What to do if your car has flooded

Ever been driving down the road in the middle of a rain storm and vastly underestimated the depth of the puddle you’re heading towards? Or perhaps you’ve just had a bit of a mishap and you’ve found yourself nose down in a ditch, water lapping up around your windscreen. Whatever the reason, a flooded car is never good, but what do you do if you’ve sent your engine swimming? We’ll go into detail with the dos and don’ts further down this post, but the very first thing to do is to make sure you do not, under any circumstances, start your engine and you’ll also want to get to safety and call your insurer as soon as possible.

If you’re looking at a soggy hatchback on your driveway and you know that there’s no chance of getting it back up and running, then Scrap Car Comparison is here to help. Contact our friendly and knowledgeable team today and we’ll be able to find the very best price going for your car in an instant. Not only that, but with collection agents spread across every area of the country, we can even arrange to come and have the car picked up directly from you absolutely free of charge.

A birds eye view of several cars crossing a flooded crossroads

What do I do if I find my car in a flood?

Coming back to your car after a deluge and finding it sitting in the middle of a brand new lake is possibly one of the most heartbreaking things a driver can see. Here’s what to do if you find yourself in this predicament:

  • The first thing you’re going to want to do is open all of the doors, the boot and the bonnet to allow it to air dry as much as possible – remove the carpets while doing this – and ensure any drainage points are clear of mud and dirt. These are often located under the door sills and undercarriage.
  • As we’ve already mentioned, do not attempt to start the car, and check your oil to ensure it’s not become contaminated.
  • You will, however, want to check the electrics are okay. Double check to make sure the fuse box isn’t wet or there’s any wiring sitting in water and turn the ignition around to on without turning the engine over. This way you can check the wipers, lights, radio etc.
  • Once you’ve checked the car over, it’s time to phone your insurer and let them take it from there, providing you have a comprehensive level of cover.

On the very rare occasion that you’ve come back to find your car is now a makeshift yacht, then skip all of the early stages and go straight to your insurers. The chances of the car not being written-off at that point are minimal.

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What to do if I’ve got stuck after driving through a flood

Coming back to find your car flooded is one thing, but what if you’ve had to drive through a heavy flood and found yourself stuck? We’ve gone into detail previously about how to drive through flood water, but here’s a quick step-by-step guide on what to be aware of:

  • If you can, avoid driving through standing water at all. This may mean waiting for other cars to pass, but it could be safer. Standing water can also hide potholes or even the edge of the road, so you could do more damage than you’d think by driving through flood water.
  • Do not drive into any moving water or water that is 10cm deep. Again, this will likely mean waiting for other cars to pass.
  • Drive slowly and steadily, ideally in first gear, and avoid making a bow wave. A large wave could result in water coming back and flooding your engine.
  • Test your brakes as soon as you are through the flood and it is safe to do so.
  • If you do get stuck, try to stay in the car and wait for help if you can, as opening the doors or windows could make your situation even worse.

What happens when a car is flooded?

Water has a way of finding its way into any possible crevice – just knock over a glass of water at your desk and see how long it takes to dry everything up. Of course, that is not good news for you as a car owner, as there’s a lot of things within your car’s internals that you’re going to want to keep well clear of a bath.

  • Engine – We’re going to go into detail later on this, but simply put: water + engine = bad.
  • Door seals – If your rubber seals are over exposed to water, they can rot over time.
  • Upholstery/interior trim – The carpet or your seats can suffer from damage if they’re waterlogged for extended periods of time.
  • Electricals – It goes without saying that your electrics aren’t going to like getting wet, and a shorted out circuit or burnt-out wiring are likely to cause you a mountain of trouble in the not-too-distant future.
  • Brakes – Water can play havoc with your breaks, potentially corroding pipes and reducing your braking efficiency.
  • Fuel system – Getting water in your fuel system can cause damage to both your fuel lines and the fuel pump.
  • Suspension – If there’s too much moisture within your suspension system it can begin to rust, resulting in the need to replace parts much sooner than you’d originally anticipated.
  • Exhaust – Catalytic converters or silencers can very easily be damaged if they become waterlogged.

