A once-flooded car, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in 2005; photo courtesy of Wikipedia user Infrogmation
A once-flooded car, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in 2005; photo courtesy of Wikipedia user Infrogmation. Click image to enlarge

By Jim Kerr

I remember way back when, as teenagers with no cares and a sense of invincibility, sitting in the passenger seat of a Ford Galaxie as we motored full speed into a slough. Now for those who haven’t grown up on a farm, a slough is a large puddle of water. They can be only a few metres across or go for miles, and most of them are never very deep. In fact, the one we were trying to get through probably only had about eight inches of water in it.

Did we get through? No way! The water slowed us down so that we sank in the mud and there we were stuck in the middle, with water seeping into the car. Cars were much simpler back then. A long rope, the farm tractor, and we were back on the road again. Bail out the water from inside the car, keep the windows open for the next few days so it could dry out and we were as good as before. Try this with a new car and you are in for a pile of trouble.

I see news reports of hurricanes, floods, heavy rain storms and cars washed away or sunk under water all the time. Now in many parts of Canada and the U.S., if these vehicles have insurance claims made on them, they are declared as salvage vehicles only – suitable only for parts. However, this isn’t true for all parts of North America, and especially if no insurance claim was made. “Joe” could sink the car in a deep puddle, haul it out, clean it up and sell it as if nothing happened. You wouldn’t even be aware of it unless you started pulling interior panels off and found silt and water lines behind them. I have seen vehicles that have had water up over the seats, and after they were cleaned up, you couldn’t easily tell. But wait a few weeks or months and the problems will be never-ending.

When a vehicle gets flooded, water stays in places you would never think of. Parking brake cables may look fine but rust solid after a few months, or freeze solid in that first fall cold snap. Shifter cables and throttle cables will do the same thing. They may work fine for months and then suddenly lock solid.

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