whet the appetites of unscrupulous repairers and traders. Understand that the promise of easy resale, to gullible and uninformed consumers, risks encouraging the botched refurbishment of vehicles that should have been permanently withdrawn from circulation. Or at the very least, receive more attentive and expensive care.
Electronics cost more to replace than mechanics
“In practice, if the water level exceeds the seat of the chair, the car is considered as non-repairable “, explained to Agence France Presse the Vice-President of the National Association of Automotive Experts Sylvain Girault, following the exceptional rainy episode that hit France in spring 2016. Since then, this common sense rule has not changed: it would even tend to be confirmed, because year after year, our vehicles carry more and more electronic computers, some of which are located very low, close to the floor.
“Disassembling the fittings to access the electronic modules and sensors, disconnect them, remove them from the vehicle, clean them, dry them, test them and then put them back in place is simply too expensive”, advises the representative on condition of anonymity. an equipment manufacturer. “Very often, doubt leads to recommend to the customer the pure and simple replacement of the part”, adds a repairer who works under the banner of the Bosch network. “We then come up against the question of price, with new electronic components which seem far too expensive, in view of the resale value of a vehicle over four years old. Not to mention the cost of hours of labor. ”
Malfunctions may appear long after the vehicle is put back into service.
Should we repair or not? The answer to this question is not always obvious. “Despite their obligation to offer recourse to re-use parts, not all repairers will bother to look for the second-hand electronic box or sensor ”, estimates our anonymous repairer. “It takes time: you have to consult the online catalogs of centers for end-of-life vehicles (ELVs), without warranty, because not everything is available.” This professional knows what he is talking about, he who sometimes struggles to find the right mirror or the compatible wing. Watch out for delays!
Sometimes repair is possible at a reasonable cost. But the owner is reluctant to take the risk. “Even when the repair does not present any particular difficulty, some experts prefer to classify the vehicle as economically irreparable (VEI)”, Confides our witness repairer. “It’s a lot of money invested for an altogether random result since, by nature, the consequences of a flood can sometimes be known weeks or even months later.”
Electronics are not the only ones to suffer in a flooded vehicle: corrosion and mold are to be feared
What is true for electrical devices is also true for the mechanical parts of the vehicle. Water infiltration into the gearbox will be of no consequence if its lubricant is replaced very soon. Because after a few weeks, corrosion attacks the surface treatment of the pinions and bearings, reducing their longevity. There is no rule : it all depends on the immersion time.
Same thing with an engine. It can stay submerged without much damage if the water level does not reach the air filter. And even if water did manage to get into the cylinders, conscientious mechanics could make sure the corrosion didn’t take its toll. Verification by endoscopic camera requires some dismantling operations, which could be dispensed with by unscrupulous repairers, who do not worry about long-term damage.
The traces of a flood are in the corners of the vehicle
In Germany and Belgium, insurance experts will have plenty of work to do in the weeks to come. Fatally, all the vehicles damaged during the floods cannot be examined quickly. Enough to leave time for unscrupulous professionals to attempt a quick repair, at little cost.
It’s a real race against time that begins: it is imperative to wash the seats, rugs and carpets. before mold grows there. Which is no small feat, in a cabin overheated by the sun, in summer. Once the fungi appear, treatments exist (UV radiation and detergents) but their cost discourages crooks. Only high value vehicles will be eligible.
Experts examining a suspicious vehicle look for traces of rust or mud in hidden corners, even under the dashboard. Another sign that does not deceive: the smell of mold. This is all proof that the vehicle has been exposed to unusually high humidity for a prolonged period.
The natural disaster decree facilitates the coverage of damage by the insurer
All things considered, the motorist would almost end up hoping to see his vehicle declared “economically irreparable”, at the end of the expertise commissioned by his insurer. The question would then arise as to whether or not he should risk having a vehicle repaired in which he would no longer really trust. Besides his official history (on the HistoVec portal in France, and CarPass in Belgium) will bear the indelible stain of its rehabilitation after flooding: a real foil for second-hand buyers.
In France, the expert has a period of three months after the declaration of the claim, to note the damage and assess the costs of repair. The insured must submit his declaration within five days of the loss, or within ten days of an order for a natural disaster. This is the most favorable case for motorists insured by third parties, whose policy generally does not cover the consequences of climatic phenomena.