Many will tell you once a car has been in a flood; the engine is no longer good. They will go on to tell you the problems you will run into if you should dare to buy a car that was under water. Insurance companies will deem the automobile totaled. This is only partially true. Salvaging the car’s engine will depend on the steps you take after the flood. In all cases a car that has been submerged in salt water, the engine can be salvaged, but it will not last long. Salt is highly corrosive and will degrade the metal parts of the engine along with the wiring. The salt will eat away at wire coverings causing major electrical problems in the automobile. No matter how well you rinse or wash the internal parts, once salt water has invaded the engine space or interior spaces of the car, the damage is done.
A car involved in fresh water flooding as a result of a severe rain storm, overflowing banks of rivers, lakes and streams or an accidental drive into a body of water, can be saved. Many insurance companies will total the automobile and send it off to an auction. Car dealers can buy the car or your insurance company will sell it back to you at a fraction of the value. Your automobile title will be stamped with an “S”. The “S” stands for “Salvage”. Insurance companies will reinsure the automobile with a replacement value in line with the lowest blue book value. As long as you take the necessary steps WITHOUT starting the car – you can save a flood damaged car engine.
Start with the automobile’s Battery
Pop the hood open on your car.
Locate the battery and remove the wires from the battery.
Take the battery out of the engine compartment.
Set it aside – the battery may or may not be good.
Move to the Oil
Crawl under the car.
Locate the drain plug for the oil.
Place a large oil pan under the drain plug.
Take the plug out and let the oil drain into the pan.
Leave the oil pan in place under the automobile for one to two days to allow all of the oil to flow out, which also allows the water to drip out and dry.
On to the Transmission
Crawl back under the car with a second large pan.
Locate the plug for the transmission. Some cars will have a sealed transmission without a plug. If this is the case drain the transmission oil according to the automobile manufacturer’s instructions.
Allow the transmission oil to drain out of the transmission.
Leave the plug out for one to two days to allow the water to slowly drip out and dry.
And Now the Air Filter
Locate the air filter.
Remove it and discard it.
Brakes – Because Stopping is Important
Find the master cylinder.
Take the cap off the master cylinder.
Suction the brake fluid out with a large syringe or you can also use an old turkey baster.
Squirt the fluid into a container.
Disconnect the brake lines from the master cylinder using a line wrench.
Drain the brake fluid from the lines into the container with the other brake fluid.
Disconnect the connector from the reservoir.
Move the master cylinder and remove the gasket. Throw out the gasket and get a replacement.
Wipe down the master cylinder and area around it.
Put the new gasket in place.
Tighten the nuts to hold the master cylinder in place.
Reconnect the lines.
Fill the reservoir with brake fluid.
Bleed the air out of the brake lines.
It’s Time for Spark Plugs
Find the spark plugs and take them out.
Wipe the spark plugs down and keep them for later.
Sit Back and Wait -- Patiently
Gather what you will need to get the car back in running condition or go fishing – it’s your choice and you do have to wait a day or two.
Take the time to properly dispose of the fluids you drained from the automobile.
Replace the Fluids
Put the transmission plug back in.
Fill the transmission with new transmission oil.
Remove the old oil filter and replace it.
Put the plug back in and fill with the appropriate motor oil.
See if the Battery Works
Put the battery back into place inside the engine compartment.
Reconnect the battery cables.
Use the Battery Power to Help Save the Flood Damaged Engine
Get into the car and insert the key into the ignition.
Turn the key as if you are starting it – I know it doesn’t have spark plugs and won’t start – but the it will force any remaining water out of the cylinders.
Repeat six to eight times.
If the car engine won’t attempt to turn over – the battery may be dead.
Back to The Air Filter
Put a new air filter in place.
You Need Spark
Either buy new spark plugs and put them in place or use the ones you removed from the engine.
The Moment of Truth
Get back into the car.
Insert the key into the ignition.
Turn the key and start the car.
A Few Car Salvaging Tips
Do not even think about trying to start the car until you have gone through all of the above steps. A great way to ruin your engine is to try to start it with all of that water in it.
After draining fluids, removing plugs and filters, it’s time to tackle the inside of the car. For best results wait for a nice, warm sunny day.
Remove the seats and set them in the sun to dry.
Vacuum the inside of the car with a wet dry vacuum to pull out as much moisture as possible.
Pull the carpeting out of the car. Lay the carpeting on a flat clean surface. Shampoo the rug with a cleaner made for marine use which has ingredients that will kill odor along with mold and mildew. If the seats are cloth, shampoo them also.
Hang the carpet out to dry.
Put the interior back together after all parts are completely dry.