A car is most vulnerable when it’s parked and it may do fine wading through a bit of flood, but if it’s stopped and water is given time to seep through the small cracks and crevices, then many problems can occur especially if the automobile spends a lot of time saturated in floodwater.
Preparation is key, but if your car gets flooded, it’s a serious situation that must not be taken lightly. Follow these steps and take action in order to minimize the damage. Even with good ground clearance, you should take caution, avoid the areas that are prone to flooding, and make sure that you prepare for the worst in order to keep your car from damage if possible.
Before a flood
Preparation is key in preparing for the worst. Cars and water don’t really mix, and especially if it is placed in a very compromising location for flood water to attack its delicate internal components. If you can help it, make sure to do the necessary preparations to keep your car safe. No matter how rugged your vehicle is, when exposed to flood waters or even currents, all that engineering can get undone.
Remove important items
If there are things that you don’t want to get wet inside the car like important documents or electronics like dashcams, uninstall them first. If you have other items inside like documents or owners manuals, keep them in a safe place first. Also, take note of tools and equipment like tire jacks and socket wrenches that can rust if exposed to moisture.
Move it to higher ground
Low-lying areas will be affected the most when floods do occur, and cars are vulnerable to water damage if the water level gets high enough. Bring your vehicle to a less flood-prone area in order to save it and avoid costly repairs, or the loss of the entire vehicle.
Cars that are more prone to getting submerged will obviously be those models that are rather low to the ground. Sedans like the Mazda3, MG 5, or the Kia Soluto, won't fare as well as Pickups, SUVs or crossovers with higher ground clearance, such as the Toyota Hilux, Ford Everest, or Geely Coolray to name a few. Though your car may be more resistant to drowning, it would be wise to still take precautions and put your automobile in a safe place for good measure.
The problem with this is that you need to anticipate when flooding will occur during a storm. Flash floods can happen without warning, and they can leave your car vulnerable, always be on the lookout for weather forecasts and news to make the necessary preparations.
Disconnect the battery
For this, you will need a socket or an open wrench, the size of the bolt will depend on your vehicle’s manufacturer.
You need to cut all power from the battery to the rest of the car’s electricals. This will help prevent any short circuit and will also protect your car’s sensitive electronics that are vital to its operation, like the Engine Control Unit or (ECU). Make sure to unscrew the negative terminal.
Release the parking brake and put it in gear
Keep your transmission in 1st gear for manual transmissions or in ‘P’ for automatics. This practice will prevent the brake pads or shoes from sticking to the drum or disc, preventing you from moving. This is more important for cars with drum brakes in the rear because water can get trapped inside and oxidation can make the parts seize.
After a flood
So after everything, wait 24 hours then get access to the car assuming the water level has gone down. This will give the car time to drain or dry out. Of course, this will depend on the body style of the car, be it a sedan, crossover, van, or SUV.
If the flooding wasn’t that bad in your area and the water level only went up to the wheels, but not over the center of the wheel or up to zone 1 as seen in the infographic, then you should be good. Perhaps get your underside washed and perhaps still take it to a mechanic for a good checkup.
If your car got submerged above the centerline on the body, or close to the side mirrors or door handles then you should be cautious, as there may be some components and fluids that are compromised and some water could have gotten inside. Note that this will not be the same for all automobiles, and a good rule of thumb is to use the car’s body as a basis for the depth. Any level above zone 1 will need extra care and attention to make sure the car lives to drive another day, but do not start the car or activate any electronics.
If the water was above or touching the side mirrors, then you should definitely take caution and care to make sure your car survives and do not start the car or activate any electronics.
Of course, the basis will depend on what car you own. Even if you have a car with good ground clearance like the Mitsubishi Montero Sport, Toyota Fortuner, or even a crossover like the Ford Territory, then you should still take precautions. Cars that are lower to the ground are more prone to getting submerged quicker, like that of sedans such as the ever-popular Toyota Vios.
What needs to be done, repaired, or replaced?
If your car was completely submerged in water, make sure to use a towing or flatbed service in order to bring it to a mechanic. If the car was only partially submerged, have a trusted mechanic test each of these items.
- Drain the fuel tank
- Replace the fuel filter
- Do a proper oil change 3 times in quick succession
- Drain and replace Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) or gear oil
- Drain and replace power steering fluid (if applicable)
- Drain and replace radiator coolant
- Clean and dry air box or air intake
- Clean carburetor (if applicable)
- Replace or dry air filter
Brakes and suspension
- Bleed and replace brake fluid for all sides
- Repack all bearings, CV joint, and shaft bearings.
- Dry out ECU
- Dry out all switches
- Dry out headlights and taillights
- Dry out MAF or O2 sensor
- Dry out the gauge cluster
- Dry out Audio system and infotainment
- Dry out Electric power steering harness
- Wash carpets
- Clean the seats
- Detail door sidings
- Replace cabin filter
- Airconditioning evaporator and clean
There could be more items that you need to take care of after a flood. Make sure to bring your car to a professional for the more advanced work, and just because your car got flooded, doesn’t mean it won’t live to drive another day. As long as you take the necessary precautions such as parking it in a safe place and disconnecting your battery, you should be good, however, if you do get hit by a flood hard, then saving your car should be doable with the right practice and the right help. Just make sure to set aside a budget, or check your insurance policy if it includes acts of god so you don’t suffer too much financially.