Flooded cars in Albany Park

Car Flood Damage Repair: Is it Possible?

Ask anyone about “car flood damage repair,” and most will say it’s impossible. Even car insurance companies, known to avoid spending money, tend to simply write off a flood-damaged car. Since cars are complex machines and flood water is harmful to all modern cars’ systems, the answer is usually not a simple one. Hydro-locked engines, short-circuiting electronics and water-logged transmissions are just a few potential results of water damage, not to mention mold, mildew and rust. Flood damage repair can fall into two categories, which can best be expressed as “economical” and “uneconomical.”flooded car

Uneconomical Car Flood Damage Repair

When cars get hit by a storm surge or river flooding, they may sit for days or weeks while water saturates everything. This can severely compromise your vehicle’s interior, electronics and powertrain. Salt water flooding, even light flooding, does the worst damage to cars. In fact, some experts consider a salt water flooded modern car to be unfixable at any level. Unless you are prepared to completely rebuild the car, you should write off repairing a salt-water or long-term flooded car.

Economical Car Flood Damage Repair

Your repair options depend on the extent of the flooding, water type, depth and duration of submersion. Fresh water isn’t as corrosive as salt water, so you might be able to repair a car caught in a river flood. If you drove into a flooded road and the engine died, you might be able to repair the damages. Here’s a list of tips and things to check in the event of flooding:

  • Do not attempt to start an engine that has been flooded. A hydro-locked engine, if it even starts, will quickly destroy itself. If the oil level is abnormally high, water probably got into the crankcase because oil floats on water, making it useless as a lubricant. Remove the spark plugs and turn the engine over by hand to force water out of the cylinders. Blowing compressed air into the spark plug holes and intake also helps. Make sure to drain the oil and replace the oil filter.
  • Check transmission fluid levels, as well as the transfer case and differentials, as these may also have been flooded. Automatic transmission discs and bands tend to delaminate in water. Manual transmission synchronizers can be ruined by lack of lubrication, and a soaked clutch may rust to the flywheel. Transmission problems may be allayed by completely draining fluids and refilling, and the clutch may release once you get the engine up to temperature.
  • Pay special attention to safety systems, such as water-contaminated brake fluid or power steering fluid. Water-logged brake fluid, for example, can vaporize leading to a loss of braking power. Flush the brake system and power steering system. Brake pads and shoes may spread rust to rotors and drums, but moving the car may free them.
  • Dry out the car by removing the seats, carpets and insulation completely. Park the car outside on a sunny day, doors and windows open, and lay everything out in the sun — don’t forget the trunk. Disconnect all electrical connectors and dry them out with a hair dryer or heat gun.
  • Depending on the level of flooding, you may need to drain the fuel tank to eliminate water contamination.

In general, repairing flood damage is an uncertain venture. Time is of the essence; drying your car out as quickly as possible will give you the best chance at successfully rescuing your ride.

Check out all the tools & equipment available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on flood damage, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Image courtesy of Flickr

about author

Benjamin Jerew

Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.

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28 Comments

  • Jordan

    June 2, 2017 at 6:25 PM

    Reply

    We just bought a 2005 nissan quest from a private party and little did we know we were in for a rude awakening. The radio, DVD player, odometer and gas reader screen, heated seats, etc don’t work. It looks like the vehicle got flooded, but form the inside I think. Like leaked through the sunroof. The guy won’t answer I’ll calls so no help there, do you know if it’s salvageable? I really only got the van because the DVD players and none of it works. Please tell some good news, we spent all our money on this van!

    • NAPA Auto Parts

      June 5, 2017 at 10:38 AM

      Reply

      Thank you for your comment about your Nissan, a NAPA Auto Parts representative will be contacting you via email shortly.

  • normand miron

    June 4, 2017 at 3:08 AM

    Reply

    my car was setting in water for 10 day up to the rocker panel a river flood in Canada should i be worried my Insurance say it find or should i filth them will i have problem in the fut-her whit my EQUINOX

    • NAPA Auto Parts

      June 5, 2017 at 10:38 AM

      Reply

      Thank you for your comment about your flooded car, a NAPA Auto Parts representative will be contacting you via email shortly.

