‘Swimming in the rain’

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It seems Metro Manila is having its fair share of rains once again. Car owners are beginning to discover that it is not written in the owner’s manual how their car can imitate the capabilities of a riverboat. One of the facts of life… if your are one of those who have to wade through the floodwater and are concerned about the effects of the water on your car, read on.

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The issue with floodwater is that it contains dirt, sediments, oil and other stuff I cannot describe. If it stays on bare metal and dries up, corrosion starts. Take the brakes of a car for example. The front brakes are usually disc type. They have a caliper, which houses a piston that pushes on the brake pads and pinches the disc rotor. The piston has a rubber boot that protects it from the elements. Water can sometimes get through the boot. It can dry up from the heat generated by the braking action or the water can be pushed out again. But if the water is filled with sediments, the sediments can hamper the movement of the piston or the contaminants can cause corrosion. These contaminants, when left on the brake pad, can also affect braking performance. They can scratch the disc rotor or cause hot spots on the brake pad material. That is why it is recommended that when you have your brakes cleaned, you have to check the piston also. A spray can of brake parts cleaner is enough to do the job. If your car has been sitting in the floodwater for a while, then it would be better to change the pads and replace the seal of the piston.

Drum brakes for the rear still need to be checked after going through floodwater. Avoid using gasoline, kerosene or diesel fuel to clean the brake parts. Even when wiped dry, it may react with the rubber components. Water is not recommended.

If your alternator is located at the lower part of the engine, it would be wise to have it serviced after going through some water. Even if the alternator indicator light doesn’t light up. Even the air-conditioning compressor can be affected; the clutch unit can be damaged by the sediments. The clutch magnet can burn out prematurely. The bearing may be a sealed unit but it’s not waterproof.

What about the timing belt? If it shows signs that it got wet with the tensioner bearings, then it should be replaced. If in doubt, change it. Even if it’s a chain drive, if it shows signs that it got wet, then change it. It is cheaper to change the parts rather than have the belt or chain break.

Having the wheel bearings checked would be advisable, too. If your wheel bearings are the serviceable type, try using a synthetic type of grease. They don’t break down when it gets in contact with water. Pricey, but worth it, even for those with front-wheel drive cars. Make sure the boots are intact and the grease inside is in good condition. If you can, grease your suspension components that can prevent them from breaking down; this is one tip that the guys from Union Motors told me years ago.

Checking your automatic transmission fluid (ATF) and gear oil is also a must. Water present in your ATF can mean an expensive repair bill. Looking at the things that need attention after going through a flood, it can actually be hassle just have all these checked. But the possibility of something breaking down is even worse. If you can avoid going through a flood, do so. But if you do need to go through one, make sure you have your car checked right after. It would be such a hassle later on if your car breaks down. Oh, and we haven’t even mentioned the possibility of rust issues and potential electrical problems.

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