A Guide to Assessing and Fixing Flood-Damaged Cars

If a car gets a little bit of flood water and it’s cleaned up quickly, it can usually be fixed. But if a car gets really soaked in a flood or stays in water for a long time, it’s often too damaged to fix. Insurance companies might say the car can’t be fixed at all and call it a total loss.”

In the United States, the wrath of nature often manifests in the form of flash floods, coastal surges, and overflowing rivers. These natural disasters pose a significant threat not only to life and property but also to vehicles. Each year, thousands of vehicles across the country fall victim to floodwaters. The aftermath leaves many car owners grappling with a crucial question: Is it possible to repair a flood-damaged car?

The answer to this question is complex and varies depending on the extent of the damage. A car that has experienced minor water intrusion may often be salvaged with thorough drying and cleaning. However, for vehicles that have been completely submerged, the prognosis is less optimistic. Floodwater can wreak havoc on a vehicle’s electrical system, engine, and interior, often leading to irreparable damage.

In this article, we delve into the challenging world of flood-damaged vehicles. We’ll explore the key factors that determine the feasibility of repairing a flood-damaged car. Additionally, we’ll provide insights into the realities of undertaking such repairs, including the potential costs and long-term implications. With an increasing trend in extreme weather events, understanding the fate of flood-damaged vehicles is more relevant than ever. Join us as we navigate through the murky waters of flood recovery and vehicle restoration.

When a car gets flood damage, it means the car has been in a lot of water, like during a big flood or a heavy rainstorm. This kind of damage is really bad for the car because water can get into important parts and cause a lot of problems.

Here’s what can happen to a car when it gets flood damage:


Electrical Stuff: Cars have a lot of wires and electrical parts. When these get wet, they can stop working right. This means things like the engine or the radio might not work anymore.

Engine and Moving Parts: If water gets into the engine or other parts that help the car move, it can cause a lot of damage. Water is bad for these parts and can make them break down.

Inside the Car: The seats, floor, and inside parts can get soaked. This can make the car smell bad and can also be unhealthy because mold can grow.

Rust: Water, especially from the ocean, can make the car start to rust and fall apart faster.

Safety Stuff: Important safety things in the car like airbags or the brakes can be damaged by water, making the car less safe to drive.

Assessing and repairing a car with flood damage involves several key steps, not necessarily in a strict order:

  • Checking the engine oil for water contamination can be easily done with a dipstick.
  • The removal of spark plugs is a crucial step in the process.
  • Changing the vehicle’s oil and oil filter is essential to remove any contaminants.
  • If water has entered the fuel tank, it needs to be drained.
  • Cranking the engine with the spark plugs removed helps expel any water inside.
  • Ensuring there’s no water in the gas tank before cranking the engine is important to avoid water entering the fuel system.
  • In cases where water is expelled during the cranking process, spraying aerosolized oil into the cylinders before repeating the process helps in removing the water completely.
  • After the water has been removed from the engine, the spark plugs are replaced and an attempt is made to start the vehicle.
  • If the vehicle starts, it should be allowed to run for a few minutes and then turned off to check if the oil becomes cloudy, indicating that the oil and filter may need to be replaced again.
  • Lastly, if the vehicle’s electronic modules, control units, or the fuse box were damaged or submerged during the flooding, they will likely need replacement.

These steps are critical in ensuring that a flood-damaged vehicle is properly assessed and repaired.

Stats With the Most Previously Flood-Damaged Cars in 2023


RankStateNumber of Flood-Damaged Vehicles
5New Jersey18,800
6North Carolina15,600
7New York14,600

This table reflects the states with the highest number of flood-damaged vehicles as of 2023. Car buyers in these states should be particularly vigilant about checking the history of used cars for potential flood damage. For more detailed information, please refer to Auto Remarketing​​ and Torque News​​.

Costs for Repairing a Car Damaged by Flooding

When deciding to repair a car after a flood, it’s crucial to consider the potential costs, which can vary greatly depending on the severity of the damage. For minor issues, like water stains on upholstery, the repair costs can be quite low. You might spend as little as $20 to remove water stains yourself. If reupholstering is needed, the cost might increase to a few hundred dollars.

However, more severe flood damage, like a hydrolocked engine, leads to significantly higher repair costs. Repairing a hydrolocked engine can be a complex and costly endeavor, with expenses ranging from $3,000 to $8,000. Moreover, this type of repair might also mean that you’ll be without your car for a considerable time due to its complexity.

These examples illustrate the range of costs associated with flood damage repairs, from manageable to potentially prohibitive, emphasizing the importance of assessing the extent of damage carefully.

Sell Flood-Damaged Car If You Don’t Repair It?

If you decide against repairing your flood-damaged car, you have several options for what to do with it. Selling the car is one possibility. When selling to a private buyer, it’s important to be upfront about the water damage. Another option is trading it in for a new car, although dealerships might be hesitant to accept a flood-damaged vehicle.

Alternatively, you can consider selling your flood-damaged car to a service like “YourCarIntoCash.” This kind of service specializes in buying cars with various types of damage, including those with water damage or serious mechanical issues like a hydrolocked engine. They often provide a convenient process, offering a fair price for your car and handling the pickup, which can be arranged at a time that suits you. This approach can simplify the process of disposing of a flood-damaged car while ensuring you receive a reasonable offer for it.


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