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First Aid For Flooded Cars
Apocryphal tales of drivers running deep into pubs and work canteens abound. Did you hear about the woman who drove her new BMW into the flood waters? The thermal shock of the cold water on the hot engine caused the engine block to crack. If true, this was a very costly error of judgment, but it is very easy to find factual references to thermal shock damaging catalytic converters under similar circumstances.
I was talking to a friend this week, while researching these pages, who told me he once flooded his Mk2 Escort. He was taking the recommended precautions, staying in second gear with the revs to stop the intake of water in the exhaust and slowing down to avoid flooding the bow wave with his air intake at the front, all good stuff…until he lost steering. : The water was deep enough to float the car. He was lucky that the water was flowing in his direction of travel: the tires finally made contact and he pulled out. A lucky escape, but the water had gone over the sills and soaked the carpets.
Drivers in Essex may be familiar with the Buttesbury Wash, a river crossing near Billericay, which is claimed by 3 over-optimistic drivers who entered the ford on one particularly rainy weekend, not realizing the water was too deep. Firefighter figures show it to be the worst of its kind in the country and are asking the local authority to measure the depth to give local drivers the chance to decide if it is safe to use!
Driving something labeled as a Ford is one thing, at least what you expect. Most of us who drive regularly have experienced the second scenario; You’re driving, radio on and windscreen wipers on, when you round a bend and you notice a change in the road surface ahead. Perhaps the center line has disappeared or the color of the road has changed. Stopping quickly seems like a good idea, and the Ford Ka behind it can feel dangerous if a big tow is right on your tail (voice of experience here), but it always feels like assessing the situation rather than just plowing through. Fine for me, and if the big man wants to go, let him go; At least you can see how deep it is without costing yourself and your car. In this instance I looked and it did, but it sent a 2 foot bow wave into the neighboring field and I didn’t want to risk damaging my beloved, low slung, VW Passat Estate Sports. I bet his carpets got wet.
Another thing is that etiquette in these situations isn’t always immediately apparent, but I think if you want to drive across the street to avoid the worst of the flooding, that’s fine, as long as you’re giving way. Traffic there. Then it’s best to go one train at a time, be patient and have a happy “all together” attitude with fellow drivers.
But suffice it to say that if you Google “driving in a flood” you’ll find lots of links to expert advice on how to deal with this situation, but what if the worst happens, and for whatever reason your car is very wet. Inside; maybe due to flooding. , because of a tidal wave or because you left the top down? Well, if you google “flooded cars” you’ll find lots of pages about Hurricane Katrina in the US, and even more helpful, we think, is a link to our web site on Clean Image that shows How we expertly diagnose and plan action to deal with a flood damaged vehicle.
You might think my word diagnosing is over the top in this regard, but half an hour with a flood expert will soon disabuse you of it. The first thing to check is what type of water is in the car; Is it mains water, river water, sewer water or sea water – or a mixture? Mains water and river water can be treated fairly straightforwardly with disinfection, cleaning and drying techniques and are usually within the insurance company’s tolerance, so don’t be surprised if your car isn’t written off. Also cars filled with sewage water can be contaminated and cleaned, just as one’s house is flooded, but it will depend on the level of contamination and the value of the car as to whether or not this is cost effective. If a car is flooded with seawater, the damage is likely to be irreversible due to the corrosive effects of the salt, so prepare yourself for a hefty premium.
Whatever has happened to your car, first aid is essential. If your car is flooded, don’t delay because the damage is still going on even after the car has been removed from the water. Disinfecting the car is more important than doing any mechanical work. We can recommend a variety of special products that you can use to pre-treat your car to prevent bacteria and fungus. This is the only way to avoid long-term problems with smells, and insurance companies don’t always realize this – so you have to insist. Often we find cars that start to rot while doing mechanical work or while an insurance company is deciding what to do with them.
Later in our workshop, we will remove the carpets, door trims and seats. We then clean every piece under the carpet and every inch of the floor with a high pressure and high temperature jet wash and decontaminants to kill odor causing bacteria. We also use a technique called fogging. It mists the interior of the car with a decontaminant, as it is a vapor that reaches every interior surface as it tries to escape through every gap in the car’s body, resulting in a thorough treatment of the entire interior of the car. Finally we use a dehumidifier and hot air blower to dry the interior and then we replace everything.
Obviously electrical components made wet may no longer be reliable. We regularly monitor the replacement of air bag control units along with any other electrical units below the water level.
The processes we are able to use are specialized and they work, you will find illustrated examples of what we do and how we do it on the Clean Image website.
Despite all this, I still think my preference for crossing a flooded road, or the Buttesbury Wash in full flow, will seriously consider taking a detour, at least until I trade the Passat for a Gibbs Aquada.
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