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
- 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).
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.