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What to do when your car gets submerged in a flood

We’ve made things easier for you to remedy the situation

Here comes the rain again. Time to protect our precious motor vehicles against the deluge. PHOTO FROM PIXABAY

Heavy rainfalls and subsequent flooding are an unfortunate part of life in the Philippines, and few sights make your heart sink faster than seeing your automotive pride and joy submerged in murky waters. If this happens, then all is not lost, but you need to act quickly and do a number of things to minimize damage. Below is a list of suggested steps to carry out after your car has been affected by flooding (and we hope these will help you get back on the road in no time at all).

The number one rule above all others is DO NOT START YOUR CAR after it has been flooded. If water has entered the engine, it will damage or even destroy it when you turn the key. This is called hydrolock and can turn your vehicle into a write-off in an instant.

Any car that has been totally submerged—or where water level has been above the dashboard—is usually a goner. But if it has only been partially submerged, you can probably save it. The key is to act quickly. The sooner you can start the process of drying out your vehicle, the better.


If you suspect that water may have entered the engine, then do not start it. If you are mechanically minded, you can manually check if it has hydrolock. The first step is to look at the air intake. If it has obvious signs of floodwater, then that’s a clear indication. Cars fitted with cold air intakes are especially at risk here.

The next test is to take a wrench and turn the crank pulley manually without turning the engine on. If it spins without resistance, it is likely not waterlocked. If it doesn’t, then chances are there is water in the engine. Your next stop should be a garage, with your car making its way there via a tow truck.

If you think there’s no water in the engine, then you still have to check other vital components such as the battery and the wiring. Do not test any electrical components until the car has dried out properly. Otherwise you are risking damage and, worse, electrical shocks. Once it’s all dry, check if all electrical functions work (dashboard, radio, windows, doors, seats, lights, side-view mirrors, etc.).

Consider changing engine and transmission oils, and check for water in both. Checking for water in your gasoline is also recommended.

Parts such as clutch, brakes and accelerator are especially prone to flood damage, and need to be inspected.


Remove all carpets and seats if necessary. Wash and dry them out as good as you can. Floodwater is dirty and carries all sorts of pollutants and diseases, so just drying affected parts isn’t good enough. You may have to buy new carpets and seats if the damage is too severe.

Vent the vehicle well as it will not dry out with the doors and the windows closed. Use a wet vacuum dryer or towels to parch the shell. Water will pool in the footwells and in areas such as the boot where the spare wheel is. Many cars have rubber plugs in the floor that you can remove to let the water run out.

It is crucial to dry the car out well as you will otherwise be left with a foul smell and issues like mold.


Check if your insurance covers flood damage. Sometimes it’s better to write the car off and claim on the insurance than drive around in a motoring swamp.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.