Quick first aid for flood-damaged vehicles

Being at the typhoon belt of the Pacific, our country is visited by an average of 20 typhoons every year, but the most destructive in recent memory ravaged the country during the past two weeks.

Raging floods hit several low-lying areas of the Metro, causing immense damage to life and property. Unfortunately, our rides were not spared from the onslaught as hundreds of vehicles of all shapes and sizes were submerged by rising floodwaters, to the horror of their grief-stricken owners.

If your vehicle was among those affected by the recent floods, there’s still a glimmer of hope left, provided you know what to do. Fast and decisive action can spell the difference between a minor inconvenience and thousands of pesos worth of repairs. Here are some tips that you can do (once it’s safe to do so) to handle flood-damaged vehicles:

  1. Don’t start the car – Floodwaters, especially if its muddy or murky, can get into many components of your car and the internal damage may be extensive. If water has made it into the engine, starting your car will cause even more damage.
  2. Disconnect the battery – Aside from the engine, the electrical systems in cars are the most at risk for flood damage. Immediately disconnect the battery before checking the other electrical components. Inspect the contact points, fuses, relays, sockets, terminals and other sensitive parts.
  3. Look for a high-water mark – Look for the telltale signs of how high the water went into your vehicle. It may give you some clues about the overall extent of the damage. Systems lying below the water line will likely need much attention.
  4. Dry it out – The longer the car was submerged, the greater the damage to your interiors. Open all the windows/doors to let some air into the cabin. Take out the mats, seat covers, carpets and even the seats and headliners and attempt to dry out as much of the interior as possible. If possible, seek the help of a professional detailer that can help you clean out dirt and floodwater residue, especially in easy to miss or hard to reach areas. Sadly, its possible that musky floodwater odors can remain inside no matter how meticulously you clean.
  5. Check the engine oil – Use the dipstick and check your oil level. If there are water droplets on the dipstick, then water made its way into the engine. Change the oil and oil filter. You may have to wash out some mud from the oil pan.
  6. Check the fuel system – Siphon out the gas from the gas tank and look for water. Water is denser than gas so make sure to siphon at the bottom of the gas tank. If water is mixed with gas, then your car’s fuel system may be flushed.
  7. Check the air filter and other fluids – If the filter is wet and there’s water in the air filter, then you have water in the engine. Also, there’s a chance that water has seeped into the brake, clutch, power steering, coolant reservoirs so check these as well.

It’s a good idea to take lots of photos of the vehicle while it’s submerged in floodwaters and the aftermath as well, extensively documenting the interior and other damages. This step will help you greatly in claiming insurance.

There’s only so much that you can do after a vehicle has been submerged in water. And trying to clear the water incorrectly can result in further damage, so it may be better to leave the heavy lifting to your trusted mechanic.

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