Fords don't float

Much of the East Coast has been hit with flooding in the last few weeks, and car dealers have not been exempt. Is there a way that I can tell whether a car, particularly a never-titled new car, has been subjected to water damage? It’s not like checking for bodywork or fresh mechanical repairs. I understand that, theoretically, a water-damaged car could be taken apart and refurbished, but I suspect that some dealers will just dry out the carpets and sell them them as fast as possible. What should I – or a mechanic – look for?

Even a never titled car would have to be sent somewhere for repairs for major flood damage. A dealership wouldn’t have the resources to have it done in house with as many cars as they usually have at a new car dealership. There are deffinately records and most of the time they keep decent records. It’s part of the contract they have with the manufacturers in most cases. If they do have to perform flood repairs, they typically will advertise the vehicle as flood damaged and mark it down as many dealerships do with hail damage.

Neither do parts.
Another caution to put out there.


Many new parts were flooded right on their shelves as so many businesses had to just up and evacuate. From dealers to parts houses, millions in parts inventory was under water, too.

One dealer who’s post I saw on the Ford site had two feet of water in the parts warehouse. That’s two or three shelves on every bin. Mud in every crevice.

One place to check is the dome light. A vehicle that has sat in water for a long period of time will have condensation collect in the dome light and then later develop into water droplets.

Feel under the seats for dampness.

Check for a musty smell inside the interior.

Look under the hood for rusted components and for any soil/sand collected anywhere.


realistically, the dealership isn’t going to lose any money from those cars if they can’t sell them at full price - that’s what insurance is for. And since they filed an insurance claim on them, they’d be really stupid to then try to sell them as new, unblemished cars. They’d be caught right away. I wouldn’t worry too much unless you’re talking about some fly by night dealership where the name changes every month or so.

Unfortunately these vehicles show up and there’s no record of them ever being in a flood…

Many of the dealerships will sell their flooded vehicles at pennies on the dollar…Some of these people who buy them…clean them up…then sell them as NEW. It’s rare…but it DOES happen. Many times the dealer selling the flooded vehicle is in a complete different state not even close to where the flood was.

A ford is a shallow place with good footing where a river or stream may be crossed by wading or in a vehicle.


A prime spot to check would be in the bottoms of the doors. Remove the inner door panel & check for mud in the bottom of a door. I once worked at a dealership that was hit by a flood. When they got back up & running again, bring in used cars from the auctions, that’s what we looked for.

The issue of title washing has become significant enough that some legislators were looking into establishing a standardized federal system, or at least some prohibitive restrictions with criminal penalties, to try to prevent it. I don’t know where in the process the legislation currently is, but I think the time has come.