You hoped you’d never have to learn how to deal with it, but it finally happened: You left your car’s windows down or your convertible top open, and a sudden rain storm completely soaked your vehicle’s interior. Don’t panic, though; there are a number of things you can do to make sure that you don’t have to deal with any permanent damage. Here are some tips for how to dry out your wet car in three easy steps so you can get back on the road as soon as possible.
1. Water, Water Everywhere
Your first order of business is to get as much water out of your car as possible as quickly as you can. If your floorboards have an inch or more of standing water, you’ll want to use a wet/dry vac to suck it out, taking particular care to get into the nooks and crannies between the seats, center console and armrests.
Next, use shop towels to soak up any water from carpets and seats. It’s always better to use cloth rather than paper towels for this step, because cloth towels are much more absorbent. You should also check to see if your vehicle has drain plugs in the floor that you can open up to release any trapped water.
2. Use Airflow to Clear Out Moisture
No matter how much you towel or vacuum off your car’s surfaces, any fabric and carpeting in your car, as well as the chassis beneath, will be damp to the touch. So, how can you deal with any lingering moisture?
Start by positioning a fan, two if possible, so that it blows across the car’s floors and seats from one side to the other. A shop fan is perfect for this. Keep the car’s doors open and leave the fans running for at least a day inside your garage. This should thoroughly dry out any remaining moisture. If you can, station a dehumidifier in your garage while the fans are running to take as much wetness out of the air as possible.
If you’re stuck far away from home, don’t worry: You can also blast your car’s heater to simulate the drying effect of the fans. This method is less efficient, however, and should only be used as a temporary fix until you can properly ventilate your car.
3. Keep Mold Out of the Picture
Even after performing all of these steps, there’s still a chance that lingering moisture could set the stage for future mold growth and mustiness. Ditch the air freshener and target areas that might still feel wet with a blow dryer. Next, get some moisture-absorbent products, such as baking soda, that you can leave inside the car behind each of the seats. This will work over time to dry out your car’s cabin and reduce the chance of funky odors taking root.
A wet car isn’t the end of the world. As long as you keep calm and follow these basic steps for how to dry off your car’s interior, you should be able to avoid any permanent water damage to your vehicle.
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Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.