How to spot water damage on your car

Maxene London
  • Sign in required

    Please sign in to your account to add a vehicle to favourite

  • Share this article

New Zealand's North Island has been hit rampaged by floods over the last week, with weather warnings continuing for the coming days.

Some of these have forced evacuations and caused significant damage to property, including vehicles. 

Water damage to vehicles can cause issues later down the track, so it is good to know whether your car has fallen victim to the storm.

Some of these pointers can be caused by things other than flooding though, so take that into consideration.

Read More

It's important to get your car checked over by a mechanic if you're concerned. 

Here's how you can spot water damage on your vehicle 

First, be on the lookout for rust

When water (particularly salt water) gets into places it's not meant to, it can touch metal surfaces that aren't designed to get wet and therefore cause oxidisation. While these rust patches could be rather small, it can get worse overtime. So take any rust seriously. 

Make sure you check over these spots for signs of rust and water damage: 

  • Brake parts
  • Suspension components 
  • Steering components
  • Frame
  • Bolts and screws
  • Clips
  • Brackets

Check for mould

Rust might not be the only thing growing inside your car if it's been impacted by flooding. Any absorbent materials inside the vehicle could be impacted by mould. Especially if it's been left wet for some time. 


  • Carpets
  • Carpet mats
  • Fabric seats

Are there any unusual or unpleasant smells?

Flood water can be pretty nasty. It can pick up all sorts of bugs, rubbish, and debris from the ground. Mould is usually pretty smelly itself, but even if mould hasn't started growing, there could be other bugs and odours building up. 

Electronics and connections could be damaged

Electronics and water don't mix well. Especially if they've been wet for periods of time. It's best to get these checked over by a mechanic, particularly if you see signs of physical damage.

Look for water lines and marks

Sometimes water lines and marks can be quite obvious. You can find these inside the vehicle on carpets, seats, and door interiors. Or they could be visible on the exterior of the car. These can be a sign there's more damage elsewhere. 

After you've checked over the car, make sure to take it to a trusted mechanic

If you're at all concerned, it's best to let an expert take a look. Especially if there's damage to the electrics! They'll let you know whether the car's worth fixing (and how big of a job it'll be), or if it's a write-off. It's always better to address your concerns sooner rather than later so that they don't get worse. 

Keep up to date with DRIVEN Car Guide

Sign up for the latest news, reviews, our favourite cars and more.

By signing up for this newsletter, you agree to NZME's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.