GEORGE TOWN: The severity of damage to a flooded car can be divided into three levels and the worst can cost up to RM50,000 to repair, said car workshop co-owner Chan Kok Hoe.
“If the car is submerged while the engine is dead, there will not be serious repairs. If the owner drove through a flooded road and the engine stalls, it will still be nothing major.
“But if the driver tries to restart a stalled or submerged car, then the electronic engine control unit (ECU) will be shorted out and it will cost a bomb to fix,” he said.
It has been eight days since the floods began on the night of Nov 4, and Chan and his crew were still towing damaged cars to the workshop as of yesterday.
His 43-year-old company, Chan Brothers, is part of a network of over 20 tow trucks on Penang island and he charges RM120 per tow on the island.
“Each of our tow trucks handles about 10 cars a day. We still have cars on our waiting list and we are still getting calls.
“Now that many victims are done cleaning their homes, their attention will be on their cars.
“On the mainland, tow trucks from Kedah, Perak and Kuala Lumpur went to help,” he said.
Based on the calls his network has been getting, Chan estimates up to 10,000 cars in Penang were affected by the disaster.
“My handphones have been ringing every two to three minutes since the floods. At first, I got calls until 3am and customers were scolding me,” he said.
Chan’s crew member K. Ananthi, 35, said the first call to tow a flooded car came in at about 8.30pm on Nov 4.
“It was in Bayan Baru where the water was waist-high. We tried to reach the car but couldn’t so we went to the next call in Bandar Baru Ayer Itam but that was also too deep for our tow truck,” she said.
Chan also said many car owners were stunned by the repair cost estimates from manufacturers’ service and repair centres.
“Many cars we towed were still under warranty and owners wanted their cars to be sent to the manufacturers’ service centres.
“Their repair quotations can come up to RM50,000 because new original parts must be used to maintain the warranty,” he said.
Since many owners do not have flood insurance for their cars and cannot afford the cost of repairs, they would then call him again to tow their cars to independent workshops.
“You can get the repairs done for about RM1,000 in these workshops, unless you shorted the ECU.
“Then you need a used ECU, which costs about RM7,000 for the average car to RM30,000 for a BMW,” he added.
In contrast, Chan said he found that owners of cars insured against floods were relieved.
“Car owners who live in low-lying areas tend to insure against floods. For others, it’s a miserable time.”
He said his company towed several cars for free when he knew the owners were poor and he also found charitable people to sponsor the repairs.
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