Can driving through water damage your car?

Drivers must be very careful when they encounter water, especially puddles on their route. When the roads become flooded due to various circumstances like a storm, broken street pipes, etc., be cautious.

When you encounter water on the road, even if it looks like it is simply a few inches deep, it can still cause damage to your car. Fast-moving water despite its depth can make the car float which could make you lose its control very easily and cause an accident. 

A lot of drivers believe that they can make it quickly to the other side of the road by driving through water, but then they find out that the puddle is deeper than they expected. 

The biggest issue is that, if the water level is just over the car’s bumper, it can still be sucked into the engine causing stalling and it may even severely damage the engine. If that is the case, turn your car around if possible and find another way.

Driving into the water on flooded roadways can lead to trouble in several ways. Let’s start with a list of car parts and how they are affected by water.

Common car parts that can be affected by driving through water


The worst thing that can happen to your brakes is that if the brake discs are very hot and you drive through a cold puddle, the sudden drop in temperatures can cause the disc brakes to bent and the brake pads to crack and thus wear out quicker. Other than that, water is less likely to affect the brakes because of their high tightness.


Pay close attention to your engine after driving through water. See if you hear strange noises, jolting, or sputtering in your car, the common symptom can be a sudden loss of power. Water in the combustion chamber can also cause “hydro-lock” that leads to broken piston rods and a huge repair bill. Also, the loud noise can come from the alternator, belts, or other internal car parts. 

Engine oil 

Use your dipstick for any signs of water. If the oil looks whitish or if you find those kinds of droplets on your dipstick, there is water in the crankcase. Unfortunately, water will quickly get into the engine.

Air filter

If you find out that your air filter got wet this can also mean that water got into the engine and you should inspect it as soon as posible.

Electrical parts

Cars today have a lot more electronics and sensors. Yes, the parts may be designed to be water-resistant, but it is still a good idea to check to see if parts got wet. If your lights are working, then your fuses and battery are in good shape.

Other common water faults can affect the wiring to various components such as the radio, ECU, sensors, dashboard, and electric windows. Remember, don’t joke around with these areas because you can risk an electric shock.

Car interior 

Check your floor carpets because water develops bad odors and mold if the carpet comes in contact with it. Check the door trim and panel. Check your spare tire because water can cause nuts and bolts to rust. 

In addition to these common car parts shown above, other areas to look for water damage are in the fluid system. This includes the coolant, power steering fluid, and fuel system, but these are less likely to suffer severe damage because of their high tightness.

You can also check here all the possible damage that a flooded car can have

How fast should I drive my car through water?

Remember the safety slogan identified on TV ads about water – “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” The National Weather Service has used this slogan for over 15 years to help people to remember the damage to the car and themselves on flooded roadways.

Mechanics says that water can easily damage your engine. This is because flooded highways can cause water to enter the engine’s air intake system because it is close location to the ground.

When you feel like you want to drive through water and you don’t know how fast can you drive through it, then you should do it at around 3 to 4 miles per hour to avoid that “splash”.

If you drive faster, you will create a wave that will splash water everywhere, including under your car. If this happens, do not stop! If you stop and the water level is high, you are allowing it to enter into the exhaust pipe which is also a costly repair.

Keep your motor running, take your foot off the accelerator pedal and let the car go straight ahead until you are out.

Why does the car stop suddenly when driving through water?

Deep road puddles or rising floodwaters are enough to get into the engine’s air intake system causing hydro-locked pistons that will stop the car instantly This also is an expensive repair because water can cause cracked rings, bent connecting rods, and a bad crankshaft.  

If the road water is at a high level and the exhaust pipes are affected, the engine will not be able to breathe, thus your car will stop immediately. Yes, a professional mechanic can repair this problem when the backpressure of the water clears out. Usually, the engine will start but you must also check the car parts thoroughly. 


In general, repairing the damage that water can cause to cars is an uncertain experiment. This will depend on how much water the car took in and what the water has affected. Also, the type of water involved plays a big role. Muddy water can contain harmful oily substances, grass, and leaves. Salty water can cause so much damage that your car could be a goner. 

When you encounter deep puddles on the road think twice before driving though it. The first thing you should do is to check how deep it is, if it is below the bumper, then drive very slowly until you pass, if it is too deep than you should find another way around.

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