NEW YORK (CNNMoney) –
Hurricane Sandy flooded thousands of cars up and down the Northeast. If your car got swamped by the storm, here’s what you need to know
Call your insurer: If your auto insurance only includes liability coverage, then you’re not covered for this. What you need is “comprehensive” insurance, said State Farm spokesperson David Phillips.
If you are covered, call your insurer or agent right away, said Phillips. Insurance companies are getting lots of calls right now, so it may be a while before a claims adjuster can come out, he said, but postponing the call only slows things down more.
In the meantime, take pictures of the damage. Then do anything you can to keep things from getting worse. For instance, if your car’s windows are broken, leaving the interior exposed to more rain, you might want to cover your car with a tarp. And keep your receipt for that tarp or anything else you buy, said Phillips. Your insurer can usually reimburse you for those expenses.
Should I try to start my car? If possible, avoid starting or driving the car until it’s been inspected, according to State Farm insurance. Starting a water-soaked car risks more damage.
If the seats are dry it’s unlikely the water got high enough to reach critical components. In this case, you might be able to go ahead and crank it up if you must, said Mike Calkins, manager of Approved Auto Repair with the automotive group AAA.
What if my car’s interior got wet? Don’t think that just leaving your car windows open will dry out the car and solve your problems. A wet interior will most likely require professional help, said Calkins. Upholstery and carpeting can trap water. The carpeting, in particular, can keep moisture pressed against metal body parts underneath, possibly causing rust. Also, moist upholstery and fabric can grow mold, which isn’t just a threat to your car, he said, but a threat to your health.
If your car has any significant moisture inside, call your insurer. A good body shop will have the expertise to disassemble the interior, dry out what can be saved and replace what can’t.
“Repairing flood damage can be as extensive and as expensive as restoring a classic car,” he said.
What if water got into the engine compartment? The engine itself isn’t what you should be worried about. Mechanical components can be dried out and should be just fine. The problem is that modern cars have lots of microelectronics and those can be damaged by even brief exposure to water.
Also, various fluids — like brake and power steering fluid — can become contaminated with water. Those fluids will need to be drained and replaced.
Don’t try to dry it out yourself. It seems like an easy thing to DIY, but cars and even homes have been burned down by people attempting to dry out their wet car with space heaters or hair dryers in the driveway or garage, said Calkin. Let the professionals do it. Don’t try it yourself.
If your car is declared a total loss from the flood, consider your options. Vehicle donation, such as through Car Donation Wizard, can be a way to support the charity of your choice, in the wake of such a disaster. Car Donation Wizard works with charities like: Habitat for Humanity, American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, NPR, Car Talk and many more. We take the hard work out of finding a legitimate charity to donate to because every charity we work with actually uses the proceeds from donated vehicles to continue their worthwhile missions. We accept non-running vehicles, like flooded cars; every vehicle donation is eligible for a tax deduction based on the selling price of the vehicle. In the wake of such disaster, we do not take your vehicle donation lightly. We know that your car is valuable and that’s why we hope you consider the charitable value of donating your hurricane damaged vehicle.