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How do floods damage a car’s engine?

man driving car at heavy rain

Although floods can happen at any time of the year, summertime is usually flooding season in the U.S.

Vehicle service contracts (also known as extended car warranty service plan) don’t generally cover car repairs due to water damage on major car components. However, a great plan can still offer you discounts and support at the repair shop to get you a fair price. 

If your engine experiences water damage this summer from flooding in your area, it will be very expensive to repair. Here’s how floods damage a car’s engine and what you should do if your car has been sitting in water.

How does water damage a car’s engine?

Driving through water sufficiently deep can cause water to enter the engine. When water enters an engine, it can do a very specific type of damage in the air intake system because water doesn’t compress the way air can. 

Water in the combustion chamber will damage a piston or connecting rod. This is called “hydrolocking” and it will destroy an engine in no time. Repairing or replacing an engine is one of the most expensive car repairs you can have done, costing between $2,000 and $4,000.

Read our recent blog Why exactly are car repairs so expensive today?

Does car insurance cover natural disasters?

If you have comprehensive car insurance, your insurance can cover damage caused by natural disasters such as floods. If you only have liability coverage, you will not be able to file a claim with your car insurance provider.

What’s the difference between car insurance and vehicle breakdown coverage?
Car insurance is a contract with a company that protects you from financial loss in case of a car accident, theft, or in the case of comprehensive coverage, natural disasters.
Vehicle breakdown coverage is a contract with a company that protects you from financial loss in case of a costly and unavoidable mechanical breakdown (parts and labor costs).

What should you do if your car’s engine gets exposed to water?

You may not be too sure your car has been exposed to water if you didn’t see the car until after the flooding subsided. 

If you notice a water line to the top of the wheel rim, there’s a big possibility that water accessed the inside of the engine (as well as other important systems of your car). If there’s a water line on the hood, you may have a big problem on your hands.

These are some important steps to take:

  1. Don’t start the engine. It’s best to push the car out or get it towed. 
  2. Disconnect the car battery before checking various parts of your car.
  3. Check the engine oil. If you find water droplets in the dipstick, there’s definitely water in the engine. Change the oil and oil filter to remove the water.
  4. Check the air filter. If it’s wet, there’s water in the air filter.
  5. Check other fluids (brake, power steering, coolant, etc.) for signs of water.

Save on expensive car repairs and maintenance 

Car repairs and expenses can be reduced when you have vehicle breakdown coverage. It’s a low-cost monthly subscription that covers unavoidable car repairs so you don’t have to pay a huge repair bill. Vehicle Repair Protection includes premium membership benefits like Car Cash and Fair Repair. With Fair Repair, if your repair isn’t covered, we fight to get you the lowest repair bill possible. has created vehicle breakdown coverage that is simple, trustworthy and affordable. Transforming the extended car warranty marketplace through technology and transparency, offers a full suite of worry-free, no haggle car care plans through low-cost, 100% online, monthly subscriptions that drivers can sign up for in less than five minutes. Get an instant quote today!