Let’s get this straight. There is no such thing as waterproofing a vehicle. The best one can do in preventing water-damage to a four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicle is to make it water-resistant. Bear in mind that water will always find a way of creeping into every nook and cranny of your car. So, the longer and deeper you drive a 4WD into any body of water, water-damage will surely set in.
Now that we made that clear, let us talk about what one can do to make a 4WD water-resistant.
A sure-fire way of destroying an engine is through “hydro-lock.” This happens when an engine ingests water. It takes very little water to kill an engine, especially with diesel engines. One way of protecting the engine is by sealing and protecting the vents where water can seep into. One should watch out for the breather plugs, engine and transmission oil dipstick tubes, the engine oil cap and other places where water can enter. Familiarize yourself with these parts and make sure to seal them.
One of the biggest openings where water gets ingested by the engine is through the air intake. The best way of sealing this and prevent water from getting ingested is by installing a snorkel. This accessory extends the level of the air intake, from engine-level to roof-level, allowing the vehicle to drive through deep bodies of water (as long as it is below the level of the air intake).
Computer-controlled engines have a number of sensors that are there to make the engine run more efficiently. When these sensors get wet, however, they can send the wrong signals to the engine management system and cause it to stop its forward progress. With this type of engine, making it water-resistant is a bit tedious. The engine management system or the “computer box” should also be repositioned to a much higher location, for the same reason.
Other components that need protection from water is the transmission. The breather hose, which allows expanding gasses from the lubricants that protects the gears, must be extended to the highest point of the vehicle, to prevent water from entering the hose and contaminating the lubricants. The same should be done with both the front and rear axle housings.
After the vehicle has been made water-resistant, drivers should then keep in mind several rules when doing water crossings. First, understand the terrain ahead. Oftentimes, water may hide huge rocks that can “high-center,” or trap a vehicle and get it immersed in water. If you are not confident with reading terrain and water-crossing skills, then don’t do it.
Always remember that out in the trails, you have no one else to blame but yourself, whenever you get stuck, turn over or get immersed in water. In the end, it is always you (the driver) who will foot the bill, whenever your 4WD sustains damage.
For newbies, and those who have to cross water, by need, and not by choice, the rule is to never cross any body of water that is deeper than the height of your tire. Some 4WD vehicles advertise that their products can ford through depths of 800 millimeters, or about 32 inches. That’s taller than stock tire diameter. Other manufacturers will tell you that the maximum warranted water crossing depth is half the tire diameter. The 800 mm fording depth is made possible by extending its axle and transmission breather hoses to a high level. Now, its up if you want to risk your carpet getting wet.
In the next article, we will talk about what to do when the inevitable happens–when your vehicle stalls, because you’re having too much fun while crossing water.