Mechanics

NISSAN ALTIMA ENGINE PROBLEM

2008 Nissan Altima • 58,500 miles

My 2008 Nissan Altima Coupe was hit by Hurricane Sandy at Rockaway Beach, NY. It was flooded and I wonder what I can do to save my car as my seat is soaked, middle console has water in it and when I open the hood I see debris on top of my engine. Please help me as I really need to save this car ASAP
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Verncopper
November 1, 2012.



First open the doors to let the fish out! Leave the battery connected to reduce the possibility of locking up some computers. This is more of a problem on Volkswagen, BMW, and GM vehicles, but we don't want to take any chances. If something electrical is going to be damaged by leaving the battery connected, it has happened already.

Look at how high the water reached on the engine and transmission. The dipsticks and fill cap should seal out any water, otherwise you'd have problems after driving in the rain. Since the car is already drowned, use a garden hose to wash everything you can. Salt water is going to be everywhere and will corrode any exposed electrical wires and terminals, and it will cause rust in the creases and folds of the body's rolled-up sheet metal. Run water everywhere possible inside and under the car, and under the hood. Living in Wisconsin, the road salt capital of the world, we know what salt does to a car but that salt doesn't get inside. Cars actually rust out worse here when they go through car washes regularly during the winter. That water pushes salt into places it normally wouldn't get to, then it sits there and won't wash out when driving in the rain later. My '88 Grand Caravan has never been through a car wash in its life and it has just started to get rusty last year. Most ten-year-old cars have more rust than mine.

Don't try to turn anything on yet. Before we had all these computers, if salt water affected something, it just didn't work right until it was dried or washed out. Today we have many dozens of computers to do things we never needed computers for before. They also provide the toys and gimmicks people demand but the price we pay is their susceptance(?) To outside factors like voltage spikes, corroded connector pins, and salt.

Run a lot of water on the seat cushions, carpeting, and inside the doors. You'll usually see a white film on dry parts when salt is still there. You can pull the rubber strip away from the door glass to get the water in, and temporarily plug the drain holes on the bottom so the water will build up high enough to dissolve the salt and wash it away. Open the drains to let the bad stuff run out, then do that a few more times.

All electrical connectors under the hood use "weatherpack" connectors that have rubber seals where the wires go in. Those terminals should be okay but days after the car is running, consider unplugging them and washing them with electrical contact cleaner, then allowing them to dry a few minutes. To avoid setting diagnostic fault codes or causing other problems, never turn on the ignition switch while any connector is disconnected. It won't hurt to run some water through the generator too, ("alternator" in Chrysler terminology). Also rinse the radiator and the air conditioning condenser in front of it. And the radiator fan motor. And the starter motor. All of those things can be expected to get wet in normal driving conditions but we don't want salt in them.

Run water on both sides of the trunk. There will be rubber plugs under the trim mat that can be pulled out to let the water run out. Even if the trunk seal held, there are drain holes right behind both rear wheels, and water will have entered through them.

If the battery is good it should last at least two weeks to keep the many computer memory circuits alive. After that you may need to connect a small trickle charger to keep it charged up. By that time it should be dry enough that a strong battery won't cause other damage. If the battery is already dead, just leave it sit for now. Charging it up at this point can only possibly cause problems, but for sure it won't solve anything that won't be solved by waiting another few days or weeks.

Very sorry to see what you guys went through but I find it interesting how differently everyone is reacting compared to after Katrina. We haven't seen many news stories showing people whining and sniveling that the government didn't do enough to babysit them. What we're seeing is people picking up and getting busy. Most of us here have the same attitude. Kudos to you.

Caradiodoc
Nov 2, 2012.
Thanks a lot for your help in this matter. So run a lot of water inside the car and how would it drain? Also I have to lift of my car hood and run water to get the debris and salt off the engine and wires too. Lastly how long should I let it sit in my drive way to dry?

