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Subaru Legacy Outback speedometer not working after puddle

As many in Western WA, I have driven through a puddle that ended up being larger than it appeared. After realizing my mistake, I thanked God that my car did not die in the 3 full second long puddle. But then I looked at my dash to see that my speedometer was at zero! Thankfully I can estimate my speed using my rpms (manual transmission) but in the long term would hate to have to replace something.

Worse than the speedometer, upon slowing to a stop shortly after making it through the puddle, the car did die. However I was able to start it again with no problem. I thought it would just need to “dry out”.

It has been a day, and I drove the car again.

Once again, the speedometer did not work, although it did erratically jump around before dropping to zero again, and at one occassion today, again when slowing to a stop, died! AGAIN it started fine, but my concern is this:

Will the car dry out and work again, or by driving it am I damaging the engine or risking hydrolock?

I just had the timing belt replaced and as a college student I cannot afford a major replacement and would hate to cause more damage to my otherwise perfectly functioning 98’ Subaru wagon!

I Wouldn’t Exactly Call That A Puddle!

You made it past the hydrolock.

Is there any water in the speedometer or lttle fish or snails or anything aquatic restricting the needle? Thank God it didn’t die. You probably don’t even carry a life jacket.

Living in the area, it sounds like you are well aware of what can happen going through “puddles”, but gave it your best shot anyhow. I hope you are majoring in Government. Please don’t tell me you were in a hurry.

You got some electrical components wet, obviously. I hope things do start to dry out soon. The longer this goes on, the worse it can become.

What you need is a “Do Over” so that you can choose an alternate route around that lake. The boats and swans should have tipped you off. Being a college student who cannot afford a major replacement is a good reason to use caution and not “live on the edge”.

This hasn’t become one of those “flood cars” that they advise people not to buy, has it?

I wonder what would happen if you went to an Auto Body shop to do an experiment. You might be able to write it up for college credit. Most Body Shops have paint booths in them where they put cars while painting them. They control dust and over-spray that mess up a paint job. The also are heated and can get very warm! Maybe a shop would be sympathetic to a poor college student and give the old wagon a “day at the beach” so to speak. The intense heat would maybe speed up the drying (or make things worse?). Have you ever been to Marine World? I will warn you that the heat sometimes enhances any aromas inherent in the vehicle.

Let’s have our highly qualified panel of experts weigh in on this one. What do think guys? (chicks?)

My guess in your VSS(vehicle speed sensor) is damaged or a wire pulled leading to it. Has a CEL illuminated yet?

That Was My Thought After I Posted Originally.

I would have it disconnected by a technician, the connection blown out with compressed air, inspected and reconnected.

Andrew Asks A Helpful Question. Has The “Check Engine” Or Other Warning Light Come On While The Car Is Running?

That light coming on could actually be a good thing. It would indicate that the car can help us figure out what’s wrong. It can figure out and remember what system is causing the problem and “talk” to humans.

We’re going to have to hear from the owner.

I think that it is fairly clear that the VSS or a bad connection to the VSS is the problem. If the wire leading to it was actually disconnected, there would not be an inconsistent/erratic reading from the speedometer.

It is more likely that excess moisture is still trapped in the connector for the VSS. Hopefully, drying out that moisture will resolve the problem. If not, then the VSS itself may have to be replaced.

Thanks for everyone’s quick replies.
It is still is not working and today I noticed that my trip odometer is not reading correctly either, it’s off by about a factor of 10.
To answer your questions, no Check Engine light has come on, although I half expect it to. Sounds like what you said- VSS got wet. Would that explain the odometer loss also?

And for “common sense” thankyouverymuch, it was dark, I was taking a turn onto a road that was otherwise clear, and was the only open road to my destination. It’s not like I barreled through a lake at 50 mph, which I might add, other people on this website have admitted to doing! I have better judgment than most people my age (many much older than myself as well) so I take a bit of offense to your comment. If you think I’m stupid, call the Olympia city council and tell them to repave their roads evenly so they don’t fill up when it rains.

Well it has been a while since this has happened and the CEL finally came on. I got the code read and it said pretty much exactly what you were saying: VSS 2 Malfunction. I am trying to find the part cheaper than the dealer and am looking at and Autozone, where the code was read, are the cheapest so far. I don’t want to keep driving on it although I have to, as the power has cut out every once in a while, most likely because the sensor concerned is connected to all the other sensors. Am I right in assuming this? Is this worth trying to fix by myself with the help of a couple pretty knowledgeable friends? We have the manual and it looks like a pretty simple switcheroo.
Thanks in advance for any feedback!