What to Do If Your Car Has Water Damage: A Comprehensive Guide
Have you ever wondered what to do if your car has water damage? We hope not, but if you have, or if you’re in that sticky situation right now, this article can help.
Here’s a comprehensive guide on how water harms your vehicle, how you can protect against it, and what specific steps to take when your car suffers from moisture damage.
Why care about car water damage?
You might be thinking, “I’ve never noticed moisture on the inside of my ride. Why should I worry about water damage?”
Good question. Here’s a list of reasons why.
4 reasons to protect your car from water
1. Preserve your investment
Not only will regular upkeep maintain your wheels for longer but it will prevent minor (water) issues from becoming major ones.
Same goes for liquid stains on carpet and upholstery.
Leave stains on too long or clean them incorrectly and they can become unsightly, permanent marks. Have them cleaned by a professional and you’ll never know a liquid spill happened.
2. Increase resale value
The market for used cars and trucks is competitive.
When it’s time to sell, your vehicle will stand out against others in the marketplace and be more appealing to buyers if you can show you’ve done regular maintenance.
Because water issues can be invisible, like water behind sheetrock that causes mold in a home without anyone being the wiser, ease the concerns of potential buyers by proving you’ve had your car inspected frequently.
An often overlooked reason to think about moisture damage is safety.
Water behind head or tail light covers can decrease visibility in poor weather and at night, rust caused by corrosion can slowly eat away at automotive parts, and water in an engine can leave you stranded, or worse, if the engine seizes unexpectedly.
Prevent and correct moisture issues before they become serious headaches.
4. Your Health
Just as mold in a house can affect a family’s health, so can mildew and mold that develops in a vehicle can affect your wellbeing.
A dry automobile is a safe automobile, one with clean air on the inside and safe parts on the outside (and inside).
Now that we’ve covered why you should care about water damage, let’s move on to how it happens. Here is a list of ways moisture can harm a vehicle.
How do cars suffer water damage?
Moisture damage can be caused by more than the obvious culprits, like a flood. Deterioration can be silent and invisible and happen gradually over a long period of time.
It pays, literally, to be mindful of possible causes of water damage and mitigate them before they cause greater harm to your ride.
Here are 9 reasons vehicles experience water damage.
9 ways cars suffer water damage
- A liquid spill on the inside of the vehicle
- A water leak through an improperly sealed window or sun/moonroof
- Via a car wash, whether it be a self-serve or automatic wash
- Snowmelt runoff (through floor mats and floor)
- A road flood,
- Heavy rainfall,
- A water leak or flood in a parking or home garage,
- An unexpected flash flood,
- An auto accident involving water (e.g., driving into a pond or lake), and
- Another type of natural disaster
A flooded street is the most common cause a set of wheels become water-logged.
Car Flood Damage Statistics
The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) estimates flooding due to extreme weather events caused $2.4 billion of damage in 2020.
These floods resulted in, among other things, submerged vehicles in parking lots, on roads, and in garages.
Carfax estimated that in 2021, over 387,000 vehicles on the road had been previously flooded to some degree.
For the sake of this article, we’ll focus on general ways moisture hurts a vehicle, not simply floods. Let’s start with advice for how to avoid moisture damage.
10 tips to avoid vehicle water damage
- Swap our summer floor mats in the winter or all-season mats,
- Protect upholstery with a stain-resistant protective coating,
- Avoid driving through flooded areas,
- Keep your vehicle windows and sunroof closed when not in use, especially during a storm,
- Ensure your automobile’s windows and doors are properly sealed; this will go a long way to preventing water damage after a heavy rain,
- Find and park higher ground if there’s a risk of a flood,
- Avoid puddles,
- Even more importantly, avoid driving in a flood,
- If you can’t avoid it, stay clear of larger vehicles, and
- Remove your car battery IF you know a flood is imminent.
Now that we know how to prevent water damage, let’s cover the way moisture harms vehicles.
How does water damage a car?
Vehicles are designed to withstand a fair amount of water, especially freshwater.
Protected upholstery, rubber floor mats, rubbed-backed carpet, washable interiors, moisture-repellent paint, and sealants around windows, doors, and hatches are all designed to repel water and keep the important components dry.
Age can reduce a car’s water-resistant ability, however. Saltwater is an even bigger story!
Even small amounts of water can eventually creep into the small spaces of your vehicle and stay there for a long time, silently wreaking havoc on your wheels.
