What damage can a flooded car have? Ways to fix it

Flooding a car can be a real problem for the owner. The engine, electrical system, and interior can suffer serious damage. The repair will need significant financial resources. What should a car owner do if his car is flooded so much that only the roof is visible? How to behave in this case? It is clear that water will not stand forever, and the car will again be on a more or less hard surface, but what to do with regard to the interior, electrics, transmissions, and what procedures will be required to start the engine?

Damage to the car caused by flooding

Damage can occur if the water level has exceeded half the height of the wheels or if the exhaust end has entered the water. After such an incident, most drivers are tempted to start the car and see if the engine is still running.

If the water has reached the engine, the car will certainly not start and a service visit is needed. You can check manually whether the water has reached the engine by lifting the car up with a jack. Remove the oil pan and if water leaks instead of oil, then the engine has been severely damaged or will need to be completely replaced.

Flooding inside the car can be checked relatively easily, both outside and inside, you should see if the waterline left by mud or debris. If the water did not rise more than the bottom edge of the doors, the water most likely did not get inside.

Does car insurance cover flooding?

If the interior is flooded, insurance companies will consider that the car is destroyed and no longer cost-effective to repair if the water reaches the dashboard somewhere. For a repair in case of car flooding, if it was not involved in a road accident, an extra insurance is needed.

In most cases, insurance companies cover damage caused by fire or theft. It sometimes happens that insurers make claims that the floods were not included in the contract. If water gets inside the car, mold will appear very quickly. So be very careful where you make your car insurance.

What to do if the car was flooded?

car flooded with water

Start drying by opening doors and windows, absorbing water from the floor, and evaluating the details that will need to be changed: mats, floor mats, door panels, upholstery, etc.

Some drivers use another trick: they take the cars to the so-called drying rooms, which are usually found in specialized car services.

If water droplets appear on the dipstick or the oil level is high, or if the air filter has water in it, the engine must not be started. The car must be towed, taken to service to have all its fluids changed.

Newer cars have a sealed fuel tank that prevents water from entering, but older cars are less likely to have this feature.

The brakes, clutch, power steering, and the tank where the coolant is stored must also be checked. If the engine starts, all components that are powered by electricity must be checked: headlights, indicators, air conditioning, audio system, central locking, windows, and seats in case they are electrically operated, even interior lights. A

special mention would be in the case of the automatic transmission.

If the gears are hard to switch, it is a signal that there is a problem with the electrical part. The car must be taken to a mechanic, and in the worst case, the insurance company should cover the damage.

In addition, before attempting to move the car, it is recommended to view the area under the car, not before applying the parking brake. Deposits around wheels, brakes, or other components must be cleaned.

Another solution to the problem is selling a car for parts. This option, perhaps, is a good solution to the problem, because in order to restore a flooded car, you will have to pay a substantial amount of money, not to mention time and effort.

Below we will list a step by step guide in fixing this issue

How to fix the damage of a flooded car?

The first thing that should be learned by the owner of a flooded car is that you should not try to start it. Such attempts, at best, will lead to nothing, and at worst, will worsen the situation.

If you cannot leave the car in that spot, the only right decision would be to call a tow truck and take the car to the service, where you can begin to implement a step-by-step plan for the restoration of the damaged car. Perhaps it’s worth starting with the body.

Inspecting the body

First, the body should be inspected. It does not always suffer from flooding since some parts are galvanized. But if the flooding was serious, the car could float and hit or catch on other cars, walls, etc. The body, in this case, will either be scratched or dented and it will need to be restored.

But even if no damage was found, it is necessary to wash the entire body under pressure. It will be necessary to wash away all traces of the flood (sand, silt, etc.). 

Be sure to check the closed cavities, spar cups, trunk, sills, and more. Do not forget that if something is missed, the result will be a “rotting” body part, so do not rush and inspect everything carefully.

Inspecting the engine

A much more serious problem is the presence of water in the engine. As a rule, water enters the engine through the air filter, through the dipstick or oil plug is also likely. 

Water will almost certainly fall into oil and pistons. If you try to start the engine in this case, water will inevitably enter. Therefore, the following procedures should be performed first:

  • Remove the engine and the cylinder head and dry the piston. Clean camshaft and valves and ensure that everything is all dry
  • Remove the oil pan and pour out the oil with the water in it. Sand often gets in too. Clean it carefully
  • Change oil filter.
  • Remove and clean the throttle.
  • The air filter should be removed, replaced, and cleaned. 
  • Check spark plugs and ignition coils.

All of the above will require considerable effort, but it is impossible to do without it, otherwise, the engine will simply die.

Transmission, axles and differential

Whether the car has a manual or automatic transmission, water will almost always enter the transmission system. At best it will enter just a bit (for example, through the metal probe), but it will enter anyway. In the absence of a metal probe, it can leak through the filling plug

In this case, it is best to change the transmission oil, although rinsing is not necessary since the probability of sand penetration is very slim. The same applies to the differential and the rear axle: wherever there is oil, you need to change it.

Do not forget that the rear axle and gearbox are complex and important components (especially for automatic transmissions), so changing the oil is imperative!

Fuel system

There is no doubt that water will be present in the fuel tank. The same applies to the whole fuel system. Therefore, the tank must be removed and the fuel drained.

Next, check the fuel pump, which may be clogged. It has a water-retaining filter that will be replaced. It is best to replace the pump, but if there is no such need, you can limit yourself to replacing the filter itself.

Further, it is recommended to clean the fuel channel, then remove and clean the fuel rail with injectors, since there may also be water.

Electrical system

This part of the car suffers from flooding quite a bit. And although the car’s electronic system will not burn, the fuse box, ECU, and the battery will suffer.

Because modern cars turn off the network, both the radio and the dashboard computer will survive with a probability of about 50% to work, the fuse box and ECU will most likely have to be changed, although this is expensive, there are no options.

If the battery is “closed”, or out of service, it can be recharged, and thus “revived” (since water simply empties it). As for the serviced batteries, water almost always passes inside them, and in this case, it is necessary to drain the electrolyte, replacing it with a new one.

In short, it’s always a good option to buy a new battery 🙂

Electricity is also an important element and DVRs, alarm systems, and more, most likely will also fail.

Car interior

Flooding is a difficult test for the cabin, and if the seats can still be dried, the upholstery may be very damaged. It can be swollen, and then it will certainly have to be changed. If the car has spent enough time in the water, then it’s best to replace the seats.

Also, if they have suffered slightly, you can remove and dry them, as well as the upholstery. In general, there is a lot of work with the car interior, and it often goes bad. Getting rid of this smell is extremely problematic.

As for the cooling and braking systems, due to their rather high tightness, in most cases, they do not suffer from flooding.


In general, there will be a lot of restoration work, so if the car is insured with extra insurance, it will be more reasonable to apply for the repairs under insurance.

Many cars that have been completely damaged due to flooding are simply cleaned and resold. Before buying a used car, you should find out as much as possible about its entire history.

If the car was actually underwater and was moved from one country to another, it is clear that the sellers, most likely, will not say anything about it.

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