Wading through Indian Monsoon hit Roads

The Monsoon is coming, which is a respite from the Indian Summer. But its not all bed of roses. Rains = waterlogging everywhere. Outside your house to Main roads to elevated roads too, add heavy traffic to the mixture and you have a serious problem. So now the most common concern for every driver during monsoon is how to wade to waterlogged sections safely without destroying their vehicles and without getting stuck. Let’s analyse …



How does water destroy the Engine?

Its known as “Hydrostatic lock”, This occurs when water gets into the engine block, the Pistons try to compress the fuel mixed with water. Water cannot be compressed and hence results in severe damage to multiple parts of the engine. This is very expensive to repair. Common damage modes include bent or broken connecting rods, a fractured crank, a fractured head, a fractured block, crankcase damage, damaged bearings, or any combination of these.

Ouch !

Water enters usually from the Air Intake near the bonnet of the car. Most new cars have Air directors to get cold air to the Air intake from the front grill of the car. So if the water level reaches your cars front grill you will be in danger. The other route water enters the engine is through the exhaust pipe. This occurs usually when there is very low power/idling or the vehicle is switched off and standing in waterlogged areas deep enough to cover the exhaust tips.

The best way to deal with flooding is to avoid travelling at all. But if you really have to brave the waterlogged streets of India, then here are a few tips –

  1. Use other cars as a reference when checking for depth. If the water is up to half of the wheels, then it’s probably still safe to pass through. If it’s already reaching past the wheels, then there’s a high likelihood that the water will enter the cabin and also the engine bay. The Air Filter is usually right above the Passenger side front tyre.
  2. Check for possible obstacles like dividers stones etc and changes in depth. With heavy waterlogging situations, you might not be able to see the sidewalk or any open manholes.
  3. Turn off your air conditioning–both the thermostat and the fan. In the event water reach your aircon system while it’s running, it will be costly to clean and repair.
  4. While wading through deep waterlogged situations, its easier if you’re driving a manual transmission vehicle since you can “play” with the engine rpm by adjusting the clutch and accelerator pedals while moving forward. You need to make sure your engine rpm is high enough such that water will not enter through the tailpipe. So stick to first gear and keep the engine revved to at least 2,000 – 2,500 RPM until you are sure you’ve exited the waters.
  5. If you’re driving an automatic transmission vehicle, be sure to stick to first gear, too. Do this by selecting “1” or “L” on your gear selector. You can probably “play” with engine revolution by shifting the gear selector across N to 1 to you rev up the engine without moving forward, in the event that you need to stop while in the middle of the flooded street.
  6. Be sure to check or dry out your brakes right afterwards by tapping and pumping to check if they “bite” properly.
  7.  Wait for the path to clear – you want to maintain continuous high rev on the engine – something you can’t do if the car in front of you stalls,
  8. Keep In mind that vehicles driving next to you can create waves in the water that can reach up to your air intake.
Bus Tsunami

In case bad luck strikes and your vehicle stalls midway in water or gets submerged in parking. Things are not all that bad and the situation can be controlled, here are some tips on what do in such a situation.

  1. DO NOT attempt to start your vehicle. If your vehicle stalls midway in deep waters or if waterlogging submerges your parked vehicle’s exhaust pipe.
  2. Disconnect both the positive and negative terminals of the vehicle battery.
  3. Remove the Air Filter and replace.
  4. Dry out all electricals, especially the relays, plugs and other switches before plugging the battery back in.
  5. Check your oil dipstick. If it’s coffee-colored (with cream!), then it means water has entered your engine’s cylinders. Oil will have to be changed several times, for this to be flushed out.
  6. If water has reached your car’s ECU, it’s best to have your car towed to the service center without delay. You or the road side mechanic will probably not be able to do any DIY fixing here.
  7. Have all fluids replaced.
  8. Have all joints and bearings re-greased.
  9. In Petrol vehicles have spark plugs dried or replaced.
  10. Have your car’s interior detailed, as the flood will most likely leave mud and other stains inside. Worse than this is the musty, murky smell that water will leave inside the car.
Waterlogged Much?

Repairs for flooded vehicles would usually involve replacement of electrical parts, replacement of spark plugs and fluids, cleaning of the interiors, and additional rustproofing or undercoating (as water damage would be one reason for early corrosion).


Get insured?

Whenever possible, opt for a hydrostatic lock cover (engine cover in Insurance lingo) since the pricing premium isn’t much. If at all you think it’s too much, please opt for this as the additional cover rather than the much more popular zero depreciation add-on since the cost to risk hedge ratio for this is a lot more than a zero dep


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