Virginia Auto Service

How to Check Your Car for Water Damage

The monsoons have brought heavy rains to parts of the Valley these past couple of weeks. As a result, we have been faced with many flash floods and roadways covered with high water.

Virginia Auto Service AZ Blog: How to Check Your Car for Water Damage

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), flash floods are the number one weather-related killer in the United States — most flood fatalities happen because people try to drive through deadly waters rather than avoid them. Try not to be fooled into thinking your car will make it through a flood situation. It takes less than 12 inches of moving water for the average vehicle to get swept up.

Not only are flooded roadways a safety hazard, but they can be potentially damaging to your vehicle. If at all possible, avoid driving through standing water in parking lots and on roads. The water may stall your engine and has the potential to cause irreversible damage should you try and restart the engine.

The safest thing you can do for yourself and your vehicle is to find another route should you happen upon a water logged roadway.

Driving Through Heavy Water

Remember, you should never willingly drive into a flooded roadway if it can at all be avoided. However, if for some reason you find yourself in a situation that forces you to drive through heavy water on the road, take these precautions provided by

  • Do your best to estimate the depth of the water (if other cars are driving through, take note of how deep the water is).
  • Drive slowly and steadily through the water.
  • Avoid driving in water that downed electrical or power lines have fallen in — electric current passes through water easily.
  • Watch for items traveling downstream — they can trap or crush you if you’re in their path.
  • If you have driven through water up to the wheel rims or higher, test your brakes on a clear patch of road at low speed. If they are wet and not stopping the vehicle as they should, dry them by pressing gently on the brake pedal with your left foot while maintaining speed with your right foot.
  • Stay off the telephone unless you must report severe injuries.
  • If your vehicle stalls in the deep water, you may need to restart the engine to make it to safety. Keep in mind that restarting may cause irreparable damage to the engine.
  • If you can’t restart your vehicle and you become trapped in rising water, immediately abandon it for higher ground. Try to open the door or roll down the window to get out of the vehicle. If you are unable to get out safely, call 911 or get the attention of a passerby or someone standing on higher ground so that they may call for help.

Checking for Damage from Water Intrusion or Contamination

Even if your vehicle was not flooded or completely covered in water, there is still the potential for water damage. Regarding the amount of damage that could be done to the vehicle from flooding, Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council says, “It all comes down to how much water the vehicle took in and where it reached.”  The Car Care Council offers these guidelines to follow after exposing your vehicle to heavy water out on the roads:

  • Check interior carpets, upholstery and door and trim panels for dampness. If they are wet, then the vehicle will need professional attention. If you simply let the carpet dry, it will quickly grow mildew and give off foul odors. Seat brackets, motors and modules should also be checked for rust and proper operation.
  • Pull the engine oil and transmission fluid dipsticks and differential plug. If the fluid appears milky, diluted, is no longer its original color or is beige in color, then it is likely the pans contain water. The vehicle should be towed to your repair shop. Driving the vehicle with water present may damage the internal parts and require extensive overhaul or repairs. The council reminds motorists that some new synthetic differential fluids may appear to be milky, but are not water contaminated. When in doubt, a professional automotive technician should make the evaluation.
  • Check the air filter for water. If it is wet, replace the air filter and change the oil.
  • Check the undercarriage, bumpers, radiator area and frame for mud, grass, dirt, debris and rust. If any of these are present, the vehicle should be washed and cleaned as soon as possible.
  • Have the brake system checked by a professional automotive technician.
  • Check the exterior lights for moisture and water. Replace headlights and bulbs that contain water.
  • Listen for abnormal noises while the engine is running. Make a note of where the noise is coming from and take the vehicle to a professional automotive technician as soon as possible. Pay particular attention to the alternator, serpentine belt, starter, power steering unit, air conditioner and wheel bearings.
  • Have the suspension joints lubricated, if necessary. Many newer vehicles are lubricated at the factory for life; however, these joints should be checked for rust.

Following these simple guidelines can help minimize the damage done to your vehicle after a flood or heavy rain. Should you have any questions about your vehicles performance after a storm, or for any other reason, feel free to contact us here at Virginia Auto Service. We can be reached at 602-266-0200 or you can schedule an appointment online.