Text: Eric Tipan / Photos: Pow Anticamara, Kelvin Christian Go, Vince Pornelos, Floody Carbag | posted July 31, 2014 17:53
Awareness and preparedness tips to avoid a costly repair bill
It's that time of the year again with days when the rain just won't stop. Despite all the efforts by national and local government agencies involved, flooding has simply become another seasonal problem motorists have to deal with. Nature simply cannot be tamed, and we are all at the mercy of the storms, winds, rains and floods.
We can't even begin to narrate the number of things that flood waters brought about by storms and torrential downpours can do to damage your car. Electrical systems, exhausts, intakes, wheel bearings and brakes, airbags and, of course, the engine itself are all prey to murky flood waters.
This is not a how-to guide on driving through a flooded area; instead this is a prep for that inevitable, sinking feeling many of us get when the downpour simply won't stop and that puddle around you is set to become something deeper.
Drive your vehicle to higher ground
If your residence lies on lower ground, then flooding will be your unwanted lifelong companion every time it rains. You must identify areas with higher elevation that are generally within a 5 to 10-minute drive from your residence. I say this because in the event of a torrential downpour, you've got to give yourself time to get back home safely because there's no point in saving your car if you can't save yourself.
Be aware of the vehicle's surroundings
If a covered pay parking or a simple covered structure is not available and parking outdoors is the only other option, make sure you park your vehicle away from trees and other objects that may tear off from their foundation and damage your vehicle.
Worst case scenario, park as close to the house as possible
If there's nowhere you can drive to that's higher or covered, park your vehicle as close to your house as possible. All bets are off in a storm (particularly storms with strong winds), but you can always choose the safest side of the house that is away from the wind and flying debris and if contact is unavoidable.
Have your car insured with coverage for Acts of Nature or Acts of God
If flooding is an inevitable part of your life, make the wise choice and get it insured with coverage on natural catastrophes with Acts of God or Acts of Nature. That way, whatever happens, your insurance will cover the damage from natural disasters.
It is worth nothing though that the insurance will only cover the 'book value' of your vehicle at the time of the flooding. It will not cover the entire purchase amount you spent when you bought the vehicle. The money your insurance company will pay you will take into account depreciation of the vehicle depending on the number of days, months or years it has been used.
Disconnect the battery
Your battery supplies the electrical current that keeps auxiliary systems running in your vehicle even if it is turned off like the internal clock and infotainment settings. Now in the event that rising water will engulf the engine bay, which includes the car battery, disconnect the battery terminals (negative and positive) because water and electricity don't really mix and it may cause certain systems to short circuit including your vehicles Electric Control Unit (ECU) and other electrical components.
During Ondoy, a lot of cars in Marikina went underwater and car owners noted that windows automatically opened as waters rose thinking it was a safety feature. But little did they know that it was because circuits became grounded when the battery terminals weren't removed.
Jack it up
If you a set of jackstands and a crocodile jack readily available, jack up your car. This should give it an additional 4 to 6 inches above the ground. If you have 4 jack stands at the ready, that can work in raising your car anywhere from 10 to 16 inches off the ground; some jack stands can go even higher.
The cheapest emergency solution is using bricks or multiple hollow blocks; though do take note that hollow blocks have a tendency to crack and crumble if too much weight is put on one.
This should only be done if your car is inside your garage.
Since flooding has become a major issue in the Metropolis, there have been several solutions 'floating' around including wrapping your vehicle inside a specially constructed plastic bag and sealing it there for the duration of the flood.
It comes in several sizes so choose the one that fits your vehicle. Before water rises, spread the unzipped bag on the garage floor. Drive your vehicle either front first or in reverse to the middle of the bag. Once squared in the middle, zip the bag closed and roll the front end towards the vehicle until you can fasten both edges together with a hook and lay it on top of the hood or trunk depending on how you parked.
To ensure your vehicle doesn't float away when the water rises, it comes with an anchor, which can be affixed to any post to keep the vehicle secure. We haven't tested this, but hey, it's something worth trying out.
'Advanced tips and tricks' may be moot
If you do a search online, you may find tips like 'remove the computer box and/or head unit,' 'wrapping the alternator in plastic' and 'spraying the sensors with lubricants.'
We talked to Jay Martin, the service manager at Hyundai's Commonwealth, Quezon City dealership; an 18 year veteran of vehicle servicing in the industry.
"Well-meaning as they all may be, in the event of a flood, you may not have time to do any of these after removing your batteries terminals," said Martin.
New cars tend to have large plastic aesthetic covers that make it tricky to access the alternator, distributor and other vital and easily damaged components.
"The regular car owner will not know where the computer box is or if they do, how to properly remove it. Alternators in new cars are small and in a very cramped position; sealing it with a plastic to prepare it for submersion would almost be impossible unless you're a highly skilled technician. And good luck finding all the sensors and then spraying it before the vehicle goes under water," added Martin.
His tip: Insure it and pray.