If you’ve ever been caught in a powerful rainstorm, you know how quickly water can pool up on the streets and overwhelm storm drains. Those who live near rivers should also be aware that heavy rains upstream can cause a sudden surge of water to come downstream very fast. There are lots of options to protect your car from flooding when it’s parked outside. Park on high ground, park under a tree, buy a car cover.
But what do you do if your car floods while you’re driving home during a torrential downpour? The following step-by-step guide will help get wet belongings out of the car and get everything dried out properly.
Step 1: Stop Driving
If you’re lucky, this is all that’s required to prevent further damage.
Even if the car has stalled and will not restart, resist the temptation to keep driving it. The water pumping system used for the windshield wipers needs a minimum level of resistance from the pump motor to supply power. Any excess can lead to failure.
Once enough water has been pumped into the engine bay, air intake, or elsewhere in your vehicle’s components, it may be too late to save yourself from expensive repairs.
If possible, coast smoothly off onto a flat shoulder, do not brake or turn aggressively as this could cause sudden movement of standing water and worsen your car’s condition. If you up stranded on a flooded road, turn your hazard lights on and call 911 for help.
Step 2: Remove the Keys
The next step depends on how much of an emergency you’re in. If there’s enough time, remove your keys from the ignition to slow down corrosion in electronic components. If they are already soaked, this will make it more difficult to fish them out when you get home. Water with a temperature below 32 degrees Fahrenheit can freeze solid overnight. So never leave these inside the vehicle if temperatures are forecasted to drop below freezing during your drive home after dark.
Step 3: Open Your Doors Carefully
Be very careful when opening car doors with water inside. When cold or hot water is mixed with air, it can create a burst of steam that can severely burn your skin. If the water is murky, you may not be able to see how deep it goes, if there are any obstructions in the way. If you must open a door, have a helper outside ready to steady you and pull you back in if necessary.
Step 4: Remove Water as Quickly as Possible
Start by removing all the loose items from the car. This will help them dry more quickly and minimize further damage. Floor mats and rugs should be taken out and laid flat somewhere to air dry. If they’re really wet, try using a fan to speed up the process. If there’s water in the trunk, use a wet/dry vacuum to suck it out. If the water is up to your waist or higher, you’ll need to use a pump.
Step 5: Dry the Inside of the Car
Once all the visible water has been removed, it’s time to start drying the inside of the car. A vacuum is great for this, but if you don’t have one or it’s not getting the job done, try using towels or newspapers. Start at the top and work your way down, making sure everything is completely dry before moving on to the next step.
Step 6: Dry the Outside of the Car
You’ll obviously want to refurbish any parts you’ve removed in Step 5. But before doing so, wipe down all exterior surfaces. This includes windows and door panels, take your time to do it properly. Alternately, if you have access to a power washer at this point, that will speed things up by getting rid of most of the moisture without having to laboriously scrub everything yourself.
Step 7: Open Up the Engine Bay
Getting things rust-free is paramount when attempting to salvage your car after flooding. Water contains lots of minerals like salt, that can cause damage when left unchecked for too long. If possible, open the hood, and start taking things apart to get them dry. This includes belts, hoses, insulation pads around the battery, and any wiring harnesses you find. If there’s debris in there, scoop it out into a bucket with a dustpan.
Step 8: Wash Everything Down
Once all visible water has evaporated, give your car one final washdown. This should include windows on both sides of the vehicle. Though it shouldn’t be used to clean up dirt or grease tracks on tires or other blackened areas. These can be washed away at your next visit to the car wash instead.
Tools You’ll Need:
- Wet/dry vacuum
- Towels or newspapers
- Bucket and dustpan
- Car wash soap
- Power washer
Now that you know how to deal with a flooded car, the next time it happens, you’ll be better prepared. Remember to remove all the loose items, dry everything as quickly as possible, and take things apart in the engine bay to prevent rust – if you do all of this, you may still be able to save your car after a flood.
Flooding can cause a lot of damage to your car, but if you take the necessary steps to remove the water and dry everything out, you may be able to salvage it. Remove all the loose items, use a wet/dry vacuum or pump to suck out the water, and dry everything inside and out. Wash down all exterior surfaces and open up the engine bay to dry things out. If you follow these steps, you’ll be better prepared if your car ever floods again.