What to do in case of flooding?

The recent onslaught of typhoon Ondoy (international name: Ketsana), which left majority of Metro Manila and outlying cities flooded has resulted in the loss of many lives, homes and property. Part of this is the flooding of automobiles. Some had been fully submerged. Some partially submerged. And many others had to pass through floodwaters, probably stuck in traffic or just to get to higher parts of the city, to avoid further damage.

What should a car owner do in the event that his or her vehicle is submerged in flood waters?

How to wade through flood

The best way to deal with flooding is to avoid travelling at all. But if you really have to brave the floodwaters, then here are a few tips, mostly based on an article I wrote for Study Driving some time back.

  • Turn off your air conditioning–both the thermostat and the fan. In the event flood waters reach your aircon system while it’s running, it will be costly to clean and repair.
  • Use other cars as a reference when checking for depth. If the flood waters are up to halfway of the wheels, then it’s probably still safe to pass through. If it’s already reaching past the wheels, then there’s a high likelihood that the waters will enter the cabin and also the engine bay.
  • Check for possible obstacles and changes in depth. With floodwaters, you won’t be able to see the sidewalk or any open manholes.
  • It’s easier to wade through flood if you’re driving a manual transmission vehicle, since you can “play” with the engine revolution by adjusting the clutch and accelerator pedals while moving forward. You need to make sure your engine is revving enough such that water will not enter through the tailpipe. So stick to first gear and keep the engine revved to at least 2,000 RPM until you are sure you’ve exited the waters.
  • If you’re driving an automatic transmission vehicle, be sure to stick to first gear, too. Do this by selecting “1” or “L” on your gear selector. You can probably “play” with engine revolution by shifting the gear selector across N to 1 to you rev up the engine without moving forward, in the event that you need to stop while in the middle of the flooded street.
  • Make sure the water will not reach up to your engine’s air intake. Once water gets in, your engine will choke as it will no longer be able to combust fuel. Some diesel 4×4 vehicles have snorkels that act as air intakes. Since these are located up high, you can theoretically submerge the car in roof-deep waters, for as long as the snorkel is above-water. But of course, most of us drive regular cars, and not flood-proof 4x4s.
  • Be sure to check or dry out your brakes right afterward by tapping and pumping to check if they “bite” properly.

After a flood

Based on discussion threads on Vios Club Philippines and Tsikot, here are a few things you should keep in mind if your car gets submerged under flood water while running or while parked.

  • Don’t attempt to start the car. You have to make sure the engine is not waterlogged.
  • Disconnect both terminals of the battery.
  • If water has reached your car’s computer box (ECU), it’s best to have your car towed to the casa or service center without delay. You will probably not be able to do any DIY fixing here.
  • Uninstall the air filter, and dry out. You may also replace this if replacement is due anyway.
  • Dry out all electricals, especially the relays, plugs and other switches before plugging the battery back in.
  • Check your oil dipstick. If it’s coffee-colored (with cream!), then it means water has entered your engine’s cylinders. Oil will have to be changed several times, for this to be flushed out.
  • Have all fluids replaced.
  • Have all joints and bearings re-greased.
  • Have spark plugs dried or replaced.
  • Look for drain plugs underneath the car’s carpeting, and also the trunk (usually under the spare tire well).
  • Be sure to dry out the car in the sun, weather permitting.
  • Have your car’s interior detailed, as the flood will most likely leave mud and other stains inside. Worse than this is the musty, murky smell that water ill leave inside the car.
  • If in doubt, have the car towed to the nearest service center or casa.

Repairs for flooded vehicles would usually involve replacement of electrical parts, replacement of spark plugs and fluids, cleaning of the interiors, and additional rustproofing or undercoating (as flooding would be one reason for early corrosion).

Flood insurance

Most insurance policies do not automatically cover “acts of God” or “force majeure,” so be sure to check with your insurance provider if you can file claims for repair or replacement of a flooded vehicle. Most would cover for AOG with a premium, but some would include this as free in the policy. I’m pretty sure insurance companies will be deluged with calls from car owners as an aftermath of the storms.

Has your car been flooded by the recent typhoon? The staff of Pinoy Auto Blog extend our sympathies, especially for families who have lost lives, homes and properties. We will be joining online relief and rehabilitation efforts soon.

10 thoughts on “What to do in case of flooding?”

  1. I guess the rule of thumb is to have a qualified mechanic and auto electrician .

    While casas are supposed to be the best places to send your cars, expect the repair costs to be on the really steep side. IMHO, it’s better to explore other reputable auto shops which provide all-around services. But be sure they’re capable of dealing with the sophisticated electronics (ECUs and other control systems).

    The thing is, ECU replacement alone costs Php 50k. Repairs, replacement and restoration alone can cost Php 100k easy – already a down payment for a brand new sedan. But it’s either a choice between restoring or absorbing the full loss of the car, right? Tragic really.

    Expect the second-hand car market to be filled with people trying to unload submerged cars super cheap. The typhoon is really one reason to be really cautious about buying second-hand cars for the next few years.

  2. i was just thinking example in the flood and we need to stop..would it be safe to shift to neutral with clutch plus a little rev and do the same when shifting to 1. and would it also be safe to be shifting to 2 if needed. lastly, is it advisable to use left foot for brake or still right? thanks..

    1. Thanks for the comment. Are we talking about manual transmission here? If so, then yes to question #1. It’s okay to rev up and play with the clutch while in 1st gear. When wading through floods, I would even suggest not completely disengaging the clutch, so you actually over-rev, just to make sure you have enough pressure to “blow” out air from the tailpipe.

      As for #2, no it’s not recommended to shift to 2nd gear while wading through floods.

      And as for #3, there are dangers involved in using your left foot to brake if you’re not experienced with doing this (as many race car drivers are). Your left foot is used to depressing the clutch, which requires greater pressure than what you would usually use with your right foot. The brake and accelerator pedals usually respond to light pressure. So when you use your left foot, “muscle memory” usually dictates that you floor it (as what you usually do with the clutch). And so you will most likely floor the brake pedal, and get into a very sudden stop.

      Best when wading through floods is to do it quite slowly. But it’s even better if you can avoid wading through floodwaters at all.

      1. May I know why it is not recommended to shift to the 2nd gear while in flood? If accidentally done, may I know how to fix damage?

        1. Not really an issue with 2nd gear, per se. But the issue here is releasing the gas pedal while shifting. If your muffler is underwater, there is a chance that water will get in and enter the engine itself. To avoid this, stay in 1st gear while keeping revs high.

  3. Napakamal naman!!!!!! paandarin ko uli sasakyan nyo like parang walang nangyari sa halagang P20.000 lahat ng klasing kotse at AUV’s manual or Automatic, If you happened to disconnect your battery before the flood….. here is my number, 09186312308 or 029399060

  4. Napakamal naman!!!!!! paandarin ko uli sasakyan nyo like parang walang nangyari sa halagang P20.000 lahat ng klasing kotse at AUV’s manual or Automatic, If you happened to disconnect your battery before the flood….. here is my number, 09186312308 or 029399060

  5. We peplaced our flooded car with a brand new electronic steering post and Aircon ECU. It is back to running condition minus the radio (damaged by water) , alrm and poer door locks system. I feel there is a risk to run our car with the damaged radio, alarm system and power door locks systems’ current wirings still connected, as those mechanisms may be grounded and might result to other damages.
    How do I disconnect the said mechanisms’ wiring? Please help/guide us. Salamat po.

  6. Hi, if flood water gets in your car a toyota vios 1.3j, only up tomunder your seat. How much damage will it cause and if you start the engine a 9 hrs after the incident. Thanks

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