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The recent heavy rain in Houston can lead to vehicle flood damage, which often results in difficult and expensive repairs. To avoid causing additional problems, a flood-damaged car should not be started until a thorough inspection and cleaning has been performed.

“In addition to the obvious damage done to upholstery and carpeting, flood water is a corrosive and abrasive mixture of water and dirt that works its way into every seam and crevice of a vehicle,” said John Nielsen, AAA National Director of Auto Repair, Buying Services and Consumer Information.

“Most vulnerable are the engine, transmission and drive train, along with the fuel, brake and power steering systems. Unless dirt and other contaminants are completely removed from these important vehicle components, increased wear and premature failure can result,” Nielsen said.

Before attempting to start a flood-damaged car, a qualified technician should:

  1. Inspect all readily accessible mechanical and electrical components, and systems that contain fluids, for water contamination.
  2. Drain floodwater from contaminated components and systems, flush with clean water or an appropriate solvent, and refill with new clean fluids of the proper type.
  3. Inspect, clean, and dry electrical system components and connections.

If a car has been completely or partially submerged, extensive disassembly may be needed for a thorough cleaning. Depending on the vehicle make, model and age, the cost of such an effort may exceed the car’s value. AAA encourages motorists to contact their insurance companies first for help in determining the best course of action when dealing with a flood-damaged vehicle.

“The car’s electrical system also is subject to flood water damage,” Nielsen explained. “Engine computers, sensors, sound systems and other electronic devices can sometimes be salvaged, but unless they are thoroughly cleaned and dried, inside and out, problems caused by corrosion and oxidation may occur weeks or even months after the flooding.”

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