What to Do If Your Car Gets Flooded: Check for These Common Problems

Venus Zoleta

Venus Zoleta

Last updated September 06, 2022

The rainy season is here again. Along with it comes one of the car owner's worst enemies: flooding. With flash floods that immediately follow heavy rainfall, even pick-ups and SUVs are not spared from flooded car problems.

Be prepared for any disaster like flooding. If you live in one of the flood-prone areas in the Philippines, it’s best to move and park your vehicle on higher ground. However, there’s still a chance that floodwater may get inside your vehicle. 

Keep on reading to know the common problems with flooded cars and what to do when your car is flooded.

7 Common Problems with Flooded Cars: What Happens to a Car After a Downpour

Whether you're reviving a flooded car or buying a used one, here are the tell-tale signs of flooded vehicle problems you must be aware of.

1. Malfunctions in the Electronics and Electrical System

common problems with flooded cars - flooded car electrical issues

The electronics and electrical parts always sustain the most serious car damage due to flooding. Moisture can cause a short circuit in the electrical system, resulting in malfunction of its critical components, including the following:

  • Electrical control unit (ECU)
  • Headlights, brake lights, turn signals, and other automotive lights
  • Air conditioning system
  • Power windows, power locks, and power seats
  • Audio and video systems
  • Fuses
  • Anti-lock brake system

Before turning these electrical parts on for inspection, make sure that the engine is safe to start. All the plugs, switches, and relays must be dried out.

If you notice anything wrong with how a certain component works, that's a clear sign of electrical trouble. Also, if the ECU got soaked, have your flooded car checked immediately for electrical issues at the repair shop.

2. Mechanical Damage to the Engine

The engine is another critical part of your car that needs utmost attention after flooding. When floodwater reaches engine parts like the air intake and cylinders, the piston will try to compress it. Since water doesn't compress, it can break the piston rods and lead to engine stalling.

To find out if floodwater has entered the engine, check the oil dipstick for water droplets and oil that looks milky.

3. Mold and Mildew in the Interior

common problems with flooded cars - interior mold and mildew

Apart from causing flooded car problems, flooding also poses health issues to drivers and passengers. Submerged in floodwater, a car's interior may quickly develop mold and mildew that can cause respiratory diseases such as asthma and allergies.

A strong musty odor means mold is present in a car. It's one of the common problems with flooded cars that require some effort to fix.

Remove and check these parts in your flooded car:

  • Seats
  • Carpets and floor mats
  • Headliner
  • A/C system
  • Door panels
  • Trunk

Some of the wet parts, such as the carpets, door panels, and seats, can be replaced. You can put towels on the floor and seats to soak up water. Don't let water sit in your car for too long.

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4. Mud and Debris in Hard-to-Clean Areas

Floodwater may leave mud and debris on areas of your car that aren't easily obvious. Check the hard-to-clean places where mud or debris could be lodged. These include the engine compartment, wheels, brakes, underbody, and gaps under the hood and between panels in the trunk.

Found a lot of mud and debris in your car? Have it detailed to ensure that even the hard-to-reach areas are all clean.

5. Corroded Car Parts

flooded car problems - corroded car parts

Rust takes months or years to form on the various parts of a flooded car. One of the most common problems with flooded cars, it can weaken your car's structure and affect functions like braking and shifting gears. At the first signs of rusting after your car has been flooded, work immediately to remove rust from your vehicle[1] before it spreads out.

Inspect these rust-prone areas in your car:

  • Frame
  • Screws and bolts
  • Engine parts
  • Muffler
  • Fuel tank
  • Clutch
  • Brake pads
  • Fenders
  • Trunk
  • Chassis
  • Wheel wells

6. Slippery Brakes

After being immersed in floodwater, brakes tend to lose grip because of the loss of contact between the brake pads and the wet brake rotors. Step on the brake pedal repeatedly before you drive on. If it feels slippery, have a mechanic inspect your car brakes.

7. Contaminated Fluids

Water in the transmission, brake fluid, power steering, and coolant reservoirs can spell trouble for your car's performance. These parts will get damaged due to corrosion and lack of lubrication. For instance, when floodwater is mixed with fuel, fuel injectors, spark plugs, and the engine will be seriously damaged.

So check your car's fluids in the fuel filter and tank, as well as the power steering, coolant, clutch, and brake fluid reservoirs for floodwater contamination.

Read more:

What to Do If Your Car Gets Flooded After a Heavy Rain

flooded car problems - what to do with water flooded car

Floodwater causes a lot of car problems that show up long after the vehicle has been submerged. It can ruin a vehicle's electrical systems, mechanical systems, and lubricants. 

