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Flooded car

My daughter’s 1995 Geo Prism which was a cream puff of a car was flooded in a parking lot up to the windows tonight. Is there any hope of fixing it? Is it definitely totaled?

We can’t afford to buy her a new used car.

I’ll put it this way…It will cost more to get it running reliably than it’s worth…

An automotive hobbyist could do most of the work himself but even then…Time is critical. The engine and transaxle must be completely drained of water and dried out before they rust internally. The computerized electronics seldom survive and unless YOU can find serviceable used components, that alone totals the car. I could go on and on…Sorry…

Water up to the windows means everything mechanical AND electrical was submerged.

ALL fluids except coolant and air conditioning refrigerant will need to be completely drained and refilled with fresh. That includes motor oil, transmission / transaxle fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid.

Then of course, the interior will be soggy and possibly moldy. EVERY electrical connection will be suspect and get worse over time. It won’t smell any too good either.

Can’t sleep and I have to somehow teach a history class tomorrow. This is one huge disaster. It may not seem so terrible if it were possible to get her a replacement car but that is totally out of the question. So the consensus is there is no hope? And no comprehensive on the car of course. Was supposed to last her through her last year in college and graduate school. And it would have done so except for this happening.

Tell you what. Pop the hood open and check the brake fluid, engine oil, power steering fluid, and transmission fluid. If all of them are normal or below, and if it looks like the flood didn’t get to the level of the air intake, there might be a very slim chance of saving the car. Resist any temptation to try to start it. All you’ll do is damage stuff.

If you do try to save it, you will want to get all the fabric, mats, pads, etc plus the seats and door panels out of the car quickly and dried out. Check every cavity you can get to and get the water out.

Put the car someplace out of the weather, disconnect the battery, and leave it with the doors, hood and trunk open until everything is dry. Use the time to become enough of an expert on restoring flooded cars to figure out what else you need to do.

Not sure what to do about the fuel system except pray.

Personally, I don’t think I’d try to save it. A lot of work, and your chances of success aren’t good. Creampuff or not, it’s nearly 15 years old and major repairs in the next few years weren’t unlikely even without the flooding. Sorry.

We have a towing policy so the car need not be driven. Guess we need to talk to our favorite mechanic and see if he will check it out to see if it can be saved. Unfortunately, the parking lot is still under water so it may be a day or two before it even can be towed.

As to anticipated other repairs, it had some work done on it–new tires, new exhaust, but it was really in amazing condition. Relatively low mileage too. She has only had the car for 3 years.

The major problem, of course, aside from the tragic destruction of a good, reliable friend or appendage is that she will have to live without a car. How to get to her work, etc. Mom and Dad summer chauffeurs?

Give up! There is no hope. The car is ruined, and will never be any good again. NEVER.

One of the worst things that can happen to a car is for it to be caught in a flood. You may be tempted to try to save the car. FORGET IT!

The car is now JUNK, and that’s all it is. Walk away from it. Your daughter will be better off without this car in its current condition.

Sorry, but that’s the truth. You really don’t want this car anymore. It will be nothing but trouble, BIG trouble. All of the computers have been submerged. The money it would cost to fix this car will buy you a dozen Prizms.

Let’s ease up just a little here. I have two cars in the driveway that were totalled out after flooding – a 1999 Camry and a 2002 Mazda Protege. Both are fine. Really.

But they were worked over by people who know what they are doing (not me), and they probably weren’t flooded as badly as the Prizm. And being close to new at the time, spending some money to replace stuff probably made economic sense. I don’t know what was replaced or what the rework cost.

Apparently the OP has very little money, so maybe a car that runs badly at times is better than no car at all. OTOH, you can buy a car that runs badly for not all that much money and that might be a better route.

Have it towed to a mechanic. For one more year it may be salvagable but don’t get your hopes up.

Be honest if you get it running and sell it.

You must be incredibly lucky. The car we’re talking about is 14 years old and was submerged up to the windows. It’s junk.

If you’re interested, perhaps the OP will sell you the car and you can have three swimmers in your driveway.

I only ever owned one car that was in a flood. I didn’t know it until AFTER I bought it, sued the guy to take it back after a few weeks. It was a '70 or so (can’t remember exactly) MG Midget. Everything was cleaned up a bit, ran OK when I bought it, but I was a kid at the time. The seller told me the musty smell was because he kept it parked almost all year long in a garage. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Rusty EVERYTHING. Moldy everything. Electrical gremlins (can you imagine the electrics with this car to begin with, later flooded?). I’d look for a seldom used clause in your car, parking lot owner or homeowners insurance and sell the car to a salvage yard. Rocketman

Yes, do talk to the mechanic. He/she may tell you to have it towed to the junk yard if, for example, the transmission and engine are full of water. But he may also be able to tell you where to find some cheap wheels. Maybe something safe that is burning a lot of oil or has a huge dent or other cosmetic issue. Not as good as the Prizm unfortunately. But better than walking perhaps.

And do remember, odds are that you were only going to get another year or three of reliable use out of the Prizm.

Teaching History? History Repeats Itself.

You caused me to look at my college student son’s policy. I pay almost $200 a year for comprehensive. I guess you could look at how much you have saved by not spending money on insurance and apply that to the solution. I suppose that you have also chosen no collision insurance and perhaps low liability limits. It’s a “Pay me now or pay me later.” situation. You had to know that you were rolling the dice. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

I’m sorry to be so blunt, but I have to pay more for coverage on all my cars to cover me against uninsured and underinsured motorists. Although you may have adequate liability insurance, NO insurance is becoming a national epidemic. I don’t live in Detroit, but my agent assures me that over 50% of the vehicles there have NO insurance! Nationwide, I think it’s more like 1 in 6.

