You have, no doubt, heard there will be some flooding around here in the very near future. Two things come to mind here in The Garage as the snow melt begins.
If you are looking for a used car, I would buy sooner rather than later. This minimizes the chance that you will end up with a “flood car” — a vehicle that has been submerged in dirty water for days and then “cleaned up” and sold by a private party or dealer.
I have heard that insurance companies will total most vehicles if flood waters reach the level of the dash. That is the level where most of the electronic controls (HVAC, stereo, navigation) are found, as well as the engine and transmission control computers.
Even if the water does not reach dash level, there is a lot of damage that can be done to other vehicle parts, like brakes, steering, starter and suspension. If a car is sitting in muddy water up to the axles, and the axle seals are not perfect, dirty water can get into places where it should not be. The same goes for the engine oil and transmission oil if they are contaminated with dirty water, damage can result.
The dangers of dirty water are well illustrated by these pictures from my adventures with the Go-4-Wheelers off-road club.
Many of these folks have a dedicated “trail truck” that they drive (on private property) through mud and dirt and standing water … and they grease these vehicles often and change fluids (including axle lube) regularly. The air intake for the engine is often moved to a higher (and drier) point, sometimes inside the vehicle.
Which brings us to the second bit of advice: always drive extremely carefully around any kind of standing water. We’ve all heard on the TV news stories how little moving water it takes to sweep a vehicle downstream. The recent pictures from Japan come to mind.
I was reminded last year how an internal combustion engine can be destroyed when it “inhales” even a small amount of water. The water enters the cylinders where air is normally compressed at a ratio of about 10 to one. When the engine tries to compress water, parts like pistons and connecting rods can break, and the vehicle is literally dead in the water.
This is the broken engine I had to remove from my trail truck after it took on water. And by the time a used replacement engine was in the truck, I had spent $2,000 … money that I could have saved by keeping water out of the engine in the first place.
The bottom line is that while most vehicles are waterproof, they are not flood-proof.