What to do if I ran into a puddle and the engine won’t start

What to do if the car stalled in a puddle

Russian roads … How many allegories in this phrase! I can not quickly list all the dangers associated with overcoming the obstacle course, called the road, somewhere on the periphery, away from major metropolitan areas. Today we will talk about one of such troubles, connected with getting into a deep puddle.

What to do if you drove into a puddle and the engine will not start

However, this topic will be interesting to any driver, because such an obstacle can suddenly appear on your way just because of the past few minutes of heavy rain. In such cases it is hardly reasonable to complain on caprices of weather and consequences of global warming, especially if your car stalled in a puddle. No moaning will help, but knowing what to do in such situations will be very useful.

A car stalled when passing a water obstacle

If you have overcome a deep puddle, and the engine has stalled at this time, it is a bad sign. Especially if you are sure that water in large quantities got into the engine compartment. In this case you can not even try to start the car, as the most probable consequence of such a rash step may be a hydrostroke.

This term applies when water that has entered the engine penetrates in relatively large quantities into the cylinders.

Hydrostroke is understood as a process which takes place in the cylinder, when the volume of liquid (strictly speaking, any liquid, not necessarily water) entering the cylinder is greater than the volume of the combustion chamber when the piston reaches the top dead center.

Since water, unlike air, compresses much worse, during the piston movement with both valves closed, the pressure inside the cylinder increases from the nominal values to critical values, so the water compressed to the state of a nearly solid body will be on the path of the piston, provoking a premature impact.

The consequences of such a process can be most unfortunate. The kinetic energy accumulated by the piston is very large – it consists of several components: the rotation of the massive flywheel, which has a solid inertia, the transfer of momentum from the pistons next to it, the influence of the transmission, which also delegates part of the energy of the car. As a result of an unexpected and sharp collision with water, this energy is released, destroying the connecting rod and, having lost only some power, begins its journey to other components of the power unit (crankshaft, BC, etc.). As a result, the damage caused to the engine can be so severe that even a very expensive overhaul will not help.

One of the signs of a hydrostatic shock is the engine stopping, accompanied by an uncharacteristic knocking sound. If you try to restart the engine, such attempt may be successful. But if the knocks will increase – you risk to stay without a car for a long time.

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Driving your car through a puddle

What should you do if your car stalls in a puddle? Take all necessary measures to pull the car to a dry place – with a tow or using muscle power. It is desirable to do it as soon as possible, before water has not spread where it is not supposed to. Turbine power units are especially sensitive to it, as in many models the turbine is located rather low (below air inlet). Therefore even with overcoming relatively shallow water obstacles there is a possibility that water may get inside the engine through the sealing joints.

Checking the condition of the car before starting the engine

After taking the car out to a dry area, let it stand for 10-20 minutes, then you can proceed to inspection in order to find out how badly the engine is damaged and why the car will not start in a puddle.

The algorithm of check is as follows:

  1. You should always start with the air filter. It should be removed and made sure that it is not wet. If it is dry – one of the problems disappeared, and you can proceed to the next point. If it is not – it is much worse, because you will hardly be able to move on wet filter. But as it will take a long time to dry, you can move for some time without this element, if you are short of time.
  2. The next step is to check the condition of spark plugs (or glow plugs for injector engines). It is done by unscrewing them, and then scroll the flywheel with a starter. If water spurts out of the holes, it must be completely removed. To do this, continue the procedure of crankshaft cranking with starter (cranking for 10 seconds at 60-second intervals). Finish the procedure if the smallest misty drizzle comes out of the combustion chamber. It is possible to wait 10-15 minutes before screwing back the candles, but not necessarily, because the proc from this procedure will be only on a hot engine, and because of the water, it is likely to cool down quickly.
  3. It is time to check up a level of a lubricating liquid in a power unit and a transmission. If you can see traces of whitish emulsion on the dipstick, or the level has visibly risen – these are obvious symptoms of a large volume of water in the oil. About a half liter is critical for an engine. If, according to your estimation, there is more water, it is extremely risky to drive with such lubricating fluid. You can easily ruin the power unit. Try to solve the problem by unscrewing the drain plug of the engine or box. At first a small amount (about 20-30 grams) of oil will flow out of the hole and then almost clear water should come out. As soon as an oil-water mixture appears, you must stop draining. After such procedure be sure to check the level of lubricating fluid one more time. And if it appeared below the risk MIN, it is better not to continue.
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Checking the Engine Oil Level

