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CHECK ENGINE Light just came on after traveling through flooded streets

parent1parent1 Posts: 11
edited March 2014 in Subaru
Good evening,

We had brutal rain in south Texas this afternoon (5.6" in about an hour), and the streets were flooded. Traveling through water up to the axles (2008 Outback) was inevitable... unfortunately. Obviously the engine compartment must have gotten really wet. However, there doesn't seem to be any ill effects: the engine sounds fine, transmission shifts normally, no smoke, etc...

The problem is, my check engine light came on and the cruise control indicator started flashing. Surely there must be others with a similar experience. Should I be overly concerned [about the check engine light]? Also, should I consider any maintenance on parts that the water may have damaged?

Thanks for the help. The Best,



  • grahampetersgrahampeters AustraliaPosts: 1,786

    It may be worth waiting a day or two and letting everything dry out. I have had similar problems twice and they have resolved after everything dried


  • Thanks for the tip. Should I be alert of any potential maintenance to avoid trouble down the road?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Do you have an OBDII code reader, or access to borrow one? That code would be useful in troubleshooting the issue.

    You can use WD40 to clean, the WD in the name actually stands for Water Displacing.

    Not on any rubber parts, though, which won't like the contact with any petroleum products.

    If the plugs went under water I'd probably replace those and the spark plug wires while you're at it. There could be water in those boots that may never evaporate if they're sealed up in there.

    We went driving in the Pine Barrens and this particularly crazy guy in a Subaru XT6 drove through deep water and even got water in his intake. Some ad-hoc mechanics removed his plugs, sprayed in WD40, ran the starter a few times to get the water out the engine, and voila! It actually ran again. It was wild.

    He did lose his clutch that day, though.

    I would go ahead and change all your fluids, to be safe. Flush the brakes, clutch, trans, front diff, rear diff, engine oil, and radiator. Any or all of those could be contaminated if they were under water long enough.

    Best of luck.
  • Water up to the axles shouldn't be a problem as long as it was a short time and not something done routinely. I agree with Graham and would wait and see.

    I also agree with Juice and would want to know the code that was thrown.

    Being a 2008 I assume it is still under warranty?

    Juice, that crazy person sounds like Mike. ;)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    No, not paisan. He had his Trooper that day. It was someone else, far crazier than mike.

    On a previous trip a different Isuzu Trooper had taken in water. The piston rods actually were bent, so they had it towed out and needed the whole engine replaced.

    Water can do serious damage if it gets high enough, that's why off roaders use those snorkels.
  • I drove the car about a mile this morning to make sure everything was on the up and up. The Check Engine light was still on, but the car sounded like it was running fine, and there was no performance problems.

    This afternoon, while running errands, the Check Engine light had shut off and it seemed to be running just fine. However, twenty minutes later, while parked, I smelled burning antifreeze. In the 5 minutes it took me to get home, the AC stopped blowing cold air, and the engine was beginning to overheat (needle wasn't burried).

    Sure enough, when I got home, there was a steady drip from the radiator (there was also a mist of antifreeze on the ceiling of the hood as if there was a burst). So clearly the radiator has a huge leak. But PLEASE tell me my engine is fine. I ask this because when it started to overheat, I began to hear a knock when I'd accelerate.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    You don't want to overheat an alloy block, but luckily it seems like you caught it early.

    Have it towed in for repair, do not drive it to the dealer.

    Keep us posted.

    I'm not sure how the water would have caused the radiator leak (hot hits cold and sudden contraction causes crack?), but still, be very careful.
  • Any thoughts as to if this might be a warranty issue? Also, the nearest Subaru dealer is 2.5 hours away... how does the Subaru community feel about taking Subaru's in to non-dealerships for repairs? I only ask because I'm a new Subaru owner... had the car for about 2 months.

    Any speculation on the health of my engine?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 13,152
    It is possible that there is a cracked block issue here. I very much doubt, given the circumstances, that this is a something that would be warranty-related unfortunately. If you have experienced independent mechanics available, there is no reason not to let one inspect the situation.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • One more detail: I don't know if it makes a difference or not, but I don't think any water got into the engine. I'm basing this off of the fact that when I checked the oil, it looked healthy (i.e., not milky).
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    If it's new you may have the Subaru roadside assistance. Check the owner's manual. They can probably cover the first 100 miles towing for free.

    I'd call 800-SUBARU3 and ask for their advice, also.

    This is a bummer, the car is so new.

    Whether they cover it or not will depend on what exactly happened, I guess. I'm suer they'll find signs of water so be honest with them, but then again a splash of water didn't necessarily cause all the damage. I hope not.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 13,152
    It is so hard to say at this point. I used to drive my '96 Outback through some serious puddles. In the springtime here we get many streets and parking lots flooded due to frozen storm drains and massive meltoff over the course of a few days to a week in April (or sometimes May). Some of the puddles are 100 yards or more across and deep enough that the exhaust was underwater (gurgle gurgle gurgle....). I never had any problems at all. Usually that level of water causes problems when one tries to go too fast and sucks water into the intake.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • I know it's been awhile since the last post but I thought I'd update since future owners may find this info useful.

    After driving through flooded streets, my 2008 OB developed an overheating problem. Specifically, after about 5 minutes of driving, when the engine temp gauge is at half, I begin to hear a "knocking" noise that sounds almost like a diesel engine. Then, the temperature gauge shoots up... after that, I don't know because I've only driven it a few times since the overheating problem developed.

    The good thing is; I don't think there are any major issues with the engine/head gasket/transmission/etc. In earlier posts I had been concerned with damage to the engine but I've ruled that out as I can't re-create the noise when the vehicle is in neutral (after it has overheated). My impression is that water caused the failure of some electric component which is important in cooling the engine (NOTE: I AM NOT A MECHANIC).

    The vehicle is still under the manufacturers warranty so I'll be calling road side assistance for a tow in to San Antonio, the nearest Subaru dealership. If its covered under warranty great, if not, I feel better about having it repaired by a Subaru mechanic. I'll keep you all posted with results in the coming days.

    Thanks again for all the help; it is reassuring that there is a dedicated and knowledgeable community of Subaru owners willing to share their experience and $0.02. The Best,

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I'll be calling road side assistance for a tow

    You made the right call. Good luck.
  • grahampetersgrahampeters AustraliaPosts: 1,786

    Most obvious issue would be something caught in the fan blades of the cooling fan. Calling Roadside Assistance is the right idea.


  • Just heard from the Subaru dealership working on my OB. Turns out there was a decent