Your car is likely the second-most expensive purchase you will ever make. But—given the increasing impact of global warming—the chances it will be caught in a flash flood are increasing.
If this should happen to you, Billshark wants you to know the most important steps you should take immediately afterward.
Call your insurance company
The insurance adjuster will ultimately be able to decide if the car is totaled (that is, not worth saving). But if the flooding in your area was extensive, it could be several days before he arrives. In the meantime, there are things you can do yourself to help the process along.
Never try to start the car
Until the car is completely dried out, if you try to start the car you could short out the entire electrical system and possibly even electrocute yourself. Your first step is to disconnect the battery to ensure against accidental surges.
Unless you’re positive there’s no water anywhere in the engine, avoid the temptation to see if it starts.
Assess the damage
Look for the high-water mark. If the floodwaters contained mud and debris, it might be apparent how high the water rose in your car. If the water was clear, it might not be as obvious. Nevertheless, take pictures of the interior and exterior of the car to show the insurance adjuster.
If the water reached the bottom of the dashboard or was even totally submerged, the car is most likely a total loss. Even if it reached the floorboards, it might not be worth repairing. If not, you can try to mitigate the damage.
Clean out any remaining water
Mold begins set in almost immediately, so get the car’s interior dried out as soon as possible. Use a wet/dry vacuum to remove any standing water, and remove the floor mats. Use towels to absorb moisture from the seats. Open all doors and set up fans to help the fabric dry faster.
Have the car towed to a mechanic
Unless you’re an expert on car repair, it’s best to let a professional assess the damage to the car’s components. Such items as the engine, transmission, drive train, fuel tank, and other systems may have been compromised, and a certified mechanic will be able to determine whether the car is salvageable.
Note that the transmission fluid, lube, and oil may need to be drained before the car is towed.
Even if you opt to spend the money on repairs, be aware that if the electrical system was affected, problems can appear months or even years later. Experts warn that it is very difficult to completely restore a car to pre-flood condition, and that once a car has been in a flood, you’re probably looking at the prospect of years of costly repairs.
If the flooding was extensive, it may be best to let the insurance company declare the car a total loss and get a new one. Most comprehensive auto insurance policies will include coverage for flood damage, but most homeowner’s policies do not.
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