A flooded car is costly to repair, so never risk it—avoid passing through a flooded area. Wait for the floodwater to subside before driving on.

But sometimes, cars still get flooded while they're stuck in traffic or parked in flood-prone areas. When that happens to your ride, inspect it afterward to spot any car damage due to flooding and make it roadworthy again.

Here are some tips on what to do if a car gets flooded.

1. Dry Your Vehicle

You can use a vacuum to dry off the moisture from your vehicle. Towels and fans can also help dry your car’s soaked seats and cushions. Once your flooded vehicle is dry, get it to higher ground. This will make it easier for you to check for any common problems with flooded cars.

2. Don't Start Your Car

If you have a flooded car, the last thing you want to do is get its engine running as this may destroy its mechanical and electrical systems. Also, don't forget to disconnect the battery to protect you from electric shock.

3. Check the Engine Oil and Fuel System

flooded car problems - what to do with water flooded car

Get a stick long enough for you to check the level of the oil. If there are water droplets on the stick, it means there’s water inside the engine. When this happens, do not start your car—oil and water will mix if you do. Look into the fuel system and drain off some gas from your flooded car. If there is water in the gas, flush your fuel system.

4. Check Your Electrical System

The most you can do to check your vehicle's electrical system is see if their placements are below or over the flood level. If below, you need to replace the system. Also check if water seeps through your flooded car’s coolant reservoirs, brake, clutch, and power steering.

5. Seek Help from a Qualified Mechanic

If your car was severely damaged by a flood, call a mechanic to further inspect the damage. Checking and repairing your flooded car on your own may lead to bigger issues. Leave it to the pros; they know what they’re doing.

6. Document Everything

flooded car problems - what to do with water flooded car

If you have comprehensive car insurance, document your flooded car by taking notes of the damage and photos for reference. Send them to your insurance provider for claim purposes. They may cover parts or the entire repair cost under the Acts of Nature coverage.

7. Consider Trading Your Vehicle

A car's value depreciates by 10% per year. If your flooded car has been repaired, its value will go down to about 20% per year, depending on the extent of the damage.

Auto dealers in the Philippines usually have a trade-in program that allows people to sell their flooded cars, which the dealers will then restore and resell as pre-owned cars.

Final Thoughts

An Acts of Nature or Acts of God coverage is extremely important for car owners in the Philippines. When your ride gets flooded, you can file a claim for repair or replacement.

Talk to your insurance provider to know what kinds of repairs are included in your vehicle insurance plan. Does it include the replacement of fluids and electrical parts or cleaning of the interiors?

If your car insurance covers repairs for a flooded car, file your claim as early as possible.

Compare Car Insurance Providers in the Philippines

Considering switching to another car insurance company? We've made the legwork a lot easier for you. Here are the top providers in the Philippines and the coverage they offer.

Car Insurance Company Maximum Total Sum Insured Casa Eligibility Accredited Repair Shops Overnight Acommodation Towing Services Vehicle Removal Crane Services

SGI Philippines

get free quote

₱5 million 5 years 36 Up to ₱2,000 Up to ₱5,000 ₱10,000

Malayan Insurance

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₱7.5 million 3 years 58 Up to ₱1,000 Up to ₱4,000 Up to ₱8,000

Mercantile Insurance

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₱5 million 10 years 77 Up to ₱2,000 Up to ₱5,000 Up to ₱10,000

MAPFRE Insular

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₱5 million 10 years 365 Up to ₱3,000 Up to ₱5,000 Up to ₱10,000

New India Assurance

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₱3.5 million 10 years 30 Up to ₱1,500 Up to ₱4,000 Up to ₱10,000

Stronghold Insurance

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₱3 million 10 years 167 N/A N/A N/A

Prudential Guarantee

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₱3 million 10 years N/A Up to ₱2,000 Up to ₱5,500 Up to ₱15,000

Source: [1] How to Prevent and Remove Rust on Your Car Like a Pro (Wojdyla and Schrader, Popular Mechanics, 2020)

Venus leads the blog content strategy and optimization at Moneymax as the Head of Editorial Content. She has 15+ years of experience in content marketing, corporate communications, and public relations. Venus graduated cum laude with a Journalism degree from the University of the Philippines Diliman. Before joining Moneymax, Venus had written informative guides and articles, specializing in personal finance and digital marketing. She also invests in stocks, mutual funds, VUL, and Pag-IBIG MP2. A hardcore Hallyu Tita, she enjoys bingeing K-dramas on Netflix while bonding with her rescued cats. Follow Venus on LinkedIn.