The rainy season is here again and along with it comes one of the car owner’s worst enemies: flooding. Recent typhoons namely Typhoon Rolly and Typhoon Ulysses damaged hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of vehicles nationwide. With the high level of water, even pick-ups and SUVs were not safe from flooded car problems.
Be prepared when flooding strikes. If you live in a flood-prone area, it’s best to evacuate your vehicle to higher ground. However, there’s still a chance that flood may get inside your vehicle. So keep on reading to know what to do with a water flooded car and the problems that may arise from it.
What to Do With a Water Flooded Car
Floodwater causes a lot of car problems that show up long after the vehicle has been submerged. It can ruin a vehicle’s electrical systems, mechanical systems, and lubricants. Flood-damaged cars are costly to repair, so never risk it—avoid passing through a flooded area. Wait for the floodwater to subside before driving on.
But sometimes, cars still get flooded while they’re stuck in traffic or parked in flood-prone areas. When that happens to your ride, inspect it afterward to spot any damage and make it roadworthy again. Here are some tips on what to do with a flooded car.
1. Dry your vehicle
You can use a vacuum to dry off the moisture from your vehicle. Towels and fans can also help dry your car’s soaked seats and cushions. Once your flooded vehicle is dry, get it to higher ground. This will make it easier for you to check damages.
2. Do not start your car
If you have a water-damaged car, the last thing you want to do is get its engine running as this may destroy its mechanical and electrical systems. Also don’t forget to disconnect the battery to protect you from any electric shock.
3. Check the engine oil and fuel system
Get a stick long enough for you to check the level of the oil. If there are water droplets on the stick, it means there’s water inside the engine. When this happens, do not start your car–oil and water will mix if you do. Look into the fuel system and drain off some gas from your flooded car. If there is water in the gas, flush your fuel system.
4. Check your electrical system
The most you can do to check your vehicle’s electrical system is see if their placements are below or over the flood level. If below, you need to replace the system. Also check if water seeps through your flooded car’s coolant reservoirs, brake, clutch, and power steering.
5. Seek help from a professional
If your car was severely damaged by flood, it is advisable to call a mechanic to further inspect the damages. Checking and repairing your flooded car on your own may lead to bigger issues. Leave it to the pros, they know what they’re doing.
6. Document everything
If you have comprehensive car insurance, document your water-damaged car by taking notes of the damages and photos for reference. Send them to your car insurance provider for claim purposes. They may cover parts or the entire repair cost under Acts of Nature coverage.
7. Consider trading your vehicle
A car’s value depreciates 10% per year. If your flooded car has been repaired, it’s value will go down to about 20% per year, depending on the extent of the damage. Auto dealers in the Philippines usually have a trade-in program that allows people to sell their flooded cars, which the dealers will then restore and resell as pre-owned cars.
7 Typical Flood-Damaged Car Problems
Whether you’re reviving a flooded car or buying a used one, here are the tell-tale signs of a flood-damaged vehicle you must be aware of.
1. Malfunctions in the Electronics and Electrical System
A vehicle’s electronics and electrical parts always sustain the most serious damage after flooding. Moisture can cause a short circuit in the electrical system, resulting in malfunction of its critical components, including the following:
Electrical control unit (ECU)
Headlights, brake lights, turn signals, and other automotive lights
Air conditioning system
Power windows, power locks, and power seats
Audio and video systems
Anti-lock brake system
Before turning these electrical parts on for inspection, make sure that the engine is safe to start. All the plugs, switches, and relays must be dried out.
If you notice anything wrong with how a certain component works, that’s a clear sign of electrical trouble. Also, if the ECU got soaked, have it checked immediately at the repair shop.
2. Mechanical Damage to the Engine
The engine is another critical part of your car that needs utmost attention after it’s flooded. When floodwater reaches engine parts like the air intake and cylinders, the piston will try to compress it. Since water doesn’t compress, it can break the piston rods and lead to engine stalling.
To find out if floodwater has entered the engine, check the oil dipstick for water droplets and oil that looks milky.
3. Mold and Mildew in the Interior
Instagram photo by @samanthaa195
Apart from car problems, flooding also poses health issues to drivers and passengers. Submerged in floodwater, a car’s interior may quickly develop mold and mildew that can cause respiratory diseases such as asthma and allergies.
A strong musty odor means mold is present in a car. Remove and check these parts in your flooded car:
Carpets and floor mats
Some of the wet parts, such as the carpets, door panels, and seats, can be replaced. You can put towels on the floor and seats to soak up water. Don’t let water sit in your car for too long.
4. Mud and Debris in Hard-to-Clean Areas
Floodwater may leave mud and debris on areas of your car that aren’t easily obvious. Check the hard-to-clean places where mud or debris could be lodged. These include the engine compartment, wheels, brakes, underbody, and gaps under the hood and between panels in the trunk.
Found a lot of mud and debris in your car? Have it detailed to ensure that even the hard-to-reach areas are all clean.
5. Corroded Car Parts
Rust takes months or years to form on the various parts of a flooded car. It can weaken your car’s structure and affect functions like braking and shifting gears. At the first signs of rusting after your car has been flooded, work immediately to remove rust from your vehicle before it spreads out.
Check these rust-prone areas in your car:
Screws and bolts
6. Slippery Brakes
After being immersed in floodwater, brakes tend to lose grip because of the loss of contact between the brake pads and the wet brake rotors. Step on the brake pedal repeatedly before you drive on. If it feels slippery, have a mechanic inspect your car brakes.
7. Contaminated Fluids
Water in the transmission, brake fluid, power steering, and coolant reservoirs can spell trouble for your car’s performance. These parts will get damaged due to corrosion and lack of lubrication. For instance, when floodwater is mixed with fuel, fuel injectors, spark plugs, and the engine will be seriously damaged.
So check your car’s fluids in the fuel filter and tank, as well as the power steering, coolant, clutch, and brake fluid reservoirs for floodwater contamination.
An Acts of Nature or Acts of God coverage is extremely important for car owners in the Philippines. When your ride gets flooded, you can file a claim for repair or replacement. Take photos of your flood-damaged car and talk to your insurance provider to know what kinds of repairs are included in your vehicle insurance plan. Does it include replacement of fluids and electrical parts or cleaning of the interiors? If your car insurance covers repairs for a flooded car, file your claim as early as possible.
Read more helpful articles:
 Typhoon Ulysses leaves P4.25-B damage to infrastructure –DPWH (Aguilar, Inquirer.net, 2020)
 How to Prevent and Remove Rust on Your Car Like a Pro (Wojdyla and Schrader, Popular Mechanics, 2020)
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