I drive a '98 Chevrolet Prizm with 205K miles on it. It drives perfectly fine except in heavy rain/snow. In those cases, I’ve noticed that as soon as I drive through a big puddle (i.e., get the undercarriage wet, it seems), my car won’t accelerate above 35 or 40 mph. If I attempt to push it faster, the engine (?) makes a terrible roaring sound, frankly like it’s going to die on me. Interestingly, if I pull over, turn off the car, let it “dry out” for a couple of minutes, and then restart it, it drives fine once again (assuming, of course, that I don’t hit anymore wet patches).
I first noticed this problem about 2 years ago during the winter when, on one occasion, it had just snowed heavily and I drove through a particularly sludgy patch on the highway. Since then, I’ve only had the problem recur a few times, typically during monsoon-like rains. However, more recently, I’ve noticed the problem wanting to occur even during medium-to-heavy rains. The car will start making growling noises in those wet conditions; however, if I keep pushing the car at highway speeds, eventually the sound goes away rather than crescendo-ing to the really scary roaring noise. I’m going to hazard a guess that by continuing to drive my car at highway speeds, even when it starts growling, it dries out whatever part is getting wet and thus getting “irritated”.
In sum, it sounds like my car is becoming more sensitive to and/or more exposed to moisture. Anyone have any ideas as to what’s going on?