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Auto FraudPlaying a CSI: How to Detect Hidden Damage on Used Cars


If you have watched the widely acclaimed television show CSI, or any crime drama for that matter, you might have watched an episode or two of detectives examining a vehicle for hidden damage. A criminal used the car to commit a crime and then covered up the evidence by using one or more tactics.

When it comes to uncovering hidden damage on a used car, you do not have to be a CSI to discover the truth.

Some car dealerships try to sell used vehicles that hide some form of damage. From covering up the remnants of a flood to concealing large dents, car dealers can charge more for a used vehicle than the car is worth on the open market.

Although the used car market has experienced an uptick in the quality of its cars, you still need to be vigilant when it comes to hidden damage on used cars.

Methodical is the Key to Detect Flood Damage

Although it is more of a saying than it is a common practice, simply “kicking the tires” does not cut it when you check an automobile for hidden damage. You should prepare to spend plenty of time crouching and contorting into different positions to uncover issues with a used vehicle.

Since flooding is a common cause of car damage, make it the first item on your search list. Pull back the edge of the carpet inside the car to uncover concealed dirt, mud, or any other signs of exposure to water. Any used car that is under consideration for purchase should not have any dirt or mud under the floorboard carpet. You should also check the trunk for lingering moisture. If you find any rust on bolts, screws, or other types of exposed metal, you should run for exit to search for a more reputable auto dealership.

Shiny Paint Might Be a Bad Disguise

We all like the way a shiny car looks. It should mean the vehicle is in mint condition, but sometimes, the opposite is true. Shiny paint that glistens under the midday sun on a used car might indicate the vehicle was recently painted. The sales rep from the auto dealer might claim the car received the paint job to remove unsightly blemishes in the previous paint, but the fact remains shiny paint can mean a vehicle has one or more ugly hidden secrets lurking under the new paint job.

You should also examine the door jambs to discover the color of the original paint. Contrast the color of the paint applied to the door jambs to the color of the paint covering the outside of the vehicle to determine whether the vehicle has received a recent paint job. Color variations indicate a car has undergone a cosmetic change that might cover up damage to the vehicle.

Paint Overkill Might Be a Sign

One sign of hidden damage that does require a CSI microscope is the over spraying of paint, which can indicate

recent bodywork performed on a vehicle. It is not just the amount of paint that is applied on the body, but also whether you notice paint present on parts that should not have any paint on them. For example, paintwork completed near the engine compartment might be detected on nearby components like the headlights or any other component that should not have any paint on it. Check beneath the bumpers and under the hood to find areas that have paint, but should have paint on them.

No Label on One or More Parts

Any used car that you consider for purchase should have a Vehicle Identification Number placed on visible body parts. If you do not see a VIN on a body part like the hood, door, fender, and quarter panel, then the auto dealer might have replaced the part. Although a new part does not mean the car recently underwent bodywork, it should raise a red flag if you do not see a VIN on the visible body part. A red flag raised means you should question the sales rep about why the dealership replaced one or more parts of a used car.

Work with a California Auto Fraud Attorney

If you suspect auto fraud in the form of hidden damages to a motor vehicle, get in touch with a California-licensed consumer protection attorney. You are not looking for a forensic scientist to help you fight back against auto fraud. You just want a lawyer who provides you with helpful legal advice.

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