As the winds and rain die down from the country’s latest hurricane, residents in hard-hit areas are heading out to assess the damage. If your car sustained flood damage during Hurricane Ian, Milex Complete Auto Care has a checklist to follow after the danger passes and the water recedes.
Flooding can cause extensive damage to vehicles, and a car partially submerged in water may require a laundry list of costly repairs. If you have comprehensive insurance coverage, your policy will likely pay for repairs. Comprehensive coverage protects against non-collision events, such as damage sustained during a storm from a falling tree or flooding. It also covers theft, vandalism, glass damage, and fire.
Guide to Automobile Flood Damage
Milex Complete Auto Care recommends following these steps if your car sustains flood damage. Above all, wait until it's safe to assess the damage.
- Do not start the car. Starting a flooded vehicle can damage the engine.
- Disconnect the battery. To eliminate the risk of electric shock, disconnect the car’s battery.
- Dry the car out. As soon as you are able, move the car to dry ground. Vehicles flooded with salt water can corrode rapidly, so the sooner the vehicle gets dried out, the better. If possible, roll down the windows to increase airflow and speed up the drying process. You’ll need a wet/dry vac, fans, and a dehumidifier to get the car completely dry. The faster you get rid of moisture, the less chance mold growth will have a chance to set in.
- Call a tow truck. Get the car towed to a garage so a mechanic can determine the extent of the flood damage. The high water mark on the vehicle will give you a good idea of what to expect.
- Mechanic evaluation. At Milex, a mechanic will conduct a thorough evaluation of the damage. First, they will look for water droplets on the oil dipstick. If droplets are present, there’s likely water in the engine, and the car’s oil and transmission fluid will need to be replaced. The mechanic will also check the engine cylinders for corrosion. Milex will evaluate whether water damaged the car’s electrical components, which may need to be replaced. Lastly, the mechanic will see if there is evidence of water in the fuel tank to determine if the fuel system needs to be flushed.
- File an insurance claim. Once the mechanic does an initial evaluation, it’s time to file an insurance claim. After the insurance company understands the extent of the damage to your vehicle, they will assess whether it is better to make repairs or total it.
While it’s too soon to gauge complete damage from Hurricane Ian, evidence from previous hurricanes showcases the impact of vehicle flooding. Carfax reported that drivers may be behind the wheel of more than 325,000 previously flooded vehicles in 2017, the year after Hurricane Matthew made landfall in the Carolinas and caused massive flooding. At least 212,000 cars sustained flood damage after Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana in 2021.
Historically, about half the vehicles damaged by floods end up back on the market, Carfax reported. Flooded cars rot from the inside out as water corrodes the mechanical parts, shorts the electrical system, and compromises safety features like airbags and anti-lock brakes. Health concerns are an added problem, as mold and bacteria permeate the soft parts of the car.
Visit Your Local Milex
Mechanics at Milex Complete Auto Care are here to help customers weather the storm. We can also conduct a flood check if you suspect you purchased a vehicle that had water damage before you bought it.
Milex is one of the six brands operated by the Moran Family of Brands, a leader in the aftermarket auto and window tinting industry. Find a Milex Complete Auto Care location near you, or visit our home page to learn about Moran’s other brands.