The rains, the floods and the car repairs - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

The rains, the floods and the car repairs

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Downtown flood waters Downtown flood waters
Minivan getting towed in flood waters Minivan getting towed in flood waters
The air intake just above front bumper on most cars The air intake just above front bumper on most cars


The flooding downtown is always an issue and it looks like the water will rise again throughout the weekend.

For obvious safety reasons you are advised to never drive through the flood waters, but it's not just safety. The fallout from a flooded out car can be very costly as well.

The waters can get very deep especially during high tide but it doesn't stop a lot of people from taking the chance. You may be surprised at just high the water has to be to cause a vehicle to stall, costing a lot of money to fix, that is if the insurance company doesn't decide to total it.

You see the drivers going through the water all the time, some make it some don't. Like us your car is constantly breathing air to run. Think of breathing air through a snorkel, if it gets too low the water gets in.

Joe Dinkins from Dinkins Auto Shop on Camp Road says the flooded out cars have been coming in more lately.

"We get anywhere from five to ten when it happens. Sometimes we have the whole parking lot full of flooded cars. Usually they come in on a tow truck."

The flood waters get in from under the hood through an intake. Then the liquid is carried to the vehicle's major parts--like a foreign invader through the body's veins. Dinkins says the intake is usually just above the front bumper under the hood, just a couple of feet off the ground on most cars.

"An engine is nothing but a big air pump it's sucking in air but if it sucks in water it goes into the engine. It goes into the intake manifold and then inside the heads of course it goes down into the pistons and water doesn't compress, once that piston comes up and hits that water a lot of stuff happens. It's like a bomb going off. "

It's not just any water it's corrosive salt water which makes it much worse, doubling the damage to wiring and the vehicle's computers.  It may cost a couple thousand dollars to get it back on the road but it can be much worse depending on what your insurance company decides to do. Dinkins used a flooded 2010 Pontiac as a recent example.

"All it did was suck water into the engine and cut off, it got a little bit of water in the floorboard. They totaled the car out because they knew it was in salt water, they didn't want to take the chance of having under lying problems down the line."

And it's not a fix that will take a couple days, several days is more like it. And it's not just in the engine, once a car stalls it sits and if the water is high enough to seep through there will also be the expensive and time consuming work to clean that mess as well.

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