Tech Tip - July 2007

Carter Automotive
107 West 11th Street
Coffeyville, KS 67337
Phone: (800) 225-4813 (620) 251-4700
FAX: (620) 251-2215

Tips to Help Deal with Flood Damaged Vehicles

With the fall of the recent flood waters, many cars and trucks in the area have experienced varying degrees of flood damage. A flooded vehicle can be a dangerous vehicle. Caution and prudence are the watch words when dealing with a flooded motor vehicle. There are many complex systems that can be affected by flood water. Here are some tips to help you salvage a flooded motor vehicle or tractor or other small engine safely.

  1. First, do not do anything if you are not comfortable working on your vehicle. The safest thing to do is leave the vehicle alone and call a tow truck to have it towed to your local mechanic for inspection. Let a trained professional evaluate the damage to the vehicle and provide a report for you to submit to your insurance company. If you have comprehensive coverage, you may get some help with repairs or replacement from your insurance company.
  2. If you want to try to do some of the work yourself, where you start will depend on how bad the flood damage is and what type of damage occurred.
  3. Personal safety: be sure to follow the guidelines for personal safety given by public health officials. This includes getting a tetanus booster shot if you haven't had one in the last five years and using personal protective gear including eye goggles, rubber gloves and dust mask.
  4. Do not start the vehicle until you have examined each system for flood damage.
  5. Electrical: open the hood and allow any built up gases to escape. Disconnect the battery and remove. Plan to replace the battery if flood water entered the cells. Have a mechanic test each cell with a hygrometer. If ok, charge normally in a safe, dry location.
  6. Fuel: if water is in fuel tank, it will need to be drained into an approved container and disposed of properly. It is best to let a trained mechanic do this.
  7. Remove air filters and oil filters and replace with clean, dry units. Change oil in case water is in the crank case.
  8. Open doors and windows and allow wet upholstery to dry out. It might be a good idea to place a fan so that it will blow up under the dash and hopefully dry out the electronics and gauges. Remove any grommet drains in the floor board to allow excess moisture to drain.
  9. Open the trunk and allow to dry. Check for pooling of water in the lowest areas and manually remove.
  10. Check other fluids for flood water entry: power steering reservoir, radiator, windshield washer fluid, brake fluid, clutch master cylinder if applicable. Any moisture will need to be completely drained and replaced with fresh fluid.
  11. Check transmission fluid and differentials, transfer cases, etc. for moisture. Drain and replace as necessary.
  12. If water has entered into block, remove spark plugs and manually siphon out any water in the cylinders. Add a capful of oil to each affected cylinder.
  13. Once everything is clean and dry, replace battery and try to turn over engine with plugs still removed to pump out any water. You may need to troubleshoot and replace electrical components as you put things back together. Be especially wary of shorts in electronics which may lead to blown fuses or fires. Get a trained mechanic to help you. It may be necessary to check or replace the vehicles ECU or brain, or other sub modules.
  14. Install plugs and try to start the engine. Be very careful to do this in a safe manner and have a plan for what you will do if any of the major systems are not working (transmission, brakes, fuel, etc.)
  15. Once you verify all systems are operating, perform a careful test drive and have the vehicle checked over by an experienced mechanic. Water damage may not be immediately evident, so you will need to monitor the vehicle carefully and replace any defective parts as they are found.

As you can see, dealing with a flood damaged vehicle is not an easy undertaking. It may be possible to save a vehicle that does not have excessive or prolonged exposure to regular flood waters. Oil tainted water will make the process even more difficult or impossible, especially on interior carpet, upholstery or delicate electronics. Oil on the outside painted surfaces can be removed by washing with a high detergent product and then washing and waxing as usual.

The friendly and helpful techs at Carter Automotive will help you answer your questions and try to help you salvage your vehicle from flood damage if possible. Bring it in and get our expert opinion for your specific situation.

Print me and take me to one of the 6 Carter Automotive locations in SE Kansas. Our friendly and knowledgeable counter staff will help you find the perfect parts for your application at the right price.