Flood Vehicles (Super Storm Sandy)

We’ve been hearing about the used car market being flooded (sorry, I just couldn’t help that!) with totaled cars from the flood waters of the super storm Sandy. It brought back some distinct memories of mine! A colleague of mine in Pennsylvania posted this on my favorite tech forum. I’ll paste his question 1st, and then my response.

Hi Folks,

There appears to be many flood vehicles becoming available after Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast. I have been getting approached by customers inquiring what it would take and how much it will cost to put a flood vehicle back on the road. And I know that not every vehicle may have the same issues / damage, just trying to get an idea what all maybe involved. Most, I am told, have salvage titles and some came from dealer lots. I know to look for the high water line, strip out the interior past the high water line, and change all fluids but after what other things should be or need to be done? Are there issues with wiring, special cleaning / sanitizing interiors & HVAC systems needed, and what about salt water / sea water problems?
Thanks for any thoughts and ideas,
Dave Koller
Koller’s Auto Repairs
Hellertown, Pennsylvania, USA


I have had the unfortunate experience with flood cars in 3 very different instances with differing results.

(1) My ’61 Ford Anglia was driven down a boat ramp at Silver Glenn Springs in 1980 by my bonehead of a brother. It had a voltage regulator for the generator and some switches and a horn relay. I named the location ’cause Ted Shore and Steve Brotherton and a few others will laugh and realize how clean the water is there. About 4 or 5 oil changes and I was able to drive it home to West Palm Beach.

(2)In 1982, a girlfriend drove my ’76 Datsun 610 down another boat ramp in W.Palm Beach into fresh water in Lake Clarke shores. High tannic acid, but fresh water nonetheless. Pulled the plugs and poured a couple of quarts of CRC down its Webber 32/36 throat, sprayed down the Mallory dual point, re installed the plugs and drove it 1 mile to my shop. the next several days involved pulling apart every relay , a hair drier and lots more CRC. All the fluids, etc. Then it was parked in the sun for a week to finish drying out. It had electrical gremlins from there on out.

(3) 1990 Acura legend flooded with muddy rainwater runoff at the Lakewood Amphitheater. The ins. co. came a few hundred from totaling the car (this was in 1990 at Acura Carland) so the job fell to me. What a complete disaster! Need I say more? Every transistorized component was either DOA or waiting for me to put it back together to die. Or waiting a week to come back on a tow hook dead. Never again. Notice how as the technology improved the chance of success goes down exponentially? And I didn’t even mention salt water, which is more than likely your problem.

Run, Forest!, Run!
Peter Haughton
Japanese Motor Works, Inc.
Athens, Georgia, USA

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