When you find your car won’t start after driving through water, it’s a stressful and frightening experience. Flood water can cause severe damage to your car engine, transmission, and electrical systems, leaving you stranded and unable to start your car. Even small amounts of flood water can lead to major damage, resulting in the need for a new engine or extensive repairs. Stay calm and avoid driving through flood waters if you’re facing this situation.
Water entering the engine compartment can contaminate fluids like engine oil and transmission fluid. Wet spark plugs and spark plug holes can cause an electrical short, preventing the engine from starting. Hydro lock can also occur, causing severe engine damage. If you drove through water and car won’t start, your best bet is to call a mechanic for help.
To recover from this situation, removing water from the air intake system, fuel tank, ignition system, and fuel system is essential. To prevent corrosion, you can also spray a moisture-displacing lubricant on electrical connections and components. You may need to replace the starter, starter solenoid, or starter motor to get your car running again. (Read Viol/dt Conv/dt Sec/viol Dkt/no Disp Court Veh/lic)
In our guide, if you drove through a puddle and now car won’t start, you’ll better understand why. By the end, you’ll know what flood damage can happen to your car from deep puddles and how damage relates to how much water gets to your engine, fuel tank, and ignition system.
Also, what fixes can you do yourself without an automotive industry professional?
Can Driving Through Water Damage Your Starter?
Driving through water can cause severe damage to various components of your vehicle, including the starter. When you turn the key, the starter tries to crank the engine, allowing it to start.
However, when your car stalls in water, the starter can become flooded, making it impossible to turn the engine over and create a spark in the cylinder to ignite the fuel. When your car stops or stalls in water, the starter solenoid can also become damaged. The solenoid engages the starter motor, which starts the engine.
The solenoid can short out if it becomes wet, causing it to malfunction and preventing the vehicle or engine from starting. Sometimes, water can also enter the starter motor and cause it to fail, requiring replacement.
It’s essential to avoid driving through deep water or flooded streets to prevent damage to your starter and other components. If you encounter standing water or a flooded street, drive slowly and avoid creating a large wake that can flood the engine compartment.
What Water Level Can Damage An Engine?
Water can cause severe damage to a car engine, especially if it gets into the intake system. The level of water that can damage an engine depends on several factors, including the type of car, the engine design, and the depth of the water.
Generally, if water reaches the bottom of your car’s doors or higher, it’s best to avoid driving through it. One-foot-deep water may not cause significant damage to most cars, but it can still pose a risk, especially if the water is moving quickly or the car is driven through it at high speed.
Two-feet-deep water is considered a significant hazard for most cars. Water at this level can cause severe damage to your car’s engine, transmission, and electrical systems and can even make your car float or be swept away by the current. If you must drive through water, it’s essential to be cautious and avoid deeper water. (Read Why Don’t Cars Have Mud Flaps Anymore)
Car Stalled in Water Now Won’t Start Just Clicks
If you’ve experienced the frustrating scenario of your car stalling in water and now won’t start, you may hear only clicking sounds when you turn the key. This click sound can show severe damage to your vehicle’s electrical system or engine caused by water intake into the engine compartment or other components.
One common cause of a stalled car in water is a hydro lock, which occurs when water enters the engine’s cylinders, preventing it from turning over. Occasionally, contaminated fluid in the transmission or other systems can also cause the engine to stall and prevent it from starting.
Wet spark plugs or spark plug holes can also cause your car to stall in water and prevent it from starting later. To remove water from your engine, you may need to drain the oil and remove any water from the cylinder, intake system, or other components.
Depending on the severity of the damage, you may also need to replace electrical components or the engine itself. Periodically, an insurance claim may be necessary to cover the cost of repairs.
What is Hydro Lock?
Hydrolock is a condition that happens when water enters the engine cylinders, resulting in significant damage to the vehicle. This problem can occur when driving through deep water or flooded roads, causing the engine to suck in water instead of air.
When this happens, the engine can’t compress water like air, which can cause a piston or connecting rod to bend or break in the cylinder. In severe cases, the engine may even seize up completely. The best solution for the hydro lock is to avoid driving through deep water or flooded areas altogether. (Read Coolant Reservoir Full But Car Overheating)
If you are in this situation, it’s essential to turn off the engine immediately and not attempt to restart the car. Instead, have the vehicle towed to a reputable mechanic who can assess the damage and recommend repairs. This recovery process may involve removing the spark plugs and cranking the engine to expel the water. In more severe cases, the engine may need to be rebuilt or replaced entirely.
It’s crucial to address hydro lock promptly to avoid further damage to the engine and prevent the need for costly repairs or a new engine altogether.
Stay safe on the road and avoid driving through deep water to prevent this serious problem from occurring.
Battery Dead After Driving Through Water
If you have recently driven through water and found that your battery is dead, it may be due to the electrical components of your car getting wet. Wet electrical systems can cause a short circuit, draining the battery.
One of the first things you should do if your battery is dead after driving through water is to check for water damage. Look for signs of water in the engine compartment, such as standing water or wet spark plugs.
If there is water in the engine compartment, the electrical components of your car may have been affected. In this case, having your vehicle towed to a mechanic is best.
Another common reason for a dead battery after driving through water is that the alternator belt may have slipped off or become damaged.
The alternator charges the battery, so if it is not functioning correctly, your battery may not be getting charged. Getting the slightest water in your distributor cap can stop any spark from igniting the fuel.
If your battery is still dead after these checks, it may be time for a replacement.
A new battery can be purchased at an auto parts store or installed by a mechanic.
What Should I Do If My Car Doesn’t Start After Driving Through Water?
Don’t panic if you drove through water and the car won’t start. Follow these steps to determine the cause and find a solution.
Check Your Car’s Interior
First, check the interior of your car for signs of water damage. If you drove through deep water, water may have entered the cabin and damaged electrical components.
Look for wet carpets, damp seats, or water stains on the dashboard. If you find any of these signs, it’s best to call a professional mechanic for a thorough inspection. (Read Coolant Reservoir Full But Car Overheating)
Check Your Air Filter
Next, check your air filter. If wet or dirty, it may prevent air from entering the engine.
This can cause your car not to start or to run poorly. Remove the air filter and inspect it for any water damage or clogging signs. If it’s wet, replace it immediately. If it’s dirty, clean it or replace it.
Check Fluid Levels
Checking your car’s fluid levels is essential, especially if you drive through deep water. Look at the transmission oil, engine and transmission oil, and coolant levels.
If any of them are low or contaminated, it may be causing your car not to start. If the fluids are low, refill them. If they’re contaminated, flush and replace them.
Check Your Brake System
After driving through water, you may experience reduced braking performance. It’s essential to check your brake system to ensure it functions correctly.
Test your brakes for any unusual noises, vibrations, or difficulty stopping. If you notice anything abnormal, having a professional mechanic inspect your brake system is best.
Check the Underside of Your Vehicle
Finally, inspect the underside of your vehicle for any signs of damage. Look for loose or damaged parts, cracks, or rust.
Any of these signs can indicate that water has damaged your car’s undercarriage. If you notice any damage, it’s best to take your car to a professional mechanic.
By following these steps, you can determine the cause of your car not starting after driving through water, take appropriate actions for the flood damage, and get your vehicle running again. (Read Is It Bad To Sit In A Running Car)
Remember, safety should always come first, and it’s best to consult a professional mechanic if you have any concerns.