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What Should I Do If My Car Gets Water Damage?

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water on tires splashing rain flood

If you’re reading this article, hopefully it’s not because your car has been damaged by excessive rain or flooding. And hopefully it’s not because you decided to drive through high water. Because water damage is one of the most frustrating and detrimental things that can happen to a car.

Whether you’re reading this article for research or need to know what to do with your water-damaged vehicle,  hopefully this will guide you through your panic and get your car running again.

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Steps to Take on a Water-Damaged Car

If you notice that your car has received water damage (you can use this handy guide to determine if this is the case), be very careful of what your first actions are. Do not try to start the car! Running the engine will only cause further damage at this point. Have patience and let the car dry out first.

If you can safely reach the car and the water has subsided, start drying it to prevent the spread of mildew. Open all the doors, trunk, and hood, using a wet vac to remove any standing water. Remove all the mats and seats. Dry the interior by laying towels and wiping up all the crevices. Position fans on one side of your car and let them blow through the cabin for at least a day. If the upholstery still feels damp, sprinkle baking soda on it to absorb remaining moisture.

flood damaged car infographicIf you can’t reach your car because partially submerged in water, leave it until the water subsides or you’re able to safely haul it to safer ground. Don’t try to enter the car or start it to move it. If the water has risen to the dashboard, there’s no point in worry about the vehicle now; your insurance company will probably consider it totaled because of the electronic components.

Give your insurance company a call to determine what your next steps should be. There’s a chance that your policy covers water or flood damage, so consult with your agent. You might want to consider having it totaled or else trying to repair the vehicle might cost you even more.

You’ll probably need to get your car towed to a local garage for work to be done on it: flushing the fluids, professionally cleaning it, replacing the spark plugs and filters, etc.

If the water damage isn’t as bad—you just left your windows open during a rainstorm—check the fluid levels, including the oil and transmission, and see if the fluids are abnormally high or transparent. If everything looks good—the electrical systems work and there’s no body damage—you can try starting the car once it’s dry.

If you’re not sure what to do, have the car towed to a mechanic for an expert’s advice.

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Sources: NAPA, Popular Mechanics, Progressive Insurance