Flooding can have a devastating impact on your property, including your car. Knowing how to handle a vehicle that's been exposed to floodwaters can save you time and money. This guide is designed to provide Louisiana residents with a comprehensive resource on drying out a flooded car, based on available factual information as well as advice from a New Orleanian familiar with the issue who has dried out dozens of cars on his own.

Precautions: Electrical Components and Air Filter

1. Don't Run a Wet Car
If your car has been submerged, especially to a level where the electrical components got wet, do not attempt to start it.

Jim Gade, Unsplash
Jim Gade, Unsplash

Turning on a vehicle with wet electronics could result in short circuits and long-term damage. Most electrical connectors are designed to be water-resistant but not waterproof, meaning they can withstand splashes but not full submersion.

2. Check the Air Filter
Another crucial component to check before attempting to start your vehicle is the air filter. If it's wet, do not start the car.

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A wet air filter indicates that water may have entered the intake, which can lead to engine hydrolocking. Removing and replacing the wet air filter before turning on the engine is crucial.

Drying Out the Interior

3. Step-by-Step Interior Drying
If your car clears the first two checks, follow these steps to dry out the interior and minimize odors:

Wet Vacuum: Use a wet vacuum to remove as much water as possible from the interior, including seats and carpets.
Heat and Ventilation: With windows slightly cracked open, start the car and run the heating system in recirculate mode, not fresh air. This will help to evaporate the moisture.
Switch to A/C: Once you no longer see fogged-up windows, roll them up completely and switch to full A/C on recirculate. This will draw out more moisture, collecting it in the evaporator core where it will drain outside.

What About the Smell?

If there's a lingering smell, it's likely due to the jute padding beneath the carpet. Jute is made from plant pulp, which can produce an odor when wet.

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Instead of replacing the entire carpet, which is usually synthetic and not the source of the smell, consider replacing just the jute padding. It's generally affordable, with rolls available for around $20.

Check Your Fluids

4. Oil and Transmission Fluid
It's crucial to check or change your oil and transmission fluids as soon as possible after flooding. Water can seep into the vents or seals and, although not immediately noticeable due to oil and water not mixing easily, this can lead to significant problems down the line.

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If you're mechanically inclined, draining the fluids will allow water to exit first. If not, you can identify problems by checking for 'chocolate milk' (oil) or 'strawberry milk' (transmission fluid) consistency in the fluids.

Note: Modern vehicles often don't have dipsticks for checking oil or transmission fluids. If you're in doubt, it's best to have these fluids changed professionally.

We hope this guide helps you navigate the difficult process of dealing with a flooded car. Always remember, when in doubt, it's better to consult professionals for both mechanical repairs and insurance guidance.

Stay safe, Louisiana!

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