Flood Aftermath: She started!

Or, “How to Fix a water flooded engine with paper towels and elbow grease.”

If you’ll recall my post yesterday about being flooded out and having my car stall, and having to be rescued by firefighters and police, I was left in doubt that my poor little car, who has been through so much, would ever start again.

This morning we started trying to get the water out of the cylinders. We did this by taking out all four spark plugs, then using a socket wrench and cheater bar to turn the flywheel. We got a couple big squirts out of the first cylinder and found that luckily the others were dry.  Apparently, a safety feature stopped the engine before water could get into all cylinders.  And the water had gotten in, most likely, from an improperly secured air filter cover.

The holes into the engine block were so deep we were at a loss as to how to get the rest of the water out. There was about a soda can’s worth in there. I recalled what I’d read yesterday on the internet, and said “we can use paper towels, roll them up and stick them down in there to wick the moisture out.”

We did that for a good while and got a bunch of water out. Then we went back to the auto parts store to turn in my old battery for the core credit, and at the same time I picked up new platinum plugs – the old ones were from the factory and going strong at 160,000 miles but I figured I should put new ones in anyway since we had it open. (You read that right, Hyundai builds quality.) We got back and shone a light in and found more water.

Then I said “Maybe if we shove the towel in with a thin stick…” so we did that, and stuck and pulled wet paper towels for what seemed like forever.  A metal shish kebab skewer worked great.  Finally we had everything out. Then we tried her. The starter was strong, and so was the battery, and she tried to crank.  The whole engine shook as the car tried to start.

Out comes the partner with a suggestion of starter fluid. My neighbor rummaged around and found a can – a few more tries with that and she started! Things were rough at first but she settled down after that and now sounds better than she did before the flood, because of the new plugs. I drove her around the block to make sure nothing was fouled. Tried the brakes, lights, signals, radio, everything works. So now, I have wheels again!

This faithful little Hyundai is a little more scratched and dented, but she runs, and I’m so unbelievably happy right now. What strikes me about this whole experience is that between myself, my neighbor, and my partner, each of us had a critical part to play – with one of us missing, this whole thing wouldn’t have worked. I researched and figured out what the problem probably was and how to fix it, my neighbor Charlie provided the tools and some of the know-how, and my partner provided support, some truly excellent suggestions, and more know-how. Oh, and I also handed over many power towels to my hard working neighbor.


I was prompted to write this post because the symptoms I had were more those of a seized engine or a broken starter than anything.  The first time we tried to crank the engine with a fully charged battery, the engine made a big lurch and we heard a loud clunk.  So it sounded like something was fatally wrong with the engine.  Meanwhile all that was required was removal of the spark plugs, much careful hand cranking of the engine, many, many, many power towels rolled up to fit in the cylinder and a light to look for water, and eventually a can of starter fluid.