What to Do If Your Car is Water Damaged

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Whether you drove into a puddle or you recently suffered from a storm surge that flooded your neighborhood, dealing with a water damaged car is not something we’re all prepared for, and you might be wondering what to do if your car is water damaged. Depending on the type of water, the amount, and the duration, your car could be salvageable.

Flooding and Water Damaged Car Repairs

Most insurance companies will say it’s impossible to do repairs on a water damaged vehicle. They will write it off and say it’s time for a new car. Most flooding and water damage can result in a hydro-locked engine, short circuiting electronics, water-logged transmission, and mold, mildew, and rust.

When it comes down to it, the best way to separate vehicles that can be repaired and those that can’t is between the economical and uneconomical repairs.

Uneconomical Water Damaged Car

An uneconomical water damage car has usually sat for days after a storm or river has flooded. Sitting in water like that can damage the interior, electrical, and powertrain. If it’s salt water it’s sat in, the damage can be even worse. Some mechanics will say, at any level, the car is unfixable if it’s been sitting in salt water. The salt water leads to corrosion at a higher rate.

Economical Water Damaged Car

An economical water damage car repair possibility will depend on the extent of the flooding, the water type, the depth of water it was in, and the duration. If the car has been caught in a river or you drove through a puddle and the engine died, there could be a chance it’s repairable. Follow this checklist for your vehicle:

Vehicle Checklist

  1. Survey the potential damage. Make note of the depth of floodwaters your car is sitting in. Don’t start the engine while it’s in the water because it could lead to water in the engine – a costly fix.
  2. Act quickly. If it’s in salt water, that can be more damaging than fresh water because it will cause corrosion a lot faster. Dry out the vehicle as soon as you possibly can and contact the tow service to remove it out of the puddle or floodwater. Before you tow the vehicle, you may need to drain the oil, transmission fluid, and lube.
  3. Look under the hood. Looking underneath the hood can lead to clues as to where the damage has occurred and to what extensity. For this task, you might want to partner with a mechanic.
    • Check oil dipstick. If there are water droplets, that means a cylinder could be broken.
    • Remove broken cylinders and check for corroded spots.
    • Change oil and transmission fluid. Once the car is drivable and has driven several hundred miles, you should change the fluids.
  4. Clean the interior. If the water your car was sitting in was more than a few feet, you might have water on the inside of the vehicle.
    • Remove all moisture from inside the vehicle. Use a wet/dry vacuum to suck out any standing water inside the vehicle. To absorb any water soaked in the upholstery, use cloth towels. If possible, you might want to remove the seats and cushions, and use fans and dehumidifiers to accel the drying process.
  5. Check the fuel tank and line. You can use a store-bought siphon pump to remove some of the fuel. If you detect water, you will have to empty the tank completely.

Car Insurance & Water Damaged Car

If you are worried about not being covered by specific flood insurance like you might have for a home, there’s no need to stress. The insurance coverage you need to cover any damages caused by a flood is included in a comprehensive coverage plan.

Comprehensive Coverage Plan

Comprehensive coverage is an election, and it isn’t automatically included in auto insurance policy. A comprehensive coverage plan covers your vehicle if it is stolen, if a tree falls on it, or if it’s in a flood. Basically, it’s for damages that occur from a factor other than a vehicle accident. That damage will fall under your collision coverage.

If you’re financing your vehicle, you are most likely required to have both comprehensive and collision coverage since the car acts as collateral for your loan. It is to ensure that the item used for collateral is safe in case of something happening to it, and the bank doesn’t lose its money.

Claiming Flood Damage

If your car has suffered from flood damage, here are some tips to claim it with your insurance provider:

  • Call in the claim as soon as you can. Time is important when reporting a claim, and you should be contacting your insurance company or your insurance agent’s office. You want to have the claim process first, especially if the flood incident has happened to many around you.
  • Dry out the vehicle as soon as possible. The sooner you can, the better chance you have of avoiding a total loss. Contact the appropriate professionals to help you.
  • Use your insurance carrier’s preferred body shop. A major problem with flood-damaged vehicles is that there is a potential for further problems. Using the insurance provider’s shop guarantees that they are a working, trustworthy body shop. Check with your agent to see if the repairs you will need are guaranteed.

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