Is a Flooded Car Junk?

Flood1

As East Coast residents recover from Hurricane Sandy, they'll be surveying their businesses, homes and cars and trying to decide what's salvageable.

Here are some tips from Car Talk hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi about whether that flooded car is junk:

  • If water gets access to one of the engine's cylinders — either through the air intake or the exhaust system — that cylinder can fill with water. Then, when the engine is started, that cylinder will hydrolock (water can't be compressed like air can), and everything connected to the cylinder will break or bend. 
  • Even if the water is pushed out safely before the car is started, that cylinder has already had water sitting in it for days. Those cylinder walls and rings are probably already rusting, so that engine's going to burn oil like crazy and run unevenly.
  • Water also can get into the transmission through the transmission fluid dipstick hole. If that happens, you'll be lubricating the transmission with transmission fluid and water.
  • Inside the car, lots of manufacturers now put electronic components — like computers — under the seats or under the dashboard. Even if only a modest amount of water was sloshing around the floor of the car, you may need a new computer — or several new computers, depending on your car — which can cost $1,000 each.
  • If water gets a little higher up, it can wreak havoc on electronic seat controls, electric windows, ignition switches and airbags. More and more cars now have seat belt pretensioners, which use pyrotechnic devices housed where the seat belt attaches to the bottom of the door pillar. They won't work if they've come in contact with water.
  • When a car is filled with water and then closed up and baked in the sun for days, you've got mold-spore heaven. That's not only a health hazard, but it's also nearly impossible to fix.

Bottom line: If water got any further than the car's floor, it's junk.

Related
How Hurricane Sandy Could Affect Auto Sales
Storm Safety: What You Should Do if You Get Caught in Water
More Safety News

By Jennifer Newman | November 2, 2012 | Comments (10)
Tags: Safety

Comments 

Audi

my family recently bought a water damage 2012 Acura MDX and the whole entire car needed new electronics. now if you dont have your own mechanical, electrical, and body shop like we do the repair would be far more expensive. all in all we got a 55,000 dollar car for about 28 after all the expense of labor and parts and the vehicle.

J

Audi,

And a salvage title which makes the car worth nothing but junk.

Eugene Conway

It's startling to read and hear such absolute pessimism about flooded car.
I have 2001 Focus. Ran and looked like new.Had water to frontseats-not rear,Radio works-windows-wipers-Mech says junk it-easy to say-couldn't start it-opinion? I really need my car.
Eugene of L.I.NY

Eugene Conway

Have flooded 2001 Focus like new and flooded in Sandy to below dash but at top of front but not rear seat-Mech says of course "Junk It"-easy to say!Radio-Locks-Lights work-can't start-Comp under dash-How to tell if comp wet?Exactly what could be wrong and how to recognize? Water was in car
approx one hour before recede.Can it be saved?

Eugene of Long Island & Sandy

Highdesertcat

The short answer to the question is, "Yes, a flooded car is junk."

But there is a sucker born every minute, and there is no doubt in my mind that there will be suckers who buy a flooded car.

M

Clean it up and sell it on craigslist in another state

One thing in Indiana we don't have to worry about hurricane damage, just tornadoes and floods. My prayers go out to the Sandy victims.

Hi
Nice blog information and I am agree with this one because selling junk cars cash is better then storing your old and waste thing.

Thanks

i think water damaged cars are totally junk. They will need a total fix up.

scrap cars

One of my friend met with an accident. He spend a lot of money in repairing his car which got in trench filled with water but no use later on he regret, he thought the money he spent on repairing the car can be used to buy a new second hand car instead.

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