9OYS Consumer Watch
Buying a flood car can soak you
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - We are more than 24 hundred miles from where Super Storm Sandy caused billions in damage. But there's still a way the effect of that storm can blow into your life.
If you're used car shopping you could find flood damaged cars far from the flood zones, here in Arizona.
When Sandy drove salt water from the Atlantic into the streets of New York and New Jersey, the storm totaled thousands of cars. But they won't all go to the crusher. Some could end up shipped far from the flood zones where car shoppers don't think much about flood damage---places like right here in Arizona.
We asked Joey Sorce of Family Auto Body to help us, help you recognize a car that could flood your life with trouble.
He looks at aluminum parts for corrosion and pitting that show a car's been in salt water.
Sorce says, "If you see the pits on the outside, what's going on inside, internally?"
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked: "Where you've got the moving parts."
Sorce: "Absolutely and that is a problem. That's a major problem. You can lose a motor. You can throw a rod. You can burn up all kinds of things. You're not gonna get the right compression. The gears aren't gonna work right in the transmission"
But a flood damaged car may run well enough---at least at first--- to make it seem like a good buy before it becomes a real money pit.
Joey Sorce of Family Auto says it used to be a flood car tip-off if carpets were damp, mildewed or seat springs showed signs of rust, but people who'd try to pass off a flood car are wise to that now, so they replace those items.
Craig Smith said: "I could see how a prospective buyer might say, well, it's months since that storm. This car's running right now; doesn't that mean it's okay?"
Sorce: No. It doesn't. It could take some time before you start seeing some problems, two months. Six months a year down the road."
Sorce says flood car trouble may not roll up in a car that's all in one piece. He says a lot of flood cars will be sold off for parts, so you want to be sure if you've okayed used parts for your car repair, make sure your shop gives the parts a close look for salt water corrosion.
Sorce says, "If we receive a used motor or a transmission that appears to us has been rusted or been in a flood then we turn around and ship it back to them."
Some of the damage can be microscopic---corrosion in wiring connectors can keep sensitive on-board computers from getting the consistent electricity they need to manage the car's systems.
Craig Smith asked Joey Sorce: "How can you defend yourself as somebody who's not expert, somebody who doesn't have a good way to get under a car and look? Sorce: "if you have a mechanic, have them inspect it before, have them do a pre-buy inspection on your vehicle."
And if the seller won't agree to an inspection, make a deal somewhere else.