Although modern cars are built more advanced today with all the technical upgrades and such, they are not made waterproof. Drivers probably already know that it is never a good idea to drive on flooded roadways. However, there are some areas that are prone to flooding. You might be driving one day and all of sudden the weather has changed and you find yourself driving through floodwaters. If you are in this situation, you might ask, how high does water have to be to damage a car? If the water is just a few inches off the ground, it is still okay to drive through it. However, if it rises to about 15 centimeters or 6 inches to a foot above the ground, it may damage your car. Water that is higher than that can cause your engine to lose power and float.
Asking how high does water have to be to damage a car means that you know that driving through flood waters can cause potential damage to it. The water can get into the engine compartment or to the interior which can lead to multiple damages of your car’s major components and parts. The flood water can also flood your brake, fuel, or your power steering systems. When this happens, it may result in what they usually call, a total loss.
How High Does Water Have to Be to Damage a Car? – Is Your Car Ruined if Flooded?
It is never a good idea to drive through floods and when you have no choice but to drive through it, you might want to know how high does water have to be to damage a car. While we’re at it, did you know that the number of car breakdowns during periods of wet weather spikes up? Records and studies say that driving in severe rain and floods can lead to severe damages to your car.
Many people might ask, will a car be ruined if flooded? Yes, it will. Here are some of the components of the car that can suffer some damages when the car is flooded.
- The electrical system.
Driving through flood waters can cause on-the-spot or eventual severe damage to the electrical system of your car. This can happen when the water reaches the electrical system. The lowest electrical device that can suffer when flood waters come seeping in is the starter motor. A damaged starter motor can be repaired for around $200 to $400. If it is the only component that is affected by the flood, you can still repair it.
However, if the water is high enough, your car’s electronic and electrical components will be submerged. Or perhaps the flood water might be splashed into these components by water waves made by the motion of the car. When this happens, it can cause catastrophic problems.
Be prepared to pay thousands of dollars on repair bills. Control modules and all the sensors will have to be replaced. If you own a modern car built with a lot of safety features, it might be affected too. Although you have replaced the affected and damaged electrical components, unforeseen random failures can still happen later on. If the safety features in your car have been affected, you won’t be able to notice it until you need it to work, which can be very dangerous.
- The car’s interior.
Driving through flood waters can result in water seeping into the driver and passenger compartment of your car. Although the car’s doors are built and designed with seals that are effective in draft-proofing, they are not built to resist standing water for a long duration.
When the water is deep enough and the car is immersed in it, and seeps into the interior, it can cause damage to your carpets, upholstery, or foams in your seats. Flood waters usually carry grit, sand, or silt with them. If they reach into the cabin, it will be very difficult to remove it from the seats and carpets, especially under the seats. Water reaching inside the cabin can also cause it to have a moldy or dampy smell.
Aside from these problems, your car might have some installed computers in the floorboards and under the seats. When the water seeps in, it can cause damage to these components which can lead to some electrical or electronic problems. Metal parts of the car will also be susceptible to rusting or corrosion.
- The tailpipe.
Cars that are just parked when floods happen, are usually the ones that experience this problem. How high does water have to be to damage a car? If the water is high enough to enter the tailpipe of the exhaust muffler system, then it is quite bad. Although this often happens to parked cars, driving through a flood can also enter the tailpipe if there is enough back pressure.
Fortunately, since the height of many manifolds are quite high, the water that reaches the tailpipe won’t most likely reach the engine. But, it might set in the mufflers’ lowest parts and in loops and bends that are facing downwards in the tailpipe which can cause issues with starting and running. Although the trapped water might evaporate when the car is running, thanks to the heat of the exhaust gases, it can eventually cause rust or corrosion problems to occur if the car is not used for a long time after a flood.
- The air intake.
Most modern cars are built with air intakes located closer to the front grille and are placed lower compared to the cars in the past. It is placed lower for the sake of performance and power. Since the air intake is now placed lower, water can easily reach into it. If the said water finds its way into the cylinders while the engine is running, it can lead to a disaster. The pistons, during compression, on the upward stroke will hit into an immovable part or object. When this happens, it can cause damages to the piston rod, piston, valves, and the cylinder head. It can also lead to an engine hydrolock or cause your head gasket to be blown.
