Even if you live thousands of miles away from where Irene hit, that’s no guarantee that you won’t run into a storm-damaged car on the used car dealer lot. These cars could be salvages or total losses, with screwed up engines and rotting components. Here are signs to watch out for.
NYT says to look out for these red flags:
* Musty smells. These persist long after the car has been waterlogged. If there’s too much deodorant inside, that could be a sign that they’re trying to cover the smell up.
* Look for soot, grime, and water damage in all the various nooks of the car.
* Look under the hood. If the engine compartment is way too clean for a car of its make and model, like it looks like it was steam or pressure washed, that could be a sign they’re trying to hide that it was submerged.
* Check Carfax or VINCheck to see if there’s a record of the car being salvaged.
* Start the car and listen to the engine, and listen to the brakes for squeaking or grinding.
* Have your local mechanic check the car over thoroughly.
Buyer Beware, as Damaged Cars from Tropical Storm Irene May Soon Arrive on Dealer Lots [wheels.blogs.nytimes]