Tiny
Verncopper
Nov 2, 2012.
Ideally let it sit for weeks but that isn't going to be real effective in cold weather. I wouldn't be too concerned with mechanical stuff. That can stay wet. It's the interior you want to get dry as soon as possible but not until you wash the salt out. Keep in mind that down the road if you can't get rid of a musty smell, you can always find used seats and carpet at the salvage yards in other states. They don't have much call for those so prices shouldn't be too bad.

If you remove the sill plates and lift the carpet, you should find round or oval hard plastic plugs that can be popped out. Those holes had a purpose on the assembly line but they make nice drain holes. You can also use a wet / dry vacuum cleaner. I have two from Home Depot made by Ridgid. They will suck the paint off the walls! Then use a small fan to keep the air circulating. Detail guys in body shops use fans all the time after shampooing upholstery.

Salt right on the wires and engine isn't going to cause a problem. You get that when you follow another car while driving on salted roads in the winter. What you don't want is that salt getting inside the connectors. Ford had a real common problem with their generator design. They used a brass rivet to connect three copper wires inside the generator, then planted it right behind the radiator where rain and salt sprayed right on it. Two different kinds of metal and an acid, (salt) causes "galvanic action" just like in a car battery. The more common name for galvanic action is corrosion. The brass rivets corroded off and the only reliable fix was a new generator.

After you hose off the engine, check the oil level for signs of water. The level will be too high. If you do find that, don't even try to crank the engine until that oil has been drained and replaced. There is no way for that water to circulate through the many passages if you don't crank the engine, so simply draining it will get any water out. I suspect you won't find water in it. If there was a way for water to leak in, there would be a way for oil to leak out. Checking the level in the transmission will probably be inaccurate. The level is going to be too high because the engine has to be running to check that. The exception is if the dipstick wasn't fully seated. Many of them never seal completely. If water got in, I think you would see it all the way to the top of the dipstick tube. Here again, if there's any sign water is in there, don't crank the engine. Do a drain and filter replacement, and ideally, let it drain overnight. No salt should get into the passages as long as the fluid isn't being pumped around.

Look inside the air filter box to see if any water got in there. That depends on how high up it sits and how high the water got. When you're getting ready to start the engine, turn it at least two full revolutions in the normal direction by hand first. You'll need a large breaker bar or ratchet, and a socket, and it will turn rather hard but if you suddenly reach a point where it just won't go any further, water got into the cylinders and it is "hydro-locked". We're talking about some pretty precisely-fitting parts and carefully-machined surfaces so we want that salt out of there as soon as possible. Remove the spark plugs, then continue turning the engine by hand. The pistons will push most of the water out. What remains may eventually seep past the piston rings and into the oil so even if you didn't find water in the oil at first, an oil change is still a good idea after the engine is running.

The mass air flow sensor is someplace in the fresh air tube going to the engine. Wash him out too and be sure that tube is open so it can dry completely. His operation is critical for proper engine performance. The tube has to be reconnected before you try to start the engine. No air can be allowed to enter the engine that doesn't have to go through that sensor. No damage will occur but the Engine Computer won't know about that air so it won't command enough fuel to go with it. You'll either have a no-start condition or the engine will stumble and hesitate.

My community college Automotive program had two Fords donated that were flood victims years ago. The Taurus needed to have the transmission rebuilt but not the engine. The Explorer didn't need anything except to throw away the musty-smelling seats and carpet. That one sat for months with the windows rolled up while it was still full of water. A few years later it started to develop corroded wires inside the Engine Computer which sits next to the front passenger's feet. Thanks to my extensive tv repair background I was able to keep on fixing the corroded connections as they developed, but anyone else would have just replaced the computer. Some of the wires to it were corroding off too. They were not sealed for protection because they were inside the vehicle. If you look at any Chrysler product, their computers are under the hood so there's fewer electrical connectors to cause trouble, and the connectors have rubber seals. The only way for those wires to "corrode" is I had to go in there and break them for my students to diagnose. If your computers are under the hood where they are more likely to get wet, there's a better chance of not having problems with them in the future.

Caradiodoc
Nov 2, 2012.