Car Doctor Q&A: I Involuntarily Turned My Car into a Duck Boat

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Flooding has been a major problem all summer, up and down the East Coast. This RAV4 owner was one of the lucky victims.

Q. A couple of weeks ago, my trip to the Walmart to get $7 worth of Pedialyte turned into nearly a $3,000 venture when a freak thunderstorm deposited 8.14 inches of rain, overwhelming the parking lot’s drainage systems.

My 2016 Toyota RAV4 engine was flooded, though no water got into the interior of the cabin. It has 26K miles and I drive 7500 miles per year.

Insurance paid for the dealership to repair the vehicle (less deductible), replacing the most of the engine, mass air flow sensor and a few other pieces.

Everyone I know tells me to get rid of the car, even after its been repaired. They foresee corrosion issues, electrical problems down the road. All of these folks are well-meaning “amateurs”, so I thought I’d consult the ‘Doctor’. The dealership said that the car before-the-flood had a trade value of $16,000, post deluge:$13,500.

What should I do? I appreciate your sharing your wisdom.

RELATED: How to Avoid Buying a Flood Damaged Car

A. If this was a salt or brackish water I would have a real concern with corrosion and electrical gremlins. Since this was rain water and the under-hood components are designed to get wet, I have far fewer concerns.

The same goes for the body. Today’s vehicles are pretty corrosion resistant, after all you drive in heavy rain and the car dries out and no one worries about it. One area that I would check on is that the transmission and differential fluids were changed. It is possible that when the parking lot was flooded water made its way into these components. Diluted fluids will lead to accelerated wear and failure.

[Ed. Note: Regarding the value, it very much depends on whether that incident appears on a CarFax report. CarFax has been a boon to used car shoppers, but it’s been a bit of a curse to a car seller or trader-in.¬†

Your car wasn’t totaled, but if the insurance company had to pay out, it will likely show up as some kind of an incident on a CarFax report.

The trouble is that CarFax doesn’t distinguish between a car that had minor, very repairable¬† damage like yours and one that had major damage, but not enough to consider it a total loss.

Chances are good that when you try to trade it, a dealer is going to offer you a lot less than if it didn’t have that incident on the CarFax report]

If this was my car I would drive it and only consider trading it, if it started to have some mysterious problems. If it was repaired properly it shouldn’t.

John Paul is senior manager of public affairs for AAA Northeast. A certified mechanic, Paul tests dozens of new cars each year and also hosts a radio show on AM 950 wrolradio.com

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John Paul

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