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Wring Out That Ride and Dry Your Ride: Submerged Older Vehicles May Be Salvageable

12-Nov-2012

By PAUL STENQUIST  (NYTimes)
Stacy Albin of Lido Beach, N.Y., watched water rush into the street in front of her house during Hurricane Sandy. Saltwater soon rose above the wheel wells of her 2010 Subaru Impress, setting off the car’s panic alarm as the electronics shorted out. The next day Ms. Albin went to open the door with the remote clicker but nothing happened. So she used the key that Subaru provides as an alternate means of opening the door and looked inside to find the interior – and her New York Yankees teddy bear – soaked. Her insurance company, acutely aware of the severe damage that results from a saltwater soak, said it was a total loss.
Her mother’s car, a 1993 Oldsmobile that Ms. Albin described as a clunker, was parked on high ground and weathered the storm quite handily. Because that car was not insured for loss, its survival could be seen as a bright spot in a dreary situation.
In theory, any flood-damaged automobile can be fixed, but when a contemporary vehicle, packed with electronics, is submerged in water to dashboard level, the cost of repairing the car will almost certainly exceed its value, and if repaired, it may never be quite right. The odds of repairing an older vehicle that doesn’t rely heavily on electronics are better.
Fresh water is damaging to automobiles; saltwater is deadly, because it generates corrosion almost immediately, car repair experts say. But while salt eats away at electronic components rapidly, mechanical devices that have been underwater can sometimes be saved. Thus, older cars, particularly those built before 1970, may be salvageable without resorting to extreme measures if submersion was only partial and did not continue for an extended amount of time. Time is the enemy here, because salt begins to corrode metal on contact.
Getting rid of salt is a priority. While wetting down a vehicle that has dried may seem counterintuitive, a thorough freshwater rinse can help limit corrosion. Rinse up to the point of submersion, but rinse thoroughly and make sure body drain holes are open. Then spray exposed metal and components like door hinges and suspension joints with a light lubricant.
Don’t try to start a car that has been submerged to the point where water has entered the interior until water and salt have been flushed out of the engine and transmission and fluid levels have been restored. Check the engine oil level. If it’s no higher than normal, chances are water has not entered the crankcase. Check transmission and differential lubricant levels as well. If you think there’s any chance that water has gotten in, drain, flush with mineral oil and refill.
If the engine was fully submerged, the cylinders may have filled with water as well. To purge it, remove the spark plugs and crank the engine. Once the water has been ejected squirt some mineral oil in the cylinders and crank it again before cleaning and replacing the spark plugs.
Other mechanical devices that were submerged will have to be serviced as well. In general, this involves flushing, lubricating and, in some cases, disassembling. An extensive guide to repairing water damage was published by RACQ, an insurance company in Australia. You can probably Google for more information on guides.
Unfortunately, unless one does a complete vehicle disassembly, inspection and restoration, flood damage may not become evident for some time, and the creep of corrosion can cause problems in the future. But for those motivated by need or emotional bonding, that may well be a risk they can live with.
DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ !!
CONSUMER FINANCIAL SERVICES STRONGLY SUGGEST YOU THOROUGHLY INSPECT ANY VEHICLE YOU’RE INTERESTED IN AND ASK FOR A CARFAX OR HAVE A QUALIFIED MECHANIC CHECK IT OUT FOR/WITH YOU…

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