  • JERRY HOOVER

    June 30, 2017 at 12:37 AM

    Reply

    MY CAR WAS FLOODED UP TO MID SEAT LEVEL. THE CAR INSURANCE COMPANY SAYS NOTHING IS WRONG AND WILL CLEAN IT THE COMPELTE EXHAUST SYSTEM WAS UNDER WATER. CAR HAS FULL POWER LEATHER HEATED SEATS IT IS A 2006 MONTE CARLO LTZ WITH POWER SUN ROOF. I THINK THE CAR SHOULD BE TOTALED WHAT IS MY RECOURSE

    • NAPA Auto Parts

      July 12, 2017 at 10:36 AM

      Reply

      Thank you for your question about your Monte Carlo, a NAPA Auto Parts representative will be contacting you via email shortly.

  • emrah Temelli

    July 30, 2017 at 1:55 PM

    Reply

    Hi i have 2008 honda accord. 2days ago i i was writing my car in neighbourhoodthat i wasnt sure where i was and couldnt see the sign and run into the bay. My car was almost 1 or 1.30 hour was in the water half way and i towed it out. My question is is there any way my car is fixeble or can save or its too late. Thanks

    • NAPA Auto Parts

      August 14, 2017 at 10:00 AM

      Reply

      Thank you for your question about your Accord’s water issue, a NAPA Auto Parts representative will be contacting you via email shortly.

  • Joanne Solomon

    August 17, 2017 at 3:52 PM

    Reply

    I also have recently had my 2011 Traverse flooded. The water was also midlevel on my seats and my insurance company wants to repair. I am afraid it needs to be totaled, but all they have done is change the oil and transmission fluids. The air bag sensor was also damaged and being replaced. They are replacing the carpet, but are not changing out the leather seats (after water sat in the car for 10 days waiting on an adjuster to come look at it.) I have an extended warranty on the power train, but will they honor it after being water damaged?

    • NAPA Auto Parts

      September 5, 2017 at 11:44 AM

      Reply

      Thank you for your question about flood water damage. We recommend consulting your local NAPA AutoCare in this situation. Every vehicle is different and difficulty of repair will vary widely based on percentage of water intrusion, water type (fresh, salt, or brackish), vehicle condition, and even vehicle age.

  • Joy

    August 18, 2017 at 1:56 PM

    Reply

    I have a lease benz c300-engine stop Cz water-what to do

    • NAPA Auto Parts

      September 5, 2017 at 11:40 AM

      Reply

      Thank you for your question about flood water damage. We recommend consulting your local NAPA AutoCare in this situation. Every vehicle is different and difficulty of repair will vary widely based on percentage of water intrusion, water type (fresh, salt, or brackish), vehicle condition, and even vehicle age.

  • jennifer hayth

    August 22, 2017 at 2:51 PM

    Reply

    Hi everyone,
    I just bought a salvaged title care. The car is a 2016 totyota rav4. I can smell the mildew in the car. I am removing the carpet and pads. All the fluids in the car appear to be okay. Will I have to be continually worried about mold once I replace the flooring and shampoo the seats…etc.

    Thanks so much,
    Jennifer

    • NAPA Auto Parts

      September 5, 2017 at 11:43 AM

      Reply

      Thank you for your question about flood water damage. We recommend consulting your local NAPA AutoCare in this situation. Every vehicle is different and difficulty of repair will vary widely based on percentage of water intrusion, water type (fresh, salt, or brackish), vehicle condition, and even vehicle age.

  • David

    August 23, 2017 at 8:57 PM

    Reply

    I have a 2016 gmc 2500hd that has a rebuilt title for water damage. Purchased it a week ago showed to obvious signs of water damage (no water line under the dash, no water marks under carpet, no smell). Sunday the check engine light came on for neutral safety switch. The alarm randomly goes off. Stabilitrac light comes on. Now the truck isn’t showing it in any gear. Can shift truck out of park without touching brake. Will not crank/start (batteries are new). Can bridge the starter to get truck to start.

    • NAPA Auto Parts

      September 5, 2017 at 11:40 AM

      Reply

      Thank you for your question about flood water damage. We recommend consulting your local NAPA AutoCare in this situation. Every vehicle is different and difficulty of repair will vary widely based on percentage of water intrusion, water type (fresh, salt, or brackish), vehicle condition, and even vehicle age.

