I drove through a flash flood wash that stopped my car--How much trouble have I gotten myself into?



I’m from SC on a cross country road trip in my 2005 Chrysler Sebring Convertible, and apparently Arizona is not always a desert. Not fully realizing what a bad idea trying to drive through a flash flood wash is, I did it. My car stopped, I had to push it out and have it towed to a mechanic, where I am currently awaiting his prognosis.

The car was in flowing water about 2 inches above the bottom of the car for probably about 5-7 minutes. My question is this: Have I killed my poor car? Is it possible that this is something that will not take a week + thousands of dollars to fix? What happens to cars in these situations?


If you did not get water over the hood, you probably only got the high voltage ignition wet. A thorough drying should do it.

However, if the water level got high enough to get to the engine air intake, water might have gotten inside the engine and hydrolocked a piston or two. Think the cylinder filled with water and the piston coming up to hit the water – instant stopage. This can spell expensive damage like broken piston(s), bent connecting rods, cracked rings, bent crankshaft, etc. The mechanic will be able to tell if water got into the engine so wait for his diagnosis. Hopefully, he can remove the spark plugs; crank the water out of the cylinders; and no damage has been done.

Hope it goes well for you


Anything can happen. The engine could be hydrolocked due to water inhalation. This means the engine will not crank over since the cylinder(s) may be full of water and water will not compress.

It may be nothing more than wet secondary ignition components such as coils, etc.

Another potential problem for later on is that water can seep into ball joints, stabilizer links, tie rod ends, steering rack, wheel bearings, etc. It’s possible that down the road in a month, a year, or whatever that you could experience failures of those items. Just pointing out a possibility here.

If you ever watch TV news stories about flooding you no doubt have seen people continuing to drive through water from 4" deep to 2 feet deep.
Any of that can ruin suspension components; it’s just that the people doing it do not know it - yet.


It is also a possibility that if the exhaust pipe was under water, the engine could not breath and it quit. Once the back pressure of the water clears out, usually by itself, the engine will start again. Good idea to change the oil, crankshaft seal does not keep water out but it keeps oil in.


You know, I bet you’ll be fine. Your mechanic will check/change the oil, pull the plugs, crank the engine over to make sure there is no water in the cylinders, and you’ll probably be good to go.