Thousands of motorcycles likely sustained water damage during Hurricane Harvey’s slow slog up the Gulf Coast and Hurricane Irma’s blast across Florida. Whether you can salvage a flood-damaged bike depends largely on how long and how much of the bike was in the water, whether the bike suffered additional damage from wind-blown or floating debris and, most of all, how quickly you can get it to a pro for evaluation and repair, if that’s possible.
Based on my experience and the experts I’ve talked with, here’s five steps to take if your motorcycle was in a flood:
- Before you do anything, take pictures of your motorcycle just as you found it. Insurance adjustors may be weeks getting to you and you’ll want to have evidence of the immediate post-flood condition of the bike.
- Wash off your bike using a pressure hose and mild detergent. Flood water is often a corrosive stew of mud, salt water, sewer seepage and toxic waste. The sooner you get it off your bike, the better. After it’s clean, copy down the bike’s VIN number from the nameplate and save it with your photos.
- DO NOT ATTEMPT TO START YOUR BIKE if you suspect water covered the entire engine and muffler. You don’t want to mix water with your fluids. Quickly get your bike to a mechanic and have all the fluids drained and replaced. You might want to change your oil out several times to make sure it’s free of all contaminants. Remember, corrosion begins immediately. The sooner you get in to someone who can evaluate the damage and begin flushing out and drying up process, the better the odds of salvaging your bike.
- Check your motorcycle insurance. If you purchased comprehensive motorcycle insurance either as a requirement of your financing, or separately, you are protected in the event of flooding. Your insurer will pay to repair your bike or replace it at fair market value. If you didn’t purchase comprehensive insurance, but only purchased the required liability policy, you are out of luck. Homeowner insurance policies, by the way, do not cover damage to vehicles, including motorcycles. If your insurance information was lost in the flood, call your insurance company. They should be able to locate a copy for you.
- If you can’t replace, consider repair. There’s lots of advice online on how to repair a motorcycle damaged by flooding, and lots of debate as to whether to attempt it at all. Only experienced do-it-yourselfers will know if it’s something they want to tackle. However, keep in mind today’s modern motorcycles are just as packed with sophisticated electronics as newer cars and, no matter what you do, water-logged electronics cannot be salvaged. Eventually, corrosion will do its dirty work; you don’t want to be riding down the highway when that happens. By the time you replace all your electronics, you may as well have bought a new motorcycle.
If you decide to buy a used motorcycle, beware of unknowingly buying one that has been water damaged. Unscrupulous dealers have been known to load up trucks full of damaged vehicles, cars and motorcycles, and ship them to other parts of the country to sell. Before buying a used motorcycle you should:
- Take the seat off and look for water stains
- Open the battery box and, with a flashlight, check for dirt, sand, rust or other debris
- Pay attention if anything smells of mold, or strong odor fresheners
- Check the motorcycle’s Car Fax history to see where the last owner lived
- Look into all areas that are hidden, including electrical components, for signs of rust or dirt
- Keep in mind IF THE PRICE IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS
Follow these six steps and hopefully you will soon be back on the road again.