Q: One of my two cars was flooded up to the steering wheel in last week’s storm. It emptied out and I left the doors and windows open to dry it out. I started it over the weekend and it seemed to run fine after blowing water out of the exhaust. Is it going to be okay to drive from here on out? I don’t want to put in an insurance claim if the car has lots of use still left in it but I don’t want to take on problems later. Thanks. — Bill in Long Island, NY
A: This is a real dilemma, but I think the statistics rule the decision. While the car seems to run normally at the moment, it was flooded with salt water. All electrical connections were submerged and some were no doubt infiltrated. Over time, the residual salt will corrode the connections, leading to high resistance, which in turn leads to failure. It’s really a probability issue as to when the car will eventually start showing symptoms. On top of that, you don’t know which organisms (neurotoxins like mold, for example) might be soaked into the fabrics, so it’s a health issue as well. Also, it’s not fair to keep such a vehicle around because it could eventually go onto the used car market to be sold.
The right thing to do is to put in an insurance claim and let the car be legally salvaged.