The National Automobile Dealers Association is urging vehicle owners to take caution before trying to start or move a rain-soaked or flooded vehicle following the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.
"The amount of damage depends on how long a vehicle has been submerged and how deep," said NADA Chairman Bill Underriner. "A good rule of thumb is to take caution if a vehicle's carpets have been wet for an extended period."
NADA recommends that affected drivers contact their auto insurer before attempting to move a water-damaged vehicle.
"Do not try to start a vehicle that has been severely damaged by water," Underriner warns. "Starting a vehicle even in a damp condition could cause harm to the driver and the vehicle's onboard computers and wiring. A short in the electrical system can cause a shock, or worse, a fire."
Severe damage will result when water enters an engine through the air intake. Internal systems are not designed to be submerged. Vehicle parts can start to rust in a matter of hours when underwater and transmission fluid and engine oil will be compromised if contaminated.
Water in fuel is another big problem that many vehicle owners overlook as the damage can take months to appear, Underriner added. Water can seep in through the overflow valve or an improperly sealed gas cap. Rust in the fuel tank and water running through the fuel system will do significant damage over time.
"Have any water-damaged vehicle thoroughly inspected by a certified service technician before driving it," Underriner urges.
"When in doubt, have the vehicle checked out," Underriner urges. "Your safety is far too important to risk."