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Bring in your Flood / Water-Damaged Car and let us dry and clean it out.

How to Clean a Flood or Water-Damaged Car

Cleaning a car out after a flood or after water damage can be tricky. If it isn’t done properly, it can result in long-term problems, including mold and mildew.

Flooded cars are also prone to having a musty, stale smell. However, if you clean properly the first time, you can avoid cleanliness problems that can significantly decrease the value of your car. A good way to start the cleaning process is to figure out what your car is worth, flood damaged and all.

How Does Flood Damage Occur?

One of the most common causes of water damage in a vehicle is due to driving through a flooded street. You may not realize how quickly water can seep into your car in those situations. If possible, you should avoid driving through any flooded areas for your own safety and for your car’s sake.

Leaving windows or sunroofs open during a heavy rain can also cause significant damage. Even if you do not see it, water can get into small spaces and stay there, causing mildew and mold problems. Cars that have poor or improper sealing can also experience flooding after a hard rain.

Of course, flooded cars can also be caused by car accidents that involve water. These might include losing control of the vehicle and driving into a lake or losing grip on a boat ramp, causing a truck to slide into a body of water. These events are traumatic, and most of the time, it is not worth saving your car after it has taken a swim.

Water Damage and Your Car

Water can be detrimental to your vehicle. If water gets into the engine, there may be no saving the internal portions of your car. This type of damage is commonly known as “hydro-lock.” In hydro-lock situations, water has entered the engine through the air intake and caused internal damage to the engine. Hydro-lock most commonly occurs in situations where drivers are attempting to drive through high water or when a car owner attempts to move a vehicle when he or she realizes that water is rising around the car.

Water can also damage a vehicle in other ways, including:

  • Causing electrical problems (wiring connections, computers, power seats, power windows, etc.)

  • Mechanical problems with brakes, starters, and other moving parts

  • Rusting seat track and other metal exposed to water

  • Mold, mildew, and other unpleasant odors

  • Water in the oil or other critical fluids in the vehicle

Once water gets into the vehicle, it has very few avenues to get out. It can sit and lead to bacteria growth, mold, and can cause an array of other related problems.

Getting Started Cleaning Your Car After Flooding

Mold, mildew, and corrosion start setting in immediately after the car is exposed to water, so it is important to take action immediately to help prevent long-term damage. If your vehicle has been exposed to significant water, do not try to start the car. Starting the car when there is water in the engine, fuel system, or transmission will only make the problem worse. You can read more about flooded cars here.

The first step in cleaning your car after water damage is to determine which parts of your car have been affected. You may be surprised to find out how far water damage can travel from the initial leakage point. Press down on the floor carpeting to determine if it is saturated. Do a thorough check of the seats, carpeting, and everything in between. Getting every last drop of the water out will go a long way toward getting your car looking (and smelling) great again.

Once you have determined the extent of the damage, you are ready to take action. Start by using a wet/dry vac to remove any sitting water from the car. Be sure to hit in between the seats and check the armrests and center console. Some vehicles also have drainage holes or plugs in the floors. You may be able to unplug these to make getting standing water out of the car easier.

You can also use the wet/dry vac on saturated seats and carpeting as well, but it is most effective on areas of the vehicle that may have an inch or more of standing water. Shop towels also work great to soak up water from seats and carpeting. If possible, use cloth towels instead of paper towels because they are more absorbent.

Increasing Air Flow to Dry Out Your Vehicle

Even after toweling your car and using a wet/dry vac, your car will likely still feel damp. Never assume that you are done after you have sucked out the water. If the carpeting or seats are still damp to the touch, then you are not finished! Crack open the windows and use fans to dry out the vehicle. You can prop up carpeting in some vehicles, so the fan hits underneath the carpet as well.

Getting the air moving in your vehicle will dry it out faster and help prevent mold. If possible, set up a fan on one side of the car and open the doors. This will allow the air to move over the top of the carpeting and seating and through the entire vehicle (instead of being trapped in the vehicle, which can create additional moisture problems). You should leave the fans on for at least a day. Setting up a dehumidifier in your garage may also be a good option in addition to the fans.

If leaving your car open for a day isn’t an option for you, you may want to try putting the vehicle’s heater on full blast to simulate the effect of the fans. This approach isn’t as efficient, but it can help to address the problem immediately. However, it should not be the only method you use. Proper ventilation is important to fully dry out your vehicle.

A Thorough Clean

Once you have aired out the vehicle and removed all of the water, you should do a thorough shampoo and dry everything that was affected by the water damage. It may seem counterintuitive to get the car wet again by shampooing it, but using soap will help kill lingering bacteria and make the car smell much better. Just be sure that everything is completely dry when you are done.

Hitting Trouble Damp Spots

If you notice any areas that are still wet after this process, you may want to head out to your car with a hair dryer to target these trouble spots. You can also try using moisture-absorbent products as well, including baking soda or commercial moisture absorbing products. You can leave these products on problem areas (like behind and under seats) and then vacuum them out a few days later.

These hard-to-dry areas will be the most susceptible to mold, so it is important to address them. You can also try a mildewcide as well.

Flooring pads can definitely be a problem area as they tend to mold faster than other areas. Thankfully, floor padding is relatively inexpensive to replace in most vehicles. You can even purchase higher-end complete carpet replacements for not too much money, but pricing will vary by the vehicle type.

Dealing with a flooded car can be a nightmare. But, if the flooding wasn’t too bad or if you’re able to make the lengthy investment of time, you can bring your car back from the deep end. If your car is more significantly flooded or you don’t have the ability to deal with the hassle, selling the car might be your best bet. Click the button below, and CarBrain will make you a quick, hassle-free, guaranteed offer for your car.

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