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SoCal Rain Causes Widespread Property Damage; Auto Club Provides Tips To Help Motorists and Homeowners

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Southern California’s recent heavy rainstorms have created many types of property damage that include flooded cars, home damage and potholes that can flatten tires and ruin car suspension components, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

The Auto Club is alerting consumers that they should check used vehicles for signs of prior flood damage before buying them, exercise caution to avoid pothole damage and check their homeowner’s policy to learn what types of water-related claims are covered.

Avoiding Pothole Damage

“Hitting even one severe pothole could pop a tire or alter the alignment of a wheel from suspension damage resulting in uneven tire wear. Uneven and premature tire wear means the tire will need replacement sooner than necessary and can increase fuel consumption at needless expense,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center 

Every year, the Auto Club responds to more than half a million calls for flat tire assistance. Many incidents are the result of damage caused by potholes.

“A broken shock or strut from hitting a pothole could alter the steering and handling of a vehicle and create dangers when driving at higher speeds or in tight corners,” McKernan added. 

On average, pothole vehicle repairs cost drivers about $600 per incident, according to AAA, but severe damage can cost over $1,000 to repair. Drivers who suspect they have suspension damage from hitting a pothole should have their vehicle towed to a qualified repair facility such as a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility. Visit AAA.com/repair to find a pre-inspected AAA Approved Auto Repair shop.

The Auto Club recommends the following tips to help drivers avoid potholes and protect vehicles from damage:

  • Maintain proper air pressure in all tires to provide as much cushion as possible between the pothole and tire rim. Consult the vehicle owner’s manual or the sticker on the driver’s side door jamb, inner glove box, or inside of the fuel filler flap for the tire manufacturer’s correct pressure.
  • Watch for potholes by leaving plenty of space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Alert drivers have time to avoid potholes so scan the road and increase following distance behind the vehicle ahead. Before swerving around a pothole, be sure to check surrounding traffic and lanes to determine if it’s safe to move over.
  • Maintain a safe speed for weather conditions. If a pothole can’t be avoided, slow down, if possible. Hitting a pothole at high speed increases the chance of tire damage as well as harm to wheels, shocks, struts, steering or suspension. High speed also increases chances of losing control of the vehicle, especially if a series of potholes occurs on a curved or uneven roadway.
  • When driving over more than one pothole, reduce vehicle speed and hold the steering wheel firmly to avoid losing control.
  • If possible, don’t brake directly over a pothole. Applying brakes causes the car’s weight to shift to the front of the vehicle and can increase damage from the impact. If a pothole strike is inevitable, slow down, release the brakes and straighten steering before making contact with the pothole.

Beware of Purchasing Previously Flooded Vehicles

It is legal to resell flood-damaged vehicles as long as the damage is disclosed to the buyer, but the Auto Club warns that some flood-damaged cars could be on the market without the required disclosure. Flooding can cause permanent damage to sensitive electronics that manage the engine’s operation or that control such safety components as air bags and antilock brakes. And such damage might not show up until months after the flooding occurred.

Telltale signs of a flood-damaged vehicle include mud or residue under the dashboard, musty odors in the cabin or trunk, and mud or grit behind under-hood components such as the alternator, starter motor, or power-steering pump.

Used-car shoppers can protect themselves by:

  • Accessing free information on www.carfax.com/flood, provided by Carfax, a firm that provides background checks on used vehicles. Prospective buyers enter a vehicle’s 17-character vehicle identification number (VIN) and check if it was registered in a disaster area. The site also shows if the vehicle’s title is marked “flood damaged.”
  • Checking the National Insurance Crime Bureau website, www.nicb.org/vincheck, which will indicate whether a vehicle has ever been reported as a salvage vehicle. This information is also free.
  • Buying a certified used car or truck—one warranted by the automaker, not just an individual car dealer—because automakers preclude flood-damaged cars from their certified-car programs.
  • Thoroughly test driving a used vehicle and having it inspected at an auto-body shop and an Auto Club-Approved repair shop.

Motorists whose vehicles are damaged by flooding should check with their insurance company to learn what coverage they may have for repairing or replacing the vehicle.

Home Water Damage

The recent rains also damaged many Southern California homes, from roof leaks to interior water damage. While damage caused by neglected home maintenance is not covered by homeowner insurance, some cases of rain-related damage are covered. If, for example, a tree falls during a storm and damages a home, that may be a covered loss.

The Auto Club advises homeowners to check with their insurance company about what types of water damage are covered by their policy.

 

Media Contacts

Doug Shupe
LA-based media contact
(512) 659-1632
shupe.doug@aaa-calif.com
Anlleyn Venegas
Public Affairs Specialist. Spanish-Language Media Spokesperson , Auto Club Enterprises
(619) 565-4556
Venegas.Anlleyn@ace.aaa.com
CST 1016202-80 Copyright © Automobile Club of Southern California. All Rights Reserved.
The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.