Extreme water damage in your car can leave you feeling hopeless. Knowing the most common causes of water damage can help you avoid this kind of mishap. However, if the unfortunate incident has already transpired, then it is beneficial to know what to do immediately in order to salvage your car and prevent further damage.
Common Causes of Water Damage in Cars
There are several possible causes of water damage in cars. The most common cause is flooding which can result after heavy rains or storms. Some roads often struggle to cope with heavy downpours which causes waterlogged portions in the road. Flooding can extremely damage cars, as some might have to inevitably drive through a deep puddle and the extent of damage can be both seen and unseen.
Driving through floodwater is never a good idea because it is impossible to judge the water’s depth. Even the smallest amount of water getting inside your engine can cause you to stall. Just a cupful of water which gets in your car's combustion chamber can be enough to destroy your engine. A foot of water is enough to make your vehicle lose control.
For convertible cars, leaving its top down during heavy rain can also cause water damage. Most car users don’t really realize how such a mistake can harm their cars. This is also true to cars with sunroof. Even having windows down during a significant downpour can be risky.
A vehicle can be water damaged when someone accidentally or intentionally drives it into a body of water. The extent of the damage depends on the following factors:
- How deep into the water the vehicle went,
- The length of time it was submerged in water, and
- The type of water (salt water is more damaging than fresh water).
What to Do Immediately When Your Car is Extremely Water Damaged
Every year we see heavy rainfall and storms in many parts of the country, and this can cause serious damage to cars. If you are stuck in this inevitable situation, you could be left anxious and confused on what to do immediately in order to save your car.
Do not try to start the car again. Problems will simply get worse if water gets into your car’s engine, fuel system, or transmission system. Water can cause hydrolock and destroy engine parts. Hydrolocking is when the engine suffers catastrophic failure and ceases to function because of a substantial amount of water in the cylinders. When this happens, it will definitely cost a huge amount of money for repairs.
Start removing water. The quicker you are in removing water from your car’s interior, the more chances you get of saving your car’s mechanical components from getting more damaged. You can use a wet/dry vacuum to get rid of the water. Just remember not to use a standard vacuum as this can cause electric shock.
Get air into the car. Good airflow and ventilation is vital to dry out a water damaged car. You can do this by opening all windows and even using a fan to get the air moving. Airing your car out will prevent molds,mildew, and bad odors from developing.
Check the condition of your car. Once it is safe to do so, you should check how much water damage your car has suffered. Check whether the water level was high enough to seep through the car doors.
Clean your car’s cabin. To avoid foul smell from developing in your car, you might have to remove and replace some components like floor mats, upholstery, and other parts that quickly absorb water. It is common knowledge that dampness attracts the growth of molds and other bacteria, so giving your car a thorough clean would mitigate the damage to its interior.
Have your car checked by an expert. Attempting to save your car by yourself after it had been extremely water damaged may be more harmful than helpful. It is always best to consult a mechanic, who can make an expert assessment of your car and provide you with suitable advice with regard to the extent of damage and repairs that need to be done with your car. With this, you will know whether the cost of repairing your car exceeds its worth.
Call your car insurance company. After your car is checked by a mechanic, you will have to contact your car insurance company so they can make an evaluation whether your vehicle should be replaced or repaired. If the amount of repair is more than the value of the car, the insurance company will most likely consider it as a junk car.
Common Mechanical Faults Caused by Water Damage
As we have pointed out above, lots of things can go wrong when your car is extremely water damaged. The extent of damage can happen both inside the cabin and under the hood. Here are some of the common mechanical faults and problems in your car after it is damaged by water.
This is the worst thing that can happen to your car after sustaining water damage. This happens when water gets into the air intake and has been sucked into the engine. This ruins the pistons and combustion cycle. Once water seeps in the engine, it can contaminate oil and transmission fluids. This requires both of these fluids to be completely flushed. Water can also contaminate the carburetor and fuel injectors, and stop the transmission from working due to oxidation.
If water has entered the cabin after heavy rain, electrical problems can occur. Faults in the wiring, radio, dashboard, electric windows, headlight, door locks. and computers can happen. Damage to the car’s electronic systems may also take weeks or months to appear. It is important not to fiddle with any electrics once water has gotten inside the car as it can be a risk of electric shock.
