Car Care: Inspect your car for water damage

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With heavy rain and floods occurring throughout the country, there’s a possibility that a high water event could damage your vehicle. Even if your vehicle isn’t totally flooded or covered in
water, the Car Care Council recommends that owners inspect their vehicles after the waters have subsided to check for damage due to water intrusion or contamination:

• Check interior carpets, upholstery and door and trim panels for dampness. If they are wet, then the vehicle will need professional attention. If you simply let the carpet dry, it will quickly grow mildew and give off nasty odors. Seat brackets, motors and modules should also be checked for rust and proper operation.

• Pull the engine oil and transmission fluid dipsticks and differential plug. If the fluid appears milky, diluted, is no longer its original color or is beige in color, then it is likely the pans contain water. The vehicle should be towed to your ASE-certified technician or repair shop.

Driving the vehicle with water present may damage the internal parts and require extensive overhaul or repairs. The council reminds motorists that some new synthetic differential fluids may appear to be milky but are not water contaminated. When in doubt, a professional automotive technician should make the
evaluation.

• Check the air filter for water. If it is wet, replace the air filter and change the oil.

• Check the undercarriage, bumpers, radiator area and frame for mud, grass, dirt, debris and rust. If any of these are present, the vehicle should be cleaned as soon as possible.

• Have the brake system checked by a professional automotive technician.

• Check the exterior lights for moisture and water. Replace headlights and bulbs that contain water.

• Listen for abnormal noises while the engine is running. Make a note of where the noise is coming from and take the vehicle to a professional automotive technician as soon as possible. Pay particular attention to the alternator, serpentine belt, starter, power steering unit, air conditioner and wheel bearings.

• Inspect the suspension joints and lubricate as necessary. Many newer vehicles are lubricated at the factory for life; however, these joints should be checked for rust.

“It all comes down to how much water the vehicle took in and where it reached,” said Rich White, executive director of Car Care Council. “By being car care aware and following these simple guidelines, you can help minimize the potential for damage to your vehicle.”

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For a copy of the council’s Car Care Guide or for more information, visit carcare.org.

(Car Care Council)

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