- The brakes.
When you are driving through flood waters and your brake rotors are still hot, exposure with the cold flood water can cause the rotors to warp. You may feel a vibration when you step on the brakes when this happens. Water can also reach into the brake lines which can damage your brakes. Plus, brakes that are immersed in flood water may lose their grip due to the loss of contact between the wet brake rotors and the brake pads.
- The fluids.
You might wonder, how high does water have to be to damage a car? If the water is high enough to reach into the car’s fluids, it can be very damaging. When there is water mixed into the brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering, and coolant reservoirs, expect that the damages it will cause will be a headache. The fluids in your car help lubricate its moving parts and if flood water is added to the mix, these parts will be severely damaged because of the absence of lubrication and due to corrosion. Plus, when your car’s fuel will be mixed with water, it can cause damage to the spark plugs, fuel injectors, and the engine.
How High Does Water Have to Be to Damage a Car? – How High Does Water Have to Be to Flood an Engine?
How high does water have to be to damage a car? If you are living in an area where floods usually occur, this answer to this question will come in handy, though you should never attempt to drive through a flood. However, there are some circumstances where you will have no choice but to drive through it.
If you plan to drive through a flood or a flooded part of the road, you should determine the depth of the water first. If the water is more than 15 cm deep, it can have a significant effect on your car. The car could lose power at this point, more so if the water reaches more than 25 cm high or up to the middle of your wheels. You should never attempt to drive through this much flood water.
Driving with a good speed into a water of more than 6 inches will seem like driving to a wall. You may lose control, especially when the surface has unexpected potholes. How high does water have to be to damage a car? High enough to get water sucked into the engine through the air intake. If this happens, it can cause your car to stall, or worse, it may lead to severe damage that the only way to fix it is to replace the engine or buy a new car. If this is the case, remember that you should not restart the engine. You will have to remove the injectors or plugs first to get rid of the water.
When the car’s engine has stalled, there are times when the flood water will be sucked back through the exhaust and into the cylinders. When this happens, the repairs will be too costly and too extensive. It can sometimes render your car a total loss.
When a car loses its power when you drive through water greater than 15 cm deep as the water finds its way to your exhaust and air intake, it can cause your car to float when the water exceeds 30 cm deep. When this happens and you own a car with windows and locks that are electrically powered, it can be impossible to escape once water reaches into the car’s wiring and motors. This is because the water can disable the switchgear and pressings on the bodywork.
How High Does Water Have to Be to Damage a Car? – Will My Car Be OK After Driving Through Water?
If you ask how high does water have to be to damage a car, it is likely that you experienced driving through a flood and you want to know if it can affect your car in any way, or maybe you just want to know so you can prevent it. If it is the first one, you may also want to ask, will my car be okay after driving through water? The things you do after your car has flooded or driven through water can either save your car or worsen the damage.
Here are some of the things you should or should not do after driving through water.
- Do not restart your car. Do not start it until you’ve done a thorough check on it or clean it. If water has reached into the engine and you start it, it can cause severe damage.
- Try to dry your car in any way that you can immediately. In doing so, you may be able to lessen the time your car parts are exposed to water.
- If the water has reached your interior, remove all moisture from your car. You can use a vacuum to take out any standing water. You can also absorb water soaked into the carpets and seats using a towel.
- You need to contact and inform your insurance company about the exposure of your car to water.
- Take note of the level of water exposure so the mechanics will know the extent of the damage and how to fix it.
- Take your car to a shop and have it inspected and evaluated. You need to have your engine, axles, transmission, fuel, and brake system checked.
- You need to have all your fluids flushed or replaced.
- Have all your car’s wirings and electrical components that are exposed to water thoroughly inspected.
How high does water have to be to damage a car? The answer might be more than 15 cm or 6 inches, but it is better that you should never try to drive through water. Avoid it as much as possible. The damage that your car can get when you drive through water can cost thousands of dollars to repair depending on the level of flood. The restoration might be as costly as buying a new car if you are not careful.