It's typhoon season again, and it's that time of the year many of us have to brace for its destructive impact. Nothing new, to be honest, considering we do live in the Philippines where storms constantly batter the country every month or, is it now weekly? Anyway, I digress.
By this time, many are used to the routine of moving things around before the storm. But despite all the preparations, mother nature throws us a curveball. And sometimes, the worst happens, and our houses and cars get flooded.
We already know how water can damage our vehicles just by driving through a flooded street. It doesn't matter if it's a small hatchback or an SUV, both old and new, water messes up all kinds of cars the same way. We've talked about that before, but what should you do when you wake up and see your vehicle dashboard-deep underwater?
Yes, there's the initial panic, but in times like these, it's best to remain calm. At the point, it's all about reducing the damages and curbing expenses to repair your inundated vehicle.
1. Don't try to start the vehicle
It's the golden rule after your car gets flooded. Never attempt to start the vehicle.
Even if the flood didn't cover the roof of your vehicle, you should never try to start it, no matter what. That's because water could have already entered the engine and mixed with the oil and other fluids. It also could have seeped into your transmission, fuel tank, and other mechanical components. Coolant aside, water and other vehicle fluids don't go together well and starting it will lead to more damage.
But what's a quick way to know if the engine is wet from the inside? A good indicator would be the air filter. If the air filter is soaked, there's a good chance that water has found its way inside the engine.
But just because it's dry doesn't mean you're out of the woods. If your car spent the day in waist-deep floods, the best thing to do is to have it towed to a service center and have all the fluids (engine, transmission, differential, and fuel) flushed out and replaced.
2. Disconnect the battery and check electricals
It's not just the engine that takes a hit when the car's swimming around floods. The electrical system will likely have taken a hit too. As with any electrical component, water and electronics don't mix.
If you don't want that to happen, it's a good time to disconnect the battery, more so if you've accepted your car's unfortunate fate. Even if you're able to bring it to higher ground, you should still do that because you never know how high the water can reach.
Floodwater can accumulate in the computer box, which could send the car's brain haywire when you turn on the ignition. The same goes for contact points for the fuses, relays, and the other computers. By attempting to turn on the vehicle, the water might short out all of these components, leaving you with an expensive repair bill.
Assuming they still work after the flood, they will be more prone to failure over time. It's best to replace these as well.
If you weren't able to disconnect the battery before the flood, it's best to do so immediately once it is safe. By disconnecting the battery, you reduce the chance of getting an electrical shock while inspecting the rest of the vehicle.
3. Evaluate the damage
Before even opening the vehicle, you should evaluate and inspect how deep the floodwaters were. Doing so will give you a rough idea of what damage happened the vehicle incurred. If the water line barely touched the door, then the damage is likely not that bad. But if the water is up to the dashboard or if the car ended up getting completely submerged, well, that's an entirely different story.
Still, even if the car was submerged in the flood, it could be saved. Just remember to disconnect the battery first and don't start it even if the damage doesn't look too back. Otherwise, you may end up with an automobile-sized paperweight.
4. Dry out the interior
Flood water is hard to clean out, and you have to accept that the interior will never be the same again. Still, it's not an excuse to leave it as is.
Once floodwaters subside, open the doors and air the cabin out. Take out the mats, seat cover, and trunk carpet if needed. While you're at it, remove most of the interior trim, including the seats, carpet, and even the headliner.
But that's just half of what you need to do. The recommended course of action is to bring the vehicle to a professional detailer. Those guys know what to do and can even clean up dirt and floodwater residue you may have missed. But even after that, the smell won't be the same as before. Floodwater leaves an odor that hangs on for weeks, months, or even years.
5. Know when to cut losses
It's a difficult choice, but sometimes it's just better to dispose of the car at a loss than spend money trying to fix it. It will be less painful if the vehicle has Acts of Nature and Acts of God insurance since you'll be able to recoup most of your hard-earned money back.
With that, take a lot of photos of the vehicle while it's submerged. Don't forget to take pictures of the aftermath, as well as the interior and other damages. It will help you when it's time to claim insurance.
But if your car happens to be on TPL (third party liability), well, it will hurt your wallet. Yes, it's a tough decision, especially if you've become attached to it. You can try and repair it, but the money you spend on repairs can get you a reliable, flood-free, second-hand car. Sometimes, a car is just beyond repair, and it's just not worth saving.
You have two options here. The first is to chop it up for parts. Sometimes, you even get more out of it than selling it as is, where is. The second is repair and sell, but don't be one of those people flat-out lying to buyers, saying that the car isn't flood-damaged. There's a special place in hell for people like that. Just be honest and tell the buyer that your car was flooded at some point.
As the saying goes, prevention is always better than cure.
Rather than having to go through this list, why not ensure your car never gets flooded in the first place?
If there's a typhoon coming or when the rainy season arrives, you can always prepare ahead. One way is to bring your car to higher ground. Malls usually open their parking lots for 24 hours when a storm is on the way, giving you a safe, high, and dry place to leave your vehicle. If that's not possible, you can always raise your vehicle on jack stands and cinder blocks to give it more ground clearance and added protection from floods. It may not totally save your car from the rising water, but at least it's not as high as it should be.
Even before the water starts rising, you can also choose to drive out during the storm. But remember, only do so when it is absolutely necessary. If you think the floodwater is already too high, it would be better to just turn back. Trying to forge through the flood might end up putting not only your vehicle but also your life at risk.
Floods, typhoons, and the rainy season are just some of the things we have contend with by living in the Philippines. Mother nature can never be tamed, but that doesn't mean we can't be prepared.