and are shocked when they take their cars in to get looked at.

“More often than not, it’ll total an engine. Once that water gets in, it does what’s called ‘hydrolocking,'” he said. “It doesn’t allow the pistons to make motion and can cause the engine to seize up.”

And even if the engine survives, there could be other damage you don’t see.

Even if everything seems fine, experts say you should check your oil. If you see water droplets, the cylinders – which are supposed to compress air instead of water – are likely broken. You should then check your insurance policy and file a claim.

“Your auto insurance policy should cover you in the event of a flood if you have something called ‘comprehensive coverage,'” Mark Jenkins of AAA said. “That can also typically apply for hail or flood damage – things like that.”

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