Of course the extent of the damage your car may have suffered as a result of a flood depends entirely on how much, and for how long, it was exposed to the water. For example, while driving through a flooded road could damage the engine, a prolonged period of sitting in a flooded car park is more likely to impact the car’s interior. If you’re unsure, it’s best to get someone who knows what they’re looking for to have a look at it, and avoiding driving if possible.

Car driving through the puddle and splashing water

What happens when water gets into an engine?

If you’ve misjudged that puddle and sent a tidal wave right through your engine bay, then you could have some fairly hefty repair bills on the horizon. The first thing that you must do is not try and restart the engine as doing so could result in water being sucked into the engine and causing even more damage and in the worst cases result in hydrolocking. 

What is hydrolocking?

Hydrolocking, simply put, is when water gets sucked into the pistons. Water cannot be compressed, meaning that the metal suffers that fate instead. Basically, your perfectly formed and machined metal will now be bent, mangled and very much not how it should be. The result is catastrophic damage where the only realistic way of fixing it is to just buy a new engine – and they’re not cheap.

Is there a difference between saltwater and freshwater damage?

Yes. If you’ve been caught out by the incoming tide and your car has suffered some significant flooding due to the salty seawater, then the chances of damage are much greater. This is because the saltiness of the water makes it far easier to corrode elements within the vehicle, and is much more likely to play havoc with your electronics.

Can my car drive through a flood?

Cars can drive through floods, if they’re driven carefully enough. Of course some will be better at it than others, and you’re going to be able to get through more standing water in a jacked up Land Rover with a snorkel attached than you are in a Nissan Micra. However, even the smallest of cars is capable of driving through low levels of flood water if driven sensibly. This means driving slowly, steadily and avoiding the deepest parts of the floods – you don’t want to find your feet are suddenly in an unexpected paddling pool that used to be your footwell.

Driving slowly not only reduces the chance of water splashing back into your engine bay due to a bow wave, but also reduces the likelihood of aquaplaning – when water gets between your tyres and the road surface and you lose all control of where you’re heading.

Will my insurance company pay out for a flooded car?

This will entirely depend on the type of cover that you have for your car. Anything less than fully comprehensive cover and it’s highly unlikely you’ll get any sort of payout from your insurers. However, having fully comprehensive cover does not guarantee that you’ll receive anything from your insurers at all. It’s important to read the full terms and conditions of your policy, as it may state that you’ll need to be able to prove that you did everything possible to keep the car safe in flooded conditions. If you drove through heavy floods against warnings, then this will likely be classed as “Avoidable Flood Damage” and will not be covered. However, if the damage occurs in a place where your car is usually safely parked, this should be classed as “Unavoidable Flood Damage” and your insurers will likely pay out. Again, this is only a generalisation and you’ll need to check with your own specific insurer and policy to see where you stand.

How to dry a flooded car

There’s little worse than the smell of a soggy car interior, especially once it starts to dry out but remains damp. The easiest way to dry a sodden car is to part somewhere undercover – just in case you get caught out in a rain shower and negate all of your work – and open all of your doors and windows. Place an electric fan near the car to get the air circulation throughout the interior and speed up the drying process. You can also get things going even faster by turning the engine on (assuming it’s safe to do so and no potential flood damage to the engine) and giving the interior a blast of the heaters.

If you know your car isn’t watertight, then it’s worth remembering just how much work it can take to dry one out before you decide to drive through floodwater or even in a particularly bad wind and rain storm.

Find the best price for a flooded car with Scrap Car Comparison

No matter how badly your car has been damaged, through flooding or otherwise, Scrap Car Comparison is here to make the process of getting rid of it as quick and easy as possible. We specialise in finding the best price for scrap and salvage vehicles, and can even have it collected directly from you within a matter of days. Simply call the team today on 03333 44 99 50 or use our online quote generator to see just how much your flooded car could be worth.

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