When hurricanes and heavy rain are in the forecast, people tend to scramble to protect their homes — but they often forget about their vehicles until it’s too late. Water can be extremely harmful to many components of your vehicle, and it can compromise its safety even years after the initial damage occurs. Learn how to protect your vehicle during extreme weather events and how to identify signs of water damage when you’re shopping for a used vehicle.

How do you protect your vehicle from water damage?

If you live in an area that is prone to flooding or you know that a major storm is on the way, keep these tips in mind to prevent damage to your vehicle:

  • Get to higher ground. Try to park at the top of a hill or on a higher level of an above-ground parking garage. Water tends to pool in lower-lying areas first. If you live in a building with an underground parking garage, it may be a good idea to move your vehicle to a ground-level or above-ground parking space.
  • Seal it up. Be sure to close all of your vehicle’s windows and doors tightly when a storm is on the way. Remember the sunroof, too!
  • Shut it down. If your vehicle is suddenly surrounded by water, you should turn it off right away, leave it where it is, and get yourself and your passengers to safety. It’s impossible to tell just how deep standing water is or when the water will suddenly rise, and your vehicle could get swept away with you inside. Don’t try to drive through a flood — even a foot of standing water can do serious damage to your vehicle and compromise your safety if you attempt to drive.
  • Disconnect your battery. If you have to leave your vehicle in a flooded area, consider disconnecting your battery to prevent damage to sensitive computerized and electronic components.
  • Steer clear of puddles. Try to steer clear of puddles on the road during and after a storm — it can be difficult to tell just how deep a puddle is, and even a relatively shallow one could splash up and do damage to your vehicle’s undercarriage if you speed through it. If you absolutely have to drive through a puddle, do so at a slow and steady speed to limit splashing.

These are just a few ways you can protect your vehicle from flood damage. Pay attention to alerts from your local government and news outlets for more tips during the next heavy storm in your area.

How can you tell if a used vehicle has been damaged in a flood?

After hurricanes and other major storms, water-damaged vehicles are often put up for sale — but you should know that vehicles that have been involved in floods are often unsafe to drive, even if they seem to work just fine. If you’re shopping for a used vehicle, keep these tips in mind to identify flood damage:

  • Check out the carpets. The floor mats in a flooded vehicle may have a musty smell or be coated with mud. Brand new carpets in an older vehicle may also indicate that the vehicle has been involved in a flood.
  • Watch out for rust. Bare metal parts (such as unpainted screw heads) will show signs of rust in previously flooded cars.
  • Look in all the nooks and crannies. Areas that are more difficult to clean (such as the trunk and under the hood) may contain mud and other debris.
  • Do a smell test. If the vehicle smells musty or mouldy, there’s a good chance it was submerged in water at some point.
  • Get a vehicle history report from a reputable service (like CarProof, for example). Depending on your location, you may also be able to find out if the vehicle has been involved in a flood by using the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s VIN Verify service.

Is water damage covered by car insurance?

If water rises due to a storm, sudden overflow from a nearby body of water, or other extreme weather event and floods your parked vehicle, the damage would typically be covered under the optional specified perils, comprehensive, or all-perils section of your car insurance policy. If you drive your vehicle into standing water, damage will likely be covered under the collision section of your policy, which is also an optional coverage. But it’s your responsibility to take care of your vehicle — so if water damage is caused by a slow leak due to poorly maintained sealing around windows and doors, for example, you will likely be responsible for covering the cost of repairs on your own.

To make sure you have the right coverage to protect your vehicle, it’s a good idea to review your car insurance policy. If you have any questions or want to update your coverage, reach out to your group’s licensed insurance broker.

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