Chuck’s Guide Recovering Your Flooded Car

So, you were in a hurricane and your car flooded and you DON’T have full coverage insurance, FEMA didn’t help you etc.

If you know a flood is coming:

Do NOT park on the street. The street is the most likely place to have deep water in any flood. It is also the most likely place your car will get towed by the city after a flood, or towed by other people who are just out stealing cars in the chaos.

If you are not sure about how high the ground you are on is, buy “Rhino Ramps” at your local auto parts store. Put them in front of each wheel and drive up them. This will get your car an additional foot in the air. Rhino Ramps are strong, cheap, and stack. They come in a regular and a heavyweight capacity.

When you get your car parked where you like disconnect the battery. Water is going to short out the electrical connectors on the lower part of the car, sometimes blow fuses and/or damage components or even fry your engine control module, body control module etc. If you don’t at minimum you will come out to a drained battery.

Buy the following list:

Air Filter, Cabin Air Filter, a can of WD40, a spray can of QD Electrical Contact Cleaner, dielectric grease, Lysol spray. Buy a fuel additive that binds to water such as HEET and put it in the tank. Before and after the flood give each keyhole on the outside of the car a squirt with the WD40, use the included plastic straw so it squirts inside the lock – one or two small squirts is usually more than enough.

After the flood:

After your car floods, look on Youtube on how to remove your tail light and headlight assembly. Most come out easily. Dry them with a hair dryer or some other means. Take off the light socket connectors (and any other electrical connectors you can easily pop off and clean under the hood) and clean them with QD Electrical Contact Cleaner as it cleans and displaces water instantly. If you car has a distributor cap, pop it off and clean it as well. Get a small tube of dielectric grease (grease that doesn’t conduct electricity) and smush it right into the light bulb and electrical sockets. This keeps moisture out and helps dissipate heat.

NOTE: Do not touch the glass part of halogen light bulbs (in the headlights) with your bare fingers.

If the spark plugs wires/coil overs are easily removed and inspected (only do one at a time to not mix them up) do the same with them.

Do NOT attempt to start your car and hopefully you disconnected your battery earlier on. If possible, wait 2-3 days for your car to dry out. Remember that water got in your oxygen sensor connectors, the airbag sensors in your bumper, the ABS sensors on your wheels, transmission sensors and solenoids, power steering sensors on your rack etc etc. So just because your car LOOKS dry on the outside, doesn’t mean that it is. If you start your car prematurely it will pop a TON of engine codes, your check engine light will come on, and will do so until all is dry. You could also damage electrical components on your car.

Speaking of electrical, now is a good time to bust out your owners manual and find your car’s two fuse boxes. Most cars have one in the passenger compartment and another under the hood. Make certain the battery is disconnected. Pull out one fuse and relay at a time – clean the socket each fits into with the QD Electrical Contact Cleaner – remember just clean and replace one at a time. Just a small squirt is all it takes. If you can take out the door ajar switches in the door jam do so and clean them. A wet door ajar switch will drain your battery over night.

Open the trunk and check the spare tire well. Get all water out of there as it will smell up, get moldy in there and start to rust.

Check your air filter and cabin air filter, replace if any moisture is detected. A proper YouTube search can show you how.

Change your oil ASAP. Notice I did NOT say “check your oil”. Oil and water separate and if you pull the dipstick the oil on it may look fine and you may still have water in your oil which might not show until it is too late or some engine damage is done. If you hear “I checked the dipstick and the oil looks fine” the person you are talking to IS a dipstick himself.

Make sure when you get your oil changed that the chassis is lubed and that said 18 year old at quickie lube actually does the lube and does it good. Water in ball joints, U-joints, tie rods, center links, idler arms, arms etc WILL make them fail soon. Some older cars and trucks have wheel bearings that must be “packed” with grease by hand. Get it done.

The same all applies for the transmission fluid. Even if you just check the dipstick it won’t help. The water separates from the oil. Or you may have water in your torque converter. So get your transmission serviced ASAP. The damage from some water in the transmission might not show up for weeks. Spending a hundred dollars now beats buying a new transmission later. Just do it.

If you have a truck or a rear wheel drive car. Get the gear oil in your differential and transfer case changed. The above applies so just do it. If you have a power steering gear box, if there is any chance water could get in the same applies.


Water got in your car and that musty/moldy smell sets in. What do you do?

Get the car interior completely dry ASAP. After that is done by a couple of large cans of Lysol spray that kills mold. The mold spores get everywhere so you must spray EVERYTHING – the carpets, the seats, under the seats, the ceiling – ALL of it.

Turn on your air conditioning or blower fan and set it for “recirculate”. Find where it is sucking the air IN (not out) under the dash, take the Lysol and spray it right into where it sucks the air in. This will kill mold in your vents and your AC evaporator.

Wait for all to dry. At this point if you want to deodorize further you can use Carpet Fresh or baking soda on your carpets, just be sure to vacuum it all up soon after.

Lastly, go to your local auto parts store and buy Meguiar’s Air Re-Fresher Odor Eliminator. You have seen a bug bomb? Well this is an odor elimination bomb. It works, but only if you have already killed all of the mold. Follow the instructions on the bomb and be sure to put the vent/AC on recirculate when you use it.

Your car should now smell like new.

Last but not least:

If the problem is just too big and you take the car to a mechanic, keep in mind that with a flooded car THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES! Many shops simply will not work on flooded cars as any number of problems can creep up later – and this is why most insurance companies simply “total” the car. Don’t be “THAT JERK” who tries to get off cheap at the car shop and demands a guarantee that all will be well later, that is impossible in these situations.

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