Hank Investigates: Fixed-up Flood Cars - 7News Boston WHDH-TV

Hank Investigates: Fixed-up Flood Cars

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You can tell this car is a total wreck. And this one. And this one. But how about this black sedan? It’s totaled too -- A few weeks ago it was somewhere under here, engulfed by the New England floods.

Now it's soggy, soaked and smells terrible.

Hank

"Oh it smells awful."

Michael Nastari, Regional Appraising Manager, Liberty Mutual

"It smells terrible, yes."

And it's an accident waiting to happen.

Michael Nastari, Regional Appraising Manager, Liberty Mutual

"This car was totaled because the water it was submerged in was above the dashboard."

Hank

"So the water was up to here on the car?"

Michael Nastari, Regional Appraising Manager, Liberty Mutual

"Correct."

This car should not be resold, but our investigation finds cars like this may soon be flooding the market. Insurance experts know after a disaster, con artists go to work on cars.

Hank

"So you know cars like this can be made to look great.”

Michael Nastari, Regional Appraising Manager, Liberty Mutual

"Yes."

Look under the hood: The fuse box is corroded, the wiring soaked.

Hank

"Is this car dangerous?"

Michael Nastari, Regional Appraising Manager, Liberty Mutual

"It is dangerous because you don't know what will fail electronically down the road."

There's dirt and leaves and grime and water in every crack and crevice. Rust is already starting to spread. And look at the trunk! It's a breeding ground for mold and mildew and more rust.

Hank

"Will that ever go away?

Michael Nastari, Regional Appraising Manager, Liberty Mutual

"No. No."

But we had this rustbucket towed to an auto rehab shop and asked experts to demonstrate a deception.

Carl Garcia, Carl's Collision Center, Fall River, MA

"If you know what you're doing its pretty easy."

It happens every time there's a flooding disaster: after Katrina thousands of waterlogged cars were dredged up, disguised, and put on back the market across the U.S.

But watch the rehab team at work armed with solvents, cleaners, solutions, soap and wax, they power wash, rub, scrape and scrub every knob and opening, every piece of plastic and metal.

They vacuum, get the gunk from the trunk, blast it dry. Hours later: the past is erased.

Here's the "before," here's the "after." Trunk. Taillight. Windshield. Engine. Interior. Wheels.

After a few tweaks from a good mechanic this car could be back on the road.

Carl Garcia, Carl's Collision Center, Fall River, MA

"It's pretty amazing how you can cover things up in a hurry."

Properly titled flood cars will say "flood" or "salvage", but fraud experts know there's nothing to stop a private seller from drying out a car and selling it as just "used."

But you don't have to fall for a faked up flood car. Insiders showed us where history is hard to hide:

Check the headlights: water in here is tough to remove. Look for rust on screws, seat sliders and door latches. And examine the fuse box, water damage like this is often overlooked.

So warning for prospective buyers: these deceptive beauties will run for a while, but not for long and then its hidden history will be revealed and the New England floods will claim another victim: you.

Insiders predict New England flood cars could be flooding the market any day now -- so it’s critical to check for water damage and to check a cars history before buy it.

Here are some websites that can help you check out a car’s history:

National Motor Vehicle Title Information System: http://www.vehiclehistory.gov/

Carfax: http://www.carfax.com/

(Copyright (c) 2010 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

 

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