I hope it dries out and runs for your daughter’s sake. You state, “The major problem, of course, aside from the tragic destruction of a good, reliable friend or appendage is that she will have to live without a car. How to get to her work, etc. Mom and Dad summer chauffeurs?” Well Professor, this can be turned into a good history lesson for you and your daughter because as you surely know, “History repeats itself”. Experience is the best teacher.

Good luck, CSA

First item of business: All I ever said was that we do not carry comprehensive insurance on a 1995 car with a blue book value of about $1,000 to $1,500. I have no idea how it was extropolated from that that we do not have an extremely high liability and collision insurance policy including maximum medical benefits! The car has value to us but were we to have comprehensive insurance on it it the premiums would soon equal th amount of money we would be reimbursed not to mention that if your insurance company pays for a claim the basic rates go up.

Right now I am waiting to hear from my husband and daughter what our mechanic has to say. I will let you all know

My point CSA was to search out ANY possible policy . . . your own umbrella policy, the kid’s policy . . . the place that was flooded . . . maybe blocked drains? I know that all “Acts of God” can’t be insured against, but maybe . . . . ?? Rocketman

I’m gonna be honest and say that there’s probably no hope of saving this car. The money you would have to spend to get it back in working order would FAR exceed its value, by many thousands of dollars.

That said, a great place to find really cheap deals on cars is There are folks on there letting cars go for real cheap a lot of the time. Granted, many of them have some sort of issue (body’s beat up, needs some kind of repair, been in an accident, etc), but at this point I’d imagine the concern is simply getting SOME set of wheels for the daughter to…y’know…live. I can certainly understand money being tight, so see what you can find on there.

I don’t suppose you know anyone who’s got a real old beater that they might be willing to part with for next to nothing?

Desperate, Sorry About The Misunderstanding.

I was talking about two different issues. The first one was your decision not to carry comprehensive insurance and I can see how you rationalized your decision and as I said you could have saved money or lost money. That is your call.

The second issue is the problem I have with people who do not carry enough liability insurance to protect others should there be a serious accident. I did not accuse you of this, sorry if you took it that way. I should have worded things more carefully. I said, " Although you may have adequate liability insurance, NO insurance is becoming a national epidemic." Since the discussion involved inadequate insurance, I was venting my frustration with people who cut corners on their liability coverage. As people cut back I am obligated to increase my own protection at my expense.

You may want to check with your agent. I’m not so sure that making a claim for comprehesive claims raises insurance premiums the way a collision does. We’ve had that discussion here, before. By the way, how much is comprehensive coverage on this $1500 car? I’ve seen premiums as low as $70/year, including windshields, zero deductible.

Anyhow, I’m probably guilty of wasting money by buying too much insurance on everything. That’s probably just about as bad, but I wouldn’t sleep well without it.

Hope all goes well at the mechanic’s. Maybe he/she will be able to resuscitate the Geo.

Hi all! Haven’t heard from the mechanic yet. Sorry that my previous response cut off but I am a teacher and was writing during my off period. I had to log off as the next class of students (this is high school) were coming in the door.

We bought the GEO Prism from an ad on Craigs list. I really like that organization. In fact the 1998 Toyota Corolla that I drive was also purchased from the list.

Some items of hope: long talk with the school security officer today–he is a friend and knows alot about cars. Told me about several instances in which he helped out friends with cars in even worse situations–one fell head first into a creek for example–and were resistated fairly easily. So hope is there. Also, though it is not smart to have done this but while hubby and daughter were waiting for a tow truck, someone started up his Cambry and drove off.

I too feel uninsured motorists should not be allowed on the road. Here in Virginia you have to show proof of insurance in order to get license plates or put up a sizable bond. Of course there are always out-of-state drivers around.

Will let you know the verdict. Keep fingers crossed for me. Oh yes, the security officer (police officer) said that that parking lot has had this happen over and over again. No warning to the customers.

“Hope is there.” Hope is about all you have. Mechanically the car may not have suffered irreparable damage, but the only way to dry out the interior is to completely gut it. The seats, carpet, and padding will have to come out and be cleaned and dried. It’s labor intensive, and that’s where the problem ($$$) is.

Mold and mildew will likely plague this car, if it runs, forever. It’s REALLY hard to get all the water and dirt out of the entire car. It has infiltrated places you can’t see or reach.

Then there are the computers, all of which were submerged. Computers don’t like being under water, and they are very expensive to replace when they go bad. As I said, mechanical parts are one thing, electronics are something else. That’s why the NHTSA compiled a list of flooded cars after Katrina. They wanted to keep them off the market because they are so much trouble.

I wish you the best of luck with this car. I’m a Prizm fan, and I know what wonderful cars they are. I also know the odds of this car ever being the same again. It WAS a nice car. If I were in your shoes I’d be looking for another car. You can easily buy one for less than you’re going to spend trying to salvage this swimmer.

Well, we will just have to wait and see. Fortunately it does not have an electrical package. Windows have to be hand cranked and you need to open and close doors the old fashion way.

Wish Tom and/or Ray will give me some advice or their opinion.