After following these, in principle, simple recommendations, you can try to start the car. Remember that in most cases, the answer to the question, why the car stalls in a puddle is quite simple: because of water ingress into the air filter, which is not subject to requirements concerning absolute tightness.

As a result, the flow capacity of the filter element is dramatically reduced and the engine starts to experience a shortage of air, which leads to its stalling.

But it is also not recommended to drive with the filter removed, as well as in the presence of water emulsion in the oil. It is necessary to agree to such step only in a critical situation, and the trip itself should be short-term.

How to prepare for overcoming deep puddles

It is possible to reduce consequences of overcoming deep puddles, if there is no possibility to make a detour maneuver. The main rule is to check the depth of the obstacle by wading through it. Then begin to move at the lowest possible speed, and be ready to immediately stop the car in the case of a sharp departure of the soil downwards.

It is desirable to pass such an obstacle is not on the hot engine, giving it cool down literally 3-5 minutes, so that the temperature difference between the car parts and the water was not extreme. Otherwise, cracks may form on the hottest units (e.g., exhaust manifold), and the probability of electric fan activation increases, which will immediately flood the entire engine compartment with water, even if the puddle is not deep.

If the water obstacle is rather deep, you should know approximately the location of air inlets, which in any case must be clear of water.

If there is a can with water-repellent liquid in a glove box, it would be useful to spray high-voltage wires and plugs with it.

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Puddles in the Road

A precautionary measure can be putting a hose of suitable diameter on the exhaust pipe in order to raise the exhaust point. In this case, even if you stall in the middle of a puddle, the water has less chance of filling the exhaust tract, which will automatically increase the probability of a successful start after performing the check described above.

Attempts to protect spark plugs, VW wires, starter, alternator and numerous sensors with improvised means (adhesive tape, plastic bags and similar materials) are not only practically useless, but may lead to opposite results, so it is better to refuse them.

How to overcome water obstacles safely

The main rule – move evenly in the lowest gear (this rule applies to cars with automatic transmission), keeping the speed at a minimum steady level. Any attempts to accelerate (as well as to slow down) will be accompanied by rolling waves, with the risk of flooding the under-hood.

Speed of movement it is necessary to choose such, that the car went with speed of a wave formed in front of it – in this case the front part of an engine compartment will be in after-wave cavity.

The car stalls after a puddle and in wet weather: reasons, what to do

When the car stalls in the rain, you should not try to jerk the engine in an attempt to start it, first you need to find the cause of the breakdown and eliminate the problem, and only then turn on the engine. To prevent such unpleasant situations, you need to treat all elements that can get water on them.

If you drive in a puddle, check the engine oil level on the road.

The occurrence of a situation in which the car stalls in the rain, can be associated with problems in various systems and elements of the transport. Usually, water gets on the parts of the engine, electrics or fuel system of the car. Quickly fix the breakdown can be corrected by drying the part on which the moisture has accumulated.


Usually such a breakdown is explained by the appearance of condensate, but if the car stalls after driving through a puddle and wet asphalt, the reason is in insufficient sealing or improper location of protection parts. The car stalls in the rain if moisture forms or gets on individual engine components.

