What happens to cars caught in a flood?


This is the money shot from last night’s storms, as far as I’m concerned. Ruined food from power outages is a nuisance. A downed tree can still be firewood. But a car in a flood? That’s an awfully expensive paperweight.

This picture was taken in Roseville last night, apparently after the water had already receded somewhat.

This earlier tweet indicates that things do not bode well for the future of those cars.

And this one suggests there’s car shopping in the future.

More than likely, the engines are shot. The determining factor is whether they were running when the water came over the hood. If they were, the engine probably sucked water into the cylinders and a connecting rod or two probably snapped when the not-yet-flooded cylinders still developed enough power to try to push the piston in a cylinder already full of water. Something had to give with the pressure. The debris as the engine died probably blew its innards apart.

Here’s a personable explanation of what likely happened.

If, on the other hand, the car stalled because a tail pipe was underwater, and the working engine didn’t suck water into itself, then the engine, and thus the car, is probably OK, but for the expense of blowing water out (don’t try to start it), replacing some electronic circuits, and cost of the deductible from the insurance company.

This is why they tell us not to drive through standing water.

Related: Drying out your flooded car (Popular Mechanics)