Floods are a potential threat to any area prone to sudden or prolonged heavy rains.
Vehicles caught in floods can undergo extensive damage, but not always. Find out
what to do if your vehicle is flooded, how to assess and stop further damage, and
how to spot flood damage when you shop for a car.
What to Check if Your Car is Flooded
Hurricanes can spawn tornadoes, landslides and floods, so if you're in a hurricane's
path, you should take extra precautions to ensure a safe evacuation and return to
the area. Being prepared can help you escape the hurricane's trail of destruction.
If a hurricane threatens your area, take the following steps to protect yourself
and your car or boat:
- Leave the area and leave early.
Use a hurricane planning guide/map or listen to the radio to identify your evacuation
- Take important documents with you.
Place your auto/home insurance documents, vehicle registration, title and other
important documents in a waterproof bag and keep them with you.
- Bring supplies.
Bring along a flashlight and extra batteries, a first-aid kit, cash and credit cards
and snacks and other food. Remember: You could end up spending a day or more in
- Fill 'er up.
Fill your vehicle with gasoline as soon as possible to avoid the long lines.
- Beware of live wires.
Do not, under any circumstance, drive over a downed electrical line.
- Avoid flooded streets.
Do not travel down a road submerged in water. Underlying currents could carry your
vehicle away and your car could stall, trapping you in rising floodwaters. Don't
overlook deep water dangers during hurricanes. Dirty water and sediment flow in
with sudden coastal and inland flooding, and if you try to drive through deep water,
you're not only risking your personal safety, but you could damage your car's inside
— seats, electrical components, carpeting, etc.
Notable statistic: More than half of all hurricane deaths in
the last 30 years resulted from inland flooding, reports the National Hurricane
Center. Of those deaths, one in four people drowned in a car.
What Can You Do to Ensure Driving Safety?
- If you are evacuating and leaving a vehicle behind, be sure it is not left in a
low-lying area prone to flooding. Rising water can seep in and cause damage.
- When you're evacuating or returning following a storm, watch for standing water
in parking lots or on streets.
- NEVER drive in standing water. Find an alternate route.
- If you encounter a situation where you have no other reasonable alternative than
to drive in standing water, first try to determine how deep it is by watching other
vehicles that drive through it. Know that the threat of the roadway collapsing under
water is real and that, depending upon the vehicle you drive, as little as two feet
of water can cause your car to float and be carried away.
- Drive slowly and steadily through the water.
- If your vehicle stalls in the deep water and you attempt to re-start it, you may
cause irreparable damage to the engine. However, you may need to re-start the car
if this is the only way you can make it to safety.
- If you and your vehicle become trapped in rising water, immediately abandon it for
higher ground. If you are unable to get out of the vehicle safely, start the vehicle
and drive it out. If the vehicle will not start, call 911.
- Once you and your vehicle are out of deep water and are in a safe area, depress
your brakes slowly several times to help dry them out.
Don't Forget Your Boat
Before a hurricane approaches, experts recommend these two preventive steps:
- Make sure you have everything you need to secure your boat — extra lines,
chafe protection, fenders, anchors, port plugs, duct tape, extra batteries, etc.
- Decide where you'll keep your boat during a hurricane and how you'll get it there.
Consider the risks of storing your boat in the water or ashore. Move your boat before
a hurricane watch is posted — bridges may be locked down or storage buildings
may be too crowded. Marinas also may be too busy to haul your boat.