What Vehicle Owners Need to Know During Hurricane SeasonOctober 26, 2020
It’s hurricane season, and Louisiana has already seen damage. But information on how to prepare and protect yourself and your vehicle is as important as ever.
We’ve compiled some of the most important information car owners need to know before, during, and after a hurricane hits.
How to Prep Your Car for Hurricanes
Whether you are hunkering down for the storm or are waiting for evacuation orders, it is important to make sure you are ready for whatever comes next. Following these tips can mean the difference between being prepared, and scrambling to protect your vehicle from hurricane damage at the last minute, potentially putting yourself at risk in the process.
- Make sure your gas tank is full and your battery has a full charge.
- Check that your windshield wipers are functioning and your tires have a safe amount of tread.
- Take photos of your car from all sides, so any damage potentially sustained from the hurricane can be clearly seen not to have been pre-existing.
- Place important documents, such as the vehicle title, registration, and insurance, in a waterproof bag.
- Pack an emergency supply kit with food, water, first-aid supplies, extra clothes, a flashlight with extra batteries, physical maps, and external chargers for your phone.
- Close all windows, the sunroof (if applicable), and cover with a car cover (if you own one).
- If parking outside, park on high ground away from trees and powerlines, and against a building that can provide protection from high winds.
- If parking in a garage, remove hanging items or items from shelves that could fall and damage your car, and place them on the ground. Depending on whether you believe you will need to evacuate, backing into the garage can make it easier and faster to get out, while parking parallel to the garage door can help shore up the door.
How to Safely Evacuate by Car in a Hurricane
If you need to evacuate through a hurricane-damaged area, or while the hurricane is ongoing, follow these safety measures:
- Be prepared to potentially spend a day or more in your car. Bring blankets in case you need to sleep in your vehicle.
- Never drive over a downed power line.
- Never drive through water – standing water could be much deeper than it appears, and as little as a foot of water could cause your vehicle to float and be carried away by underlying currents.
- If your vehicle becomes trapped in rising water and you are unable to restart it, immediately abandon it and flee for higher ground. If you are unable to leave your vehicle safely, call 911.
What to Do If Your Car Is Flooded
If your vehicle was exposed to flood water in a hurricane, it is likely to have suffered severe damage and may even be considered totaled by your insurance company and need to be replaced. However, before it can be determined whether your car can be saved, you need to follow these steps.
- Get your car out of water as soon as possible.
- Don’t attempt to start the car until it’s been thoroughly cleaned and inspected. Attempting to start the car could cause further damage if there is still water in the engine.
- Contact your insurance company and tell them the highest level of water exposure in the vehicle.
- Remove the seats to help the carpet dry faster.
- Use a wet/dry vacuum and towels to soak up water inside the vehicle.
- Flush and replace all liquids, oil, and lubricants, and replace all filters and gaskets.
- Bring your vehicle for a thorough inspection of all mechanical components to check for water damage.
Be Careful When Car-Buying After a Major Hurricane
Buyer beware when shopping for a used car after a major hurricane, even if you live outside of the area affected! Flood damaged cars don’t always end up off the market, even if they’ve been totaled by your insurer – they could be repaired then shipped outside of their original region to be resold to unsuspecting buyers.
Although cars that have been totaled and rebuilt are supposed to be issued a new “salvage” title that plainly declares if they were flood-damaged, some use obscure letter or number codes to do so. Other times, rebuilt cars are incorrectly issued clean titles.
Even if a car has been dried out and looks fine, that doesn’t mean it’s safe to drive. Floods can damage vital electronics like the airbag controller, corrode major mechanical parts including the engine, cause rust and mold, and more.
You can also look for evidence of prior flood damage, including:
- Musty smell to the carpets
- Visible waterline on lens of headlights
- Evidence that the seat mounting screws have been removed (which could indicate the seats were removed to dry the carpet)
- Mud in difficult-to-clean places, such as the gaps between the panels in the trunk and under the hood, where mud wouldn’t typically accumulate
If you suspect the vehicle you are considering purchasing may have been in a flood, Carfax offers a free flood damage check as well.
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