Thousands – if not tens of thousands – of cars and trucks are flooded annually, a frequency that's exacerbated by both climate change and man's continued inability to drive or park out of harm's way. Do you know what you should do if your car is flooded, or if you see a flooded car? Below is our advice:
If the car is yours, contact your insurance company. The bad news is that if you are only covered for liability, you won't be getting a check to repair or replace your car. Only if you have comprehensive insurance will you be getting enough cash for a replacement car or, if possible, repair of the damaged one. If you do have comprehensive insurance coverage, be patient; insurers like State Farm and Progressive report huge call volume after a major storm or flood damage.
Take pictures of the damage, if possible, of your car submerged. If possible, take a photo of the license plate on the car.
Take measures to prevent the damage from getting worse. If the vehicle's windows are broken, then tape cardboard or plastic over the holes or open windows. Keep receipts for everything you buy.
Do not try and start your car if it has been flooded, as turning over the engine – even if it doesn't 'fire' – can cause more damage. You can usually tell if the car was submerged by checking if the seats or carpet are saturated.
Check the air filter under the hood. If the paper filter is wet, do not try and start the car.
If you are not insured and will attempt to keep your car, you will need to have it professionally detailed and have it dry out with high-power fans. You risk having severe mold problems no matter what you do, but leaving windows open or using household fans will not dry out the car. Do not use space heaters or anything with a heat-core to dry out your car. With gasoline in the tank this has the potential to blow up the car, putting you, the car and (possibly) your neighborhood at risk. Please! Use your head.
Be aware that your car can experience severe problems even after the vehicle would seem to be dry. The electronics, if submerged or 'aggressively' dampened, may never be the same.
If water got into the engine compartment or inside the cabin of the car, you must be prepared for the worst case scenario regardless of whether you are insured for that loss.
Stay away from flooded or flood-damaged cars that don't belong to you. Law enforcement officials are on the lookout for people trying to take advantage of power outages and post-storm chaos.