There are several reasons why a car will stall in the rain:

  • Tumbler cap, on the inside of which condensation can form. If water droplets get on the cover, the spark will “break through” to the housing;
  • ignition coil – water can get on the internal surface of the winding, there is a possibility of inter-circuit short circuit. The engine won’t start because the voltage level is low, insufficient for spark plugs to appear;
  • the spark plugs are flooded – the breakdown is typical for gasoline engines. If the car stalls after driving through a puddle, then most likely the water got on the plugs, which are responsible for starting the engine and ignition of fuel;
  • contaminated air filter – in case the air filter gets wet, the car will start to stall and stop;
  • Water entering the fuel system – first the engine through the air intake, then the fuel pipes, which initiates high pressure in the cylinders;
  • the battery – if water gets under the hood, there is a chance of corrosion on the terminals, which leads to a breach of contacts and prevents the vehicle from starting;
  • Electrical – if water gets on the sensors or contacts after the rain, there is a high probability of a short circuit, which will be an obstacle to starting the engine. Air flow and pressure sensors, as well as fuel system wires, are most often affected.
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Oxidized battery terminals

Oxidized battery terminals

To find the problem, which causes the car to stall or stall after a rain, it is necessary to comprehensively examine the systems at risk.

What to do if a malfunction has occurred

If the car stalls in wet weather, it is necessary to check several car assemblies in turn.

The first problem area is the spark plugs. Usually they fail, when the car stalls in a puddle. This element is very capricious to the presence of moisture. It is necessary to dry the spark plugs by wiping them with a dry cloth or tissue. After that the engine should start.

Next you need to look at the tumbler cap for evaporation and cracks. It should be wiped with a dry cloth and, if there is mechanical damage, replaced.

The ignition coil and high-voltage wires should also be diagnosed for moisture formation. If you find traces of water on these elements, just dry them with a hair dryer.

If the car starts, but moves jerkily, the problem is in the sensors. They tend to oxidize when exposed to moisture. It is possible to understand which element in the car’s electrical system is defective, with the help of special scanners, which read errors. If this is not available, you will have to go to the service. If a damaged sensor is detected, it must be replaced.

Stripped wiring insulation

Frayed wiring insulation

Often in wet weather, the car jerks and stalls when there is a defect in the winding of the wire in the exposed areas. Oxidized surfaces are treated with a contact cleaner, and if there are mechanical defects, the wire is replaced.

It is very important to remember that if, when driving into a puddle, the car stalls, even after all the recommendations to remove the moisture, it is worth waiting for it to evaporate from all systems of the car. Starting the engine with undried components can lead to serious damage.

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If the car does not start after the elements have dried, you should not be diligent and make many attempts. It is better to transport it by tow or tow truck to the car service, where with the help of special equipment they will find and fix the breakdown.

How to avoid a problem

To avoid getting into such a situation, you should protect the systems from getting wet for a long time. Therefore, in the period of annual maintenance, follow the following recommendations:

  • It is possible to prevent condensation from forming on the inside of the tumbler cap by treating it with a moisture suppressant;
  • the high-voltage wires and the ignition coil can be lubricated with silicone spray or moisture displacer;
  • To prevent the car from stalling in a downpour due to a faulty battery, its terminals are also treated with a special lubricant;
  • To prevent the car’s electrics from being endangered in rainy weather, oxidized sensor contacts are treated with a special cleaner;
  • Water entering the engine may be due to lack of space under the hood. When no protection is installed, water penetrates from below, and if there is insufficient sealing of the rubbers on the hood, from above. You should install additional protection at the bottom of the car and monitor the quality of the gasket between the motor shield and the hood. If they are faulty, it is necessary to replace them in time.

Battery terminal treatment

Treatment of the battery terminals

When the car stalls in the rain, you should not try to jerk the engine in an attempt to start it, first you need to find the cause of the breakdown and eliminate the problem, and only then turn on the engine. To prevent such unpleasant situations, you need to treat all elements that can get water on them.

If the car stalls in wet weather, the problems may be related both to water ingress in the engine and on the electrics, and to the formation of condensation. It is very important to carefully examine all systems, dry them out, and make a safe start. Careful and attentive attitude to all units of the car will help to prevent such malfunctions.

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