I drove through salt water, now what?

January 24, 2017

Photo from January 24, 2016 after Winter Storm Jonas caused flooded neighborhoods along the South Jersey coast.

It’s like déjà vu from last year as we are dealing with a coastal flooding. On January 24, 2016, Winter Storm “Jonas” dumped heavy snow, then rain with strong gusty winds causing substantial flooding.
Now another coastal storm brought a dose of heavy rain, gusty winds and flooding to our area. Only this time, we don’t have to worry about the snow!

Did you drive through salt water?

It’s best NOT to drive through salt water AT ALL. Find an alternate route as driving through salt water can cost you a lot more than the time it would take to drive around it.

If driving through salt water is absolutely unavoidable, it’s recommended to hose off the undercarriage, tires, shocks, and springs to prevent rust/damage as soon as possible after driving in salt water. Salt water is very corrosive and can weaken and destroy not only the frame and body but also the electronics of the vehicle.

Here are some tips to inspect you car and assess flood damage:

  • Do not attempt to start an engine that has been flooded. A hydro-locked engine, if it even starts, will quickly destroy itself.
  • Check the oil indicator. If the oil level is abnormally high, water probably got into the engine because oil floats on water.
  • Measure the high-water mark. Look for water inside the doors and the taillights, and dampness in carpets and interior trim.
  • Check transmission fluid levels, as these may also have been flooded. Automatic transmission discs tend to split in water. Manual transmission can be ruined by lack of lubrication, and a soaked clutch may rust to the flywheel.
  • Pay special attention to brake fluid or power steering fluid. Water-logged brake fluid can vaporize leading to a loss of braking power.
  • Don’t forget the trunk. Disconnect all electrical connectors and dry them out with a hair dryer or heat gun.
  • Depending on the level of flooding, you may need to drain the fuel tank to eliminate water contamination.

In general, repairing flood damage is an uncertain venture. Time is of the essence; drying your car out as quickly as possible will give you the best chance at successfully rescuing your ride.

Give us a call with any questions!