Avoiding Water Damage To Engines – 3/31/21

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I just blew up a car engine by driving through a puddle.

Many of us remember our older vehicles tackling flood conditions.  My old 1983 station wagon and my full-size 1996 van drove through three feet of water, more than once.
On many new vehicles, including the Chrysler minivans, Dodge Challenger, and the Minis, the intake tube for the air cleaner is actually down behind the fog lamp near the bottom of the air dam.  I drove through a puddle no more than 8″ deep, which threw up a bow wave, and the engine inhaled it.  Water doesn’t compress.  The block cracked, a piston was damaged, rod bent, throttle body flooded, and starter ruined.  Instantly, the car stopped, and the replacement was over $5,000.

When I stepped out of the car, the water on that side of the car was so shallow my feet didn’t even get wet. This was a puddle.

In normal times, this is very inconvenient and pricey. During an emergency it can leave you stranded with no backup.

I talked about this with my shop’s mechanic, and the easiest fix for this is to remove the intake air tube leading up to the air cleaner assembly (filter box). This means the air intake is up behind the headlights, a much safer location.

There are no negative effects on performance–I’ve been driving without it for weeks.  The only noticeable difference is an increase in induction roar (noise when you accelerate) which some of us like for feedback on how the car is moving.

It’s worth checking your car to determine the air intake location, and if it’s low to the ground, I strongly suggest moving it to a higher position. There are also aftermarket air filters that sit right under the hood. Don’t let fresh air turn into fresh water.

I also recommend checking your backup generator and other powered equipment to ensure the intake is well above any possible floods from below, or heavy rains from above. – MZW

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