We’ve compiled a list of ways cars and trucks are damaged by moisture.
6 main ways water damages a car
Moisture can cause your vehicle’s computer to malfunction, cause electrical circuits to short, and cause corrosion to wires and on electrical terminals.
If water seeps under the distributor caps, for example, can prevent the distributor from sending signals to the spark plugs.
Electrical water damage can often go unnoticed for months or even years which makes it doubly important that your ride undergo regular maintenance checks.
If water gets into a running engine, it can cause corrosion on the inside of the engine, at the least, or hydrolock, or the seizing of the engine caused by water reaching it via the air intake, at the worst.
Where the gas tank is concerned, moisture can cause damage to the tank, carburetor, fuel injectors, and combustion cylinders if water gets past the tank overflow valve.
For other car parts, most need lubrication to work. Water washes away this lubrication. For this reason, when moisture penetrates components like the ball joints, tie rods, or differentials it can cause them to prematurely wear down.
3. Mold and mildew
Mold and mildew can form when water pools in your vehicle. If moisture sits on carpet or upholstery for a long enough period of time, it can stay there forever even after multiple attempts to clean it.
Mold is harmful when inhaled. Take a water spill in your car, however small, seriously.
4. Rust and corrosion
When water meets bare metal, you get corrosion. Rust is a form of corrosion. Consider it like a virus, spreading indiscriminately until it’s brought under control.
Salt water and road salt are contributors of corrosion. All the more reason to wash and detail your wheels more often if you live by the ocean or in a region that uses road salt.
Always take rust seriously. Have rust removed before it does irreparable damage to your whip.
5. Tire Wear
Water temperatures can play havoc with tire air pressure causing it to change.
A car’s tire-pressure monitoring system can also be affected by moisture by dampening the signals from the transmitters in the wheels, no pun intended.
6. Aesthetic stains
Finally, we have water stains. Water harm to the upholstery including the carpets, flooring, and seats can be a discouraging site each time you go for a drive. And, as we mentioned previously in this article, can affect your whips’ resale value.
The moral of the story is…
Take car water-damage seriously
Automobile water damage shouldn’t be ignored.
Exposure to large amounts of water can make your whip undrivable, possibly forever.
An attempt to salvage an automobile’s inner anatomy (engine, transmission, electrical system, etc.) may be dangerous and, ultimately, impossible. This may not be obvious to you right away, however.
How much water is too much water?
Flooded cars are often write-offs.
The same isn’t true for flooded vehicles from across the border. Keep this in mind if you’re ever considering buying a used ride from the United States.
Be wary of any used car and always have it inspected by a reputable mechanic before purchasing it.
What should you do, then, if your wheels suffer severe water damage?
Seek professional help for a flooded car
When a vehicle becomes waterlogged, the solution isn’t to simply wait for it to dry out, it’s to have it properly inspected to ensure it’s road-worthy.
If your vehicle had been exposed to any amount of water above and beyond having been driven through a deep puddle of water talk to a professional.
When in doubt, get it checked out
If you’re doubtful about whether or not to seek professional advice about your drenched ride, here’s a good rule of thumb to remember:
If your car has been in a flood, been driven through flooded, or if you otherwise use the word “flood” to describe what your car has been through, get it inspected.
Simply put, if water was involved, have the car looked at by a certified auto body specialists.
Can detailing recover a water-damaged car?
In the case of major damage, the answer is unfortunately no.
The good news is that if the vehicle has been inspected and deemed road-worthy, then detailing is the next step to enjoying your car again.
If what you’re left with are cosmetic stains on the interior of the car, then yes, a deep overhaul clean by a professional can bring your whip back to life.
Trust your ride to a professional car detail shop.
Don’t wait for water to cause irreversible damage to your vehicle.
As we mentioned earlier in this article, consider routine maintenance as a necessary step of car ownership. A reputable auto body specialists can identify red flags where moisture problems are concerned and help stop them before they become a major issue.
To prevent moisture damage and prolong the life of your car, have it inspected at least twice a year.
We can help
If you’re not sure what to do if your car has water damage or if it’s been exposed to a serious amount of moisture, call CSN JD Collision.
We’ll inspect your vehicle and give you honest, transparent advice about whether or not your ride is salvageable.
Plus, in time for the holiday giving season, we have a December promo for you and your whip.