  • Jennifer Muller

    August 27, 2017 at 1:31 AM

    Reply

    My 2011 sonatas limited took on water. It stalled. Electrical works fine but breaks, power steering and obviously engine not working. Would it be possible to flush oil, gas, air intake to get it to work like normal or do you think I have bigger issues? The water started to come in the bottom of the door but not totally flooded inside.

    • NAPA Auto Parts

      September 5, 2017 at 11:38 AM

      Reply

      Thank you for your question about flood water damage. We recommend consulting your local NAPA AutoCare in this situation. Every vehicle is different and difficulty of repair will vary widely based on percentage of water intrusion, water type (fresh, salt, or brackish), vehicle condition, and even vehicle age.

  • Patsy Reynolds

    September 1, 2017 at 2:34 AM

    Reply

    My car had rain water up past the tailpipe and the front license tag was covered with rain water from hurricane Harvey in Houston Texas. It took 24 hours for eater to recede. Can my car be fixed

    • NAPA Auto Parts

      September 5, 2017 at 11:38 AM

      Reply

      Thank you for your question about flood water damage. We recommend consulting your local NAPA AutoCare in this situation. Every vehicle is different and difficulty of repair will vary widely based on percentage of water intrusion, water type (fresh, salt, or brackish), vehicle condition, and even vehicle age.

  • Madison

    September 3, 2017 at 11:38 PM

    Reply

    I have a lincoln MKC 2016
    Harvey hit Houston and my car was flooded with water only for less than an hour. Can my car be fixed?

    • NAPA Auto Parts

      September 5, 2017 at 11:38 AM

      Reply

      Thank you for your question about flood water damage. We recommend consulting your local NAPA AutoCare in this situation. Every vehicle is different and difficulty of repair will vary widely based on percentage of water intrusion, water type (fresh, salt, or brackish), vehicle condition, and even vehicle age.

  • michelle

    September 5, 2017 at 6:19 PM

    Reply

    my car was under water up to seat level. There was signs of the water arriving where you put the gas in the car. the insurance advised all that needed to be done was the car cleaned yet there are issues with the fuel meter as well and issues when filling tank. The dealership advised that when a car is flooded, the carpets, seats have to be replaced as well as moldings and bolts that are not designed for water and will rust. they also advised gas system would need to be cleaned and potentially other areas of the engine. who is right?

    • NAPA Auto Parts

      September 6, 2017 at 4:29 PM

      Reply

      Thank you for your question about flood water damage. We recommend consulting your local NAPA AutoCare in this situation. Every vehicle is different and difficulty of repair will vary widely based on percentage of water intrusion, water type (fresh, salt, or brackish), vehicle condition, and even vehicle age.

  • Mike

    September 16, 2017 at 6:53 PM

    Reply

    My Dodge Challenger had water damage during hurricane Irma. The water in the garage came up to about 2 inches above the bottom of the door. The car is dead for now because apparently the electronics are under the carpet. There was only wet carpets, no standing water in the car. Any chance it can be repaired?

    • NAPA Auto Parts

      October 3, 2017 at 10:17 AM

      Reply

      Thank you for your question about flood water damage. We recommend consulting your local NAPA AutoCare in this situation. Every vehicle is different and difficulty of repair will vary widely based on percentage of water intrusion, water type (fresh, salt, or brackish), vehicle condition, and even vehicle age.

  • Peter

    November 24, 2017 at 9:52 PM

    Reply

    I found a Subaru WRX for sale. The title is salvage rebuilt flood. I drove it and everything was tight. Motor, ECU and Clutch had been replaced. All of the electronics were working fine as well. There was no smell of mold, and the interior was in great shape still. Before/if I buy I will have it inspected by a dealership. Are there any requests that I should make of the seller before I buy?

    • NAPA Auto Parts

      November 30, 2017 at 2:55 PM

      Reply

      Thank you for your question about flood water damage. We recommend consulting your local NAPA AutoCare for a pre-purchase inspection. Every vehicle is different and water damage will vary widely based on percentage of water intrusion, water type (fresh, salt, or brackish), vehicle condition, and even vehicle age.

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