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Check flooded cars thoroughly before restarting the engine

Flooded cars need a thorough inspection before restarting.
Flooded cars need a thorough inspection before restarting. Robyne Cuerel

VEHICLES inundated by floodwaters should have a thorough inspection before trying to restart the engine.

The RACQ has warned drivers to undertake any necessary repairs before trying to get back on the road to avoid dangerous or deadly consequences.

Many vehicles which have been inundated will be too costly to repair. Cars are liked to be written off in situations where water has entered the interior.

Many of the checks listed below require an advanced level of mechanical understanding and may well be beyond the scope of a motorist's DIY skills. As with any maintenance work on a vehicle, it's important for your safety to only undertake work within your capabilities. The RACQ has this advice for those with flooded cars:

  • Before attempting to start or drive a flooded vehicle, always check for debris in the engine compartment and under body, even if the water doesn't appear to have been very high. Also be aware that animals, reptiles and insects may have taken refuge in vehicles.  Silt and mud can also carry contaminants that can cause infection.
  • Salt water is very aggressive and causes much greater damage, has more long term implications than fresh water and is very much harder to deal with. However silt, mud and other material carried by fresh water can be difficult to remove and will increase repair difficulty and costs.
  • Unless the battery is sealed it's unlikely to survive being immersed. A replacement battery will most probably be required.
  • Engines that have been immersed in fresh water and treated quickly afterwards are likely to survive fairly well. Drain contaminated oil and replace. It's probably also worth replacing the oil filter at this point. Remove spark plugs and turn engine by hand to remove any water from cylinders. For diesel engines, please refer to a mechanic.
  • Check manifolds, air cleaners and ducting for water and drain if necessary before attempting to start the engine.
  • For engines with timing belts check to ensure silt, debris and animals / reptiles haven't found their way inside timing belt covers. This could derail a timing belt and cause extensive engine damage.

  • Reassemble, start and run the engine as soon as possible to assist in the drying out process.
  • When checking oil levels and contamination with the engine's dipstick be aware that oil floats on water. Very over-full readings indicate the possibility of water contamination, even if there is no evidence of water on the dip stick.
  • Salt water affected engines are unlikely to be salvageable.
  • Clean mud and silt from mechanical components by hosing. High pressure water blasters are effective for this purpose however they should not be used to clean radiators, air conditioning condensers or other fragile components.

Topics:  cars flood-affected motoring



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