Five hidden ways flooding can damage your car

What do you do if your vehicle is damaged by a flood? You may be able to fix the cosmetic damage, but there still may be hidden dangers.

Your car can handle rain, not floods

Your vehicle is probably built to withstand accidents, long drives, general wear-and-tear, and the occasional rain or snow shower. One thing it's not meant to withstand: flooding. 

The five dangers of flooding

Many people think of a flooded car as a slightly-higher-than-normal inconvenience, like a wet shoe. You take it apart, hang it out to dry and wait until the smell goes away. 

A car, however, is a complex machine with wires, joints and many layers of interior. If not properly repaired after a flood, there may be:

  • Damage to the electrical systems, including the wiring harnesses, relays, dash panels, alternator, starter and airbag components;
  • Flooding of the engine, which damages and ultimately destroys its functionality;
  • Corroded and rusted joints that can lead to the hood, door and trunk not closing properly;
  • Rust in the undercarriage, which takes away from the car's ability to keep you safe during an accident; and
  • Hidden mold that may continue to grow inside the vehicle, and could leave you in a very unsafe situation.

Most of these problems may not appear at first. But, days, weeks or even months down the road, your airbag might deploy. Or, your horn will start blowing. Or, worst of all, the engine just stops. These can put you in serious danger when driving.

What to do if your vehicle is flooded

If your vehicle is flooded, the first thing you should do is contact us at 877-SA-CLAIM (877-722-5246) as soon as possible. Our CARE team will be able to help with your claim, and get you back on the road.

If the water level reaches the interior of your vehicle, clean out your personal belongings, and leave the windows cracked, if possible. If your vehicle is still submerged, don't try to start it.

Buyer beware

Some people try to sell cars that have been flood damaged. You should not drive, or buy, a car until you at least do the following:

  • Check under the vehicle's carpets or floor covering for mud or rust, and don't forget the trunk.
  • Give the underside of the carpets a sniff test. Do they smell like mildew?
  • Look for mud and debris collected in hard-to-clean spaces, such as under the hood and in the trunk.
  • Check for mud and debris on the underside of panels and brackets, as this is another good sign the car has been under water. 
  • See if there is rust on the heads of any exposed screws under the hood, around the doors or in the trunk, which could indicate exposure to excess moisture.

Above all, avoid flooding when possible.

Remember, if you know of possible flooding conditions, the best thing you can do is avoid it, and turn around.

Questions? Contact your State Auto Agent today.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the personal views and experiences of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official views, practices and/or policies of State Automobile Mutual Insurance Company, its affiliates and subsidiaries. State Auto makes no representations or guarantee as to the correctness or sufficiency of any information contained herein, or guarantees results based upon use of this information. State Auto does not warrant that reliance upon this document will prevent accident or losses, or satisfy federal, state or local codes, ordinances and regulations. Eligibility, coverages, exclusions, discounts and benefits may vary by state. Please read the policy forms and endorsements for details. The reader assumes entire risk as to use of this information. 

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