by Pilar Pedraza
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
9:22 PM CST, January 24, 2013
Hurricane Sandy flooded around 230,000 vehicles, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau's estimates, when it hit the east coast. Now those same experts warn some of those cars could end up for sale here in Kansas.
Insurance companies have already begun the process of gathering up flood damaged vehicles, preparing to destroy them. The problem is not everyone has insurance or is willing to wait for that insurance check.
"This isn't a perfect world and not everybody's honest," said Wilma Grise.
In 47 years auctioning off cars at Wichita Auto Auction, Grise has seen many people try to sell flooded vehicles.
"They'll check the car in and tell you that it's good, it's this and this and this, but they'll forget to tell you that it was in a flood," she said.
Grise hasn't seen any flooded cars in a few months. But across the street at LT Automotive, Fred Kaufman expects to start seeing them again soon, courtesy of Hurricane Sandy.
"We'll probably be seeing them within the next six months or so," said Kaufman.
It's not always easy to tell by looking if a vehicle's been flooded. Some owners will deliberately try to hide the auto's condition and sell it quickly, rather than wait for their insurance to act. Others simply don't have insurance.
But there are clues you can look for to indicate a vehicle has been flooded, like smell.
"If it's been wet for a long time it'll start to mildew. You can lift the carpet and look underneath the carpet to see if there's any kind of mold or mildew," said Kaufman. "If you look around the inside of the engine compartment or the inside of the car, you can see the water line where the vehicle was as it was sitting underwater."
Some flooded vehicles can be repaired and drive fine, for awhile.
"Several years down the road, you're looking at potential rust issues, other parts failing because of the initial damage from the contact with the water," he said.
Which is why both Kaufman and Grise recommend running a background check on any vehicle you're considering buying.
"You can always run Carfax on it. With the id number you can run Carfax on it and Carfax will tell you whether it was a flood or not," said Grise.
Unless the seller is trying to hide something. Which is why you can have a mechanic inspect a car before you buy it.
Experts warn that, even if someone has repaired the mechanical parts of a flooded vehicle, the water damage can cause problems. There may be issues with the computer and electrical systems, as well as shorted out anti-lock brakes and airbags.
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