Water can wreak havoc on an engine. Engines are designed to create times explosions by compressing gas vapor. Water is not good for explosions as we clearly see when we go camping over the weekend or make foolish decisions during the fourth of July.
So what can water do to your engine? Will water kill the engine? How much water can ruin an engine? These are essential questions that can cost, or save, you a lot of money. This is a classic case of an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So let’s break down how and why water can build up in your engine and what you can do to prevent it.
How Does Water Get Into A Car Engine?
- Enter through your air intake
- Worn head gaskets
- Cracks in your engine
- Water buildup from your gas tank
- Condensation from extreme daily weather
Commonly water can get in the engine through the air intake. If you have a short ram intake or a cold air intake that can be more susceptible to water entering.
Can rain hydrolock an engine? Yes! Heavy rain, especially with high winds, can easily get under your hood and into your air filter. Rain and nature can buildup inside your hood and cause some blockage or a spot to attract water.
On older vehicles, water can enter the cylinder compartment through worn gaskets or cracks in the engine through the engine cooling system i.e. radiator. Your engine has tubes that push radiator fluid around to aid in cooling. If there is a crack in the engine block or any fluid lines there could be fluid going somewhere it does not belong.
Water can enter your gas tank in a number of ways. If you lost your fuel cap water can build up pretty quickly in certain climates. Someone could maliciously pour water into your tank. Constantly keeping your gas tank at almost empty can cause condensation to build in your tank. There are probably lots of other ways.
Areas with extreme daily weather can cause a quick build-up of moisture in your engine. And there could be enough build up over a weekend to ruin your Monday or if you go on vacation.
So Really, How Much Water Can Ruin An Engine?
A single cup of water can do some damage to your engine. Water pushed into your cylinder compartment can cause damage quickly. The compartment only has so much room. The larger the cylinder, the more room you have for error potentially, though if the compression ratio is high this may hurt you more.
So essentially, a higher performance engine with larger cylinders may help you but the higher performance may hurt you. Not to mention a replacement cylinder head repair or even replacement on a HEMI will cost a hell of a lot more than on a 2.0-liter Civic engine.
Damaging your engine and ruining it can be different. A single blown head gasket can be repaired in a day or two and will not cost you a lot. Ruining an engine is basically causing enough damage where to fix it costs more than the cost to replace the engine.
To add a cup of water to your engine may take a while. Rain spewing into your air filter can add up quickly. Someone pouring a cup into your gas tank can be done in a minute. Water can ruin your engine fairly quickly.
Will a Hydrolocked Engine Crank?
No, a hydrolocked engine will not crank because the water inside the engine is basically acting like a brick pressing against the cylinder head.
The space inside the cylinder head is reserved for the air/fuel mixture that explodes driving the cylinder away from the manifold cover. If there is water in this space instead of a precise mixture of gasoline and air the cylinder will not be able to move.
If there is no permanent damage to the engine you can remove the water from the cylinder compartments and get your engine running normally. But be very careful when doing this.
How Do You Get Water Out Of Intake Manifold?
- Remove the intake manifolds and blast air until everything is dry or free of water or let it dry out completely. Replace manifold covers and start the engine.
- Remove the spark plugs from each cylinder and crank the engine until water has been removed and only gas is coming out.
Note: Cranking an engine without sparkplugs can be simple and easy. Though you should get heed if you try it. There may be other water damage that may cause additional issues to your engine. Use extreme caution at your own risk.
How Do You Prevent Hydrolock?
Preventing hydrolock can be easy. Prevention is almost always much cheaper and easier than fixing hydrolock. Using good practices can overflow (no pun intended) to other parts of your vehicle that can help your vehicle’s longevity more than average. Here are some common and easy practices:
- Lock your fuel door or gas cap
- Keep your gas tank relatively full or fill your tank up completely each time you fill up
- Buy only quality aftermarket air filters or performance mods such a short air intake or a cold air intake
- Clean your engine bay monthly or every couple of months
- Monitor any leaks or cracks in your powertrain
- Buy a snorkel if you go off-roading and encounter deep puddles
- If you live in a climate that has big swings in the temperature you should monitor engine performance and use additives regularly if there are large gaps in the frequency of vehicle use.
Note: There are multiple ways to get water out of an engine. The easiest and safest way is to take it to a shop and have them do it. If you have enough water in your engine to cause it to hydrolock clearing it should be done only if you know what you are doing. Otherwise, you can brick your engine.
Water can ruin an engine. That is a fact. Hydrolocking an engine can be done relatively easily. Just drive through a deep puddle for a while. Boom! You have sucked water into your engine and now it is stuck inside.
Luckily if you are this foolish or daring there are ways to easily remove the water from your engine before it ruins it. With a little know-how, it will only cause damage to your psyche. Hopefully, you have learned something and will give a little more thought to what would happen if you are in a situation where you may get water in your engine.
Thanks for reading and stay dirty