Ask SAM (WEB)

Car warning

In light of recent hurricanes, AAA Carolinas has issued a warning that people should be wary of buying a vehicle that may have suffered flood damage.

“In many cases, insurance companies deem flood damaged vehicles totaled, which are then sold to salvage companies. However, rather than being disassembled for parts, there are cases of some vehicles that are sold to individuals to restore them — with varying levels of expertise,” AAA warns. Such vehicles may pop up in the marketplace for many months after the flood. Obvious flood damage can be masked by fresh paint, new upholstery and chemicals that replicate the “new car” smell.

“While services like Carfax can be a good resource for buyers, the only true way of knowing whether a vehicle has suffered flood damage is to have a certified mechanic inspect the vehicle,” said Greg Pence, auto buying manager for AAA Carolinas.

Here are some of the precautions they recommend:

  • Engage your sense of smell to detect any damp or musty odors inside the vehicle.
  • Pay attention to such clues as whether the windows fog up or the carpet or upholstery has been replaced or recently shampooed. If you can, pull back the carpet at different areas to look for mud, dirt or water stains.
  • Inspect the dashboard underside for signs of mud and dirt. This is a particularly hard area to clean.
  • Look under the vehicle for corrosion. It is uncommon to find corrosion in newer vehicles and those that are owned or sold in southern states, AAA says.
  • Open all doors, hood and trunk to inspect for corrosion, mud and dirt or discoloration on the door frames, hinges and under the weather stripping. Pay special attention to small spaces and crevices that are difficult to clean.
  • Check all warning lights, window motors and all electrical components to ensure they are working properly. While a non-working part alone does not mean the vehicle was flooded, it combined with other difficulties is a cause for concern.

Another good practice that can help prospective buyers avoid flood-damaged cars and trucks is buying a vehicle history report.

“While such reports don’t always catch everything, more often than not they will indicate when a vehicle has been in a flood or been issued a salvage title, indicating a major problem in its past,” AAA says.

Q: I have still not received my N.C. state tax refund, despite having filed in early April. The automated phone line says we are still in “Phase 1,” same as we have been. Any suggestions?

F.S.

Answer: Most refunds should have been released by now, said Schorr Johnson, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Revenue.

“A very small number of refunds have not been released for returns with issues such as: missing information, those recently filed, or those that were checked for potential fraud or identity theft,” he said.

The DOR cannot discuss individual taxpayer information because of privacy laws, but Johnson said that the best way to get your questions answered is to contact their customer service line at 877-252-3052.

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Email: AskSAM@wsjournal.com

Online: journalnow.com/asksam

Write: Ask SAM, P.O. Box 3159, Winston-Salem, NC 27102 

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