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Water Sucked into Engine: Water Ingestion Hydro Lock

If you find yourself in a heavy rain or drive through a water puddle that is deeper than you suspected, you may find that your engine decides to die on the spot. 

Here is what most likely happened:

On many new and older cars, the air induction system (The plumbing that lets air into your engine) is relatively low towards the ground. What happens is that the water will be sucked into the air induction system and the water will become lodged in the engine.

Air is compressible and your pistons and cylinders have no problem squeezing that air/fuel mixture into a compression stroke. However, water is non-compressible and when sucked into the engine a condition called “Hydro Lock” occurs. The piston will attempt to compress the water until something very bad usually happens to your engine:

1)   Pistons Break
2)   Cylinder Walls Crack
3)   Connecting Rods Bend
4)   Connecting Rods Snap & Go through the oil pan
5)   Cold Water Shock to Hot Engine=Cracks
6)   Blow Head Gasket
7)   Catalytic Converter Damage
8)   Rod/Main Bearing Wash out
9)   Crankshaft Damage

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RESTART YOUR CAR: You can break something that is not already broken such as:

1)   Starter
2)   Flywheel
3)   Transmission
4)   Engine Block
5)   Transmission Housing
6)   Connecting Rods
7)   Pistons

All is not lost, on many occasions the spark plugs or glow plugs can be removed to get the water out of the cylinders and combustion chambers. On average, about 30% of the vehicles that are towed in are able to be cleared of the water without major engine damage. Sometimes the engine will stall out before it “Blows up”. We have found that most of the time the major damage occurs from attempting to restart the car before the water is removed.

Water ingestion/Hydro Locks are usually covered by your car insurance company if you have comprehensive coverage on your policy.

If you experience water ingestion or hydro locking, get your vehicle to the Engine Lab as soon as possible. We work with all insurance carriers and have financing available if you need extensive repairs.

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