DIY

What to Do if Your Car Gets Flooded

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One of the most exasperating causes of car damage is a flood, especially if the floodwater reaches the engine. Floods can rise overnight and leave cars parked on the streets helpless and eventually be submerged much like cars during hurricane Dorian.

Keep in mind that the severity of flood damage depends on factors such as the floodwater level and your vehicle’s wading depth. Your main concern is the engine but components like the battery, transmission, and exhaust system are also good candidates for impending damage. If you want to know how to fix a flooded car, here’s a guideline on what you should do.

The first thing you should do if your car gets flooded is to call your insurance company. Flood damage is usually covered by a comprehensive insurance policy.

DO NOT attempt to start the engine

A car owner’s first instinct is to check if the car is still running by impulsively starting the car. This is probably the last thing you want to do because it can possibly damage your car to a point where it becomes unsalvageable. Before checking if the engine still runs, you have to first evaluate the following:

Call your insurance company and review your insurance policy

The first thing you should do is call your insurance company. Flood damage is usually covered by a comprehensive insurance policy. These policies typically cover fire and theft, though you can always review your insurance policy or call your insurance agent whenever you are not sure. The insurance company will send an assessor, sometimes accompanied by a mechanic, to assess the extent of damage to your car. The agent can declare your car a total loss if the total flooded car repair cost is more expensive than the vehicle is worth.

Check how deep your car was submerged

If the water reaches past the middle of your tires, the car is usually considered a total loss. That’s because the water has most likely reached most of the electrical wiring and components of the car. If the water rises a little higher, then the water will reach the engine. If you find your car after the flood has already subsided, look for mud or debris residue on your car. The residue indicates how high the water has crept up on your car from the outside. If the water level is passed the mid-portion of the tires, follow tip number one and don’t start your engine.

If the water reaches past the middle of your tires, the car is usually considered a total loss.

Dry the interior

When the water has already subsided, you should consider drying the interior to avoid damaging trimmings and electrical wiring. Prolonged exposure to water causes mold to grow and spread in the cabin, which is unhealthy for the future occupants of the vehicle. Soak up water using rags and towels. Other materials like seat padding and floor mats are likely to deteriorate over time so consider replacing them. When drying up a flooded car carpet, it is best to take them out and let them cool by hanging them near a heater. You may also use a wet/dry vacuum to get rid of excess moisture.

Check oil and air filter

A car’s mortal enemy is water inside its mechanical systems but what is more concerning is water entering the engine itself, affecting the different fluids that help it run. If the oil pan, which is located underneath your car, has gaskets that are worn out, water can easily enter and mix with the oil. One simple way of checking if there’s water mixed in your oil is to check your car’s oil level. If the dipstick shows a higher oil level than the last time you checked, it means water is present. You may also want to check if the water has reached the air filter by removing it from the air filter box. 

Inspect the other fluids

Aside from the oil and air filter, you also need to check all the reservoirs like the brake fluid, power steering, coolant, and transmission fluid. While it’s possible to check these on your own, it is still best to have your trusted mechanic perform the inspection. Contamination of these fluids will likely cause various systems in the car and major components to malfunction, which can be expensive to replace.

When the water has already subsided, you should consider drying the interior to avoid damaging trimmings and electrical wiring.

Find out if the electrical system is affected

This tip is only applicable if you are one hundred percent certain that your engine and fluid reservoirs are free from water contamination. The next thing you should check is your vehicle’s electrical system and you can only do this by switching your engine on. Before driving your vehicle, make sure the headlights, fog lights, turn indicators, and tail lights are working properly. You may also check the air conditioning, radio, power features like power windows, locks, and seats, and cabin ambient lights for any signs of system failure. 

Call your trusted tow truck company

Remember that you can’t drive your car if the flood reached the crucial components of your car. The only way you can transport it is through the help of a tow truck. Make sure you dry out your vehicle immediately while waiting for the tow truck to arrive. Even if you think your car is still drivable, we still suggest you call in your trusted tow company and have it transported to your mechanic. Driving it with existing flood damage will only make things worse for your car.

While it’s possible to perform these tasks alone, we still suggest that you seek out a certified mechanic’s help. He or she more likely knows how to fix a flooded car engine than anyone else, as he or she can also evaluate how bad the damage is. You also need to make sure to contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Insurance companies will likely receive an overwhelming number of calls around the time of a wide-spread calamity, especially now that experts are predicting a longer hurricane season.

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CarParts.com

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In the Garage with CarParts.com is an online blog dedicated to bringing DIYers and devoted car enthusiasts up to date with topical automotive news and lifestyle content. Our writers live and breathe automotive, taking the guess work out of car repairs with how-to content that helps owners get back on the road and keep driving.

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