SAN FRANCISCO — With the recent flooding in Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, RepairPal Inc., an auto repair website, has warned consumers to be aware of the damage water can cause on their vehicles.
RepairPal noted that it takes just an average of 6 inches of water to reach the undercarriage of a car, and if water reaches the air filter housing, it may be sucked into the engine through the intake air tube.
Once water gets into the cylinders, the engine will stop running, but internal engine components, such as connecting rods, can get damaged in the process.
If a vehicle has been submerged in water, RepairPal advises disconnecting the battery, changing the oil and oil filter and removing the air filter and spark plugs.
The air filter housing should be cleared of water, the air filter replaced, and the spark plugs should be cleaned or replaced. The vehicle should be given a few days to dry out the electrical system before connecting the battery, according to the company.
Once reconnected, crank the engine over with the spark plugs removed. This will evacuate any water left in the engine. Once the engine has been running for several minutes, the engine oil and oil filter should be changed once more, the company said.
Modern vehicle fuel systems are sealed as part of the evaporative emission control (EVAP) system, but water can still seep in, according to RepairPal.
The vehicle will either fail to start or run poorly if water enters the fueling system. Even after draining and refilling the fuel system, the performance of a car may decline slowly due to corrosion in the fuel system. If the fuel system experiences water intrusion, drain the fuel tank and refill with fresh fuel. This will likely need to be done on all older vehicles, the company advised.
The greatest damage can happen when water gets into the electrical system. Issues can occur after days or years. Instant issues are likely the result of residue and liquid water in electronic components and connectors, but corrosion also can build up over time and cause problems later on, the company said.
There are numerous electronic components buried behind trim panels, in the trunk, under the hood and under the seats that can suffer water damage and mimic issues with other systems.
The sediment in the flood water can cause momentary failure of the brakes, RepairPal warned.
If the water is deep enough to submerge the front wheels or master cylinder, the company suggested flushing the brakes.
"This is because water may enter the master cylinder brake fluid reservoir cap, and this will severely decrease braking efficiency. This is much less common, but it's better to check just in case," the company said.