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Handling stalled cars

We’re heading toward the end of August and the weather systems keep rolling off the African coast — and luckily, we keep dodging them, or they keep dodging us.

But remember, it pays to remain alert and prepared, because sooner or later we will feel the direct effects of a storm system. In the meanwhile though, we should not lose sight of the fact that on any given day we can be impacted by the effects of heavy rainfall.

One of the most frequent challenges we face from the heavy rains and flash floods they bring, particularly in places like Sunset Crest and Holetown in St. James, Wotton in Christ Church, all around Bridgetown, and Speightstown in St. Peter, is stalled cars.

The advice of the experts is that if you are unsure about the depth of the water, then don’t attempt to drive through it. Your unstoppable four-by-four just might be stopped.

But let’s suppose you made an error in judgement and ended up with your car stalled in deep water; or perhaps the water inundated your home, flooding you car in the garage and driveway: What do you do.

Here’s some helpful advice:

* Disconnect the battery. According to the experts, when a car is flooded, the battery ground strap is disconnected to prevent accidentally frying parts of the vehicle. Disconnect the battery and don’t turn on the vehicle. Starting the vehicle will compound the damage to the car.

* Assess the damage. Determine how high the water was in your car. Vehicles that were completely submerged in water or had water as high as the dashboard are often damaged beyond repair because the electrical system is damaged. Look for dried mud inside the car, which is an indication of high water marks.

* Check the engine and the vehicle dipsticks. Look for water droplets on the dipsticks or mixed in with the oil. Change the oil and filter after the flooding and again after driving a few hundred miles. The oil should be changed before the car is started to prevent damage to the engine.

* Change the transmission fluid. Like the oil, transmission fluid is changed as soon as possible after the flooding to prevent damage to the engine. This is a necessity to keep the vehicle running smoothly. Change the fluid again after driving the vehicle a few hundred miles.

* Clean the bearings and seals and repack as necessary. The seals are designed to withstand some water but not flooding, so they need attention to work properly.

* Clean the vehicle’s carpeting if it was wet. Use a carpet cleaner or a wet-dry vacuum to bring up the water, then use a towel to dry as much as possible. Blot the carpeting in the vehicle. Put down baking soda after the carpet is dry and allow it to sit for about 20 minutes to remove foul odours. Vacuum up the baking soda afterward.

On a related note:

Remember that when your home floods and you carpet is soaked, it is not enough to think about drying it. Most flood water will be contaminated with biological and chemical contaminants. You don’t want to drying them into the carpet and they put it back in your living room.

As a general rule, soft absorbent materials must be dried out within 48 hours (this period may extend to 72 hours in cooler conditions and may be shortened in warmer temperatures.) This has to do with mold growth. Mold cells reproduce quickly, often doubling in a matter of hours. This process goes faster when temperatures are warmer.

Carpet can sometimes be saved if it can be cleaned by a professional. However, it is highly unlikely that a flooded mattresses can be adequately dried.

It is unlikely that upholstery can be adequately cleaned and dried soon enough. It may be possible to salvage the frame and re-upholster the piece, but first decide if the piece is worth salvaging.

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