Rust can develop when your car has been flooded and extremely water damaged. Rust can damage all exposed metalwork, undercarriage, and other metal surfaces. Check for any onset of rust and make sure you dry the car thoroughly. Rust repairs are available, so the earlier you spot the problem, the more money you can save.
Mechanical problems with moving parts
This can include damage to the brake, clutch, and starter. That is why it is very important to have your car checked by a professional after it had been water damaged to avoid any untoward incidents and further damage.
Molds can grow anywhere in your water damaged car. It can cause damage to the fabric seats, carpet, headliner, mats, and even to the air conditioning system. Exposure to molds can have adverse effects on human health.
Fuel Supply Damage
Damage to the car’s fuel supply is not something that most people would first worry about in the event of water damage. When water gets in through the overflow valve of the gas tank, this can cause the tank’s interior to rust. As a result, there could be a hole inside which increases the amount of fuel particulate clogging the fuel injectors and combustion cylinders. If this gets unnoticed, the repairs done to the engine would go in vain. Most often, it could take months before car owners realize this problem.
How to Clean Your Car After Water Damage
It is very important to clean your car properly after it has been damaged by water. As mentioned above, leaving the vehicle damp invites the growth of molds all over the car’s interior. Cleaning and drying your car can be taxing and time consuming. This is because water can travel a long way from when it first leaked into your vehicle. If your car upholstery gets wet, it would be even harder to clean and can take a few days to dry completely.
The first step in cleaning and drying your car after water damage is to find out which parts of your car have been affected. It can oftentimes be surprising to know how far water damage can travel. Do a rigorous check of the seats, carpeting, and all upholstery. Drying every last drop of the water out can make a great difference to bring your car back in great condition. Then, you have to take action.
Here are some simple steps to follow to clean your car after water damage:
- Dry your car using a wet/dry vacuum to remove as much water as possible. You can also use kitchen towels to absorb water from seats and mats.
- Open the windows and doors to allow air in to dry the car thoroughly. Make sure it is in a covered area to avoid another damage in case there might be another downpour. You can also turn on the heating and put the fans on full, given that your car’s engine is still in good working condition after the incident.
- Use an upholstery cleaner (preferably with a built-in brush) to scrub and clean at the same time.
- Keep an eye on your car and make sure there are no more damp odors or moisture left. This could be a sign that there are leaks that you might have missed.
- Wipe off and remove any which has been deposited inside your car. Dirt can be an abrasive under the carpet and wear out the protective coating from the metal. This can cause rust to develop.
There are areas in the car which are hard to dry, like areas under the seats. You can try using moisture-absorbing products such as baking soda and other commercial products. Flooring pads can also be a big problem area as molds tend to grow faster in these areas. Good thing, floor pads are not very costly to replace, depending on your vehicle’s make and model.
Which Type of Car Insurance Covers Water Damage?
If you have a comprehensive car insurance policy, you can make a claim in case of a water damage in your vehicle. This is depending on the reason for the incident. A comprehensive coverage can help replace your vehicle or pay for its repairs if the cause of damage is flooding or hailstorms. However, if the cause of water damage resulted from maintenance issues.
What about water damage caused by heavy rains? According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, it is the car owner’s responsibility to keep your vehicle in safe and good condition. This means, you are responsible to carry out repairs. Therefore, if your car is damaged in an inevitable and sudden event like a heavy rainstorm, comprehensive coverage may help cover the damage to your car. However, if the damage occurred after water slowly leaks into the car due to poor maintenance and the damage developed over time, this will not be covered.
Comprehensive cover does not pay for damage resulting from negligence. So, if your car windows were left down during heavy rain, or the sunroof was left open, letting rain in, this kind of water damage is unlikely to be covered.
Having your car extremely damaged by water can be very devastating. Not only will you be inconvenienced in your means of transport, but also you might be faced with a lot of repair costs. Knowing what to do in the unfortunate circumstance of water damage (like damage caused by flooding) can help you save your car from totally being scrapped or from numerous repairs. It is also very important to note that asking the help of an expert mechanic is the best way to deal with hard to do repairs.