What To Do If Your Car Has Been Flooded

By Jennifer Newman  on Wed Oct 31 22:02:35 GMT-06:00 2012

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East Coast residents are reeling in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. As they begin the difficult task of cleaning up from the storm surge, they may be wondering what to do with their flooded cars. Car Talk hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi have advice for them: If a car is flooded and it's your only transportation, you may be able to use it, but it's bound to cause you problems.

The best bet is to have your insurance company declare it totaled and pay you for it, the brothers say. If you're uninsured and not in a position to replace it, you can try to continue driving it, but not before performing some crucial tasks:

  • First, you have to get the water out of your car. You have to remove and either clean or replace the seats, carpet, interior panels and possibly even the headliner. Bleach must be used to attempt to kill the mold spores — and the sooner, the better.
  • You need to remove all the spark plugs and then turn the engine over to purge any water that may have gotten into the cylinders. If water comes out, that cylinder is a candidate for corrosion and failure. You also need to drain the motor oil and transmission fluid in case water has gotten in and diluted those crucial lubricants.
  • Then you can start the car and begin looking for electronic problems.

If you have to keep a car that's been flooded, consider it a short-term solution. And if you're shopping for a car, make sure you follow the proper steps to make sure it isn't a flood car that has been cleaned up.

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Assistant Managing Editor Jennifer Newman is a certified car-seat technician. A mom of two, she owns a 2013 Subaru Outback crammed with sports gear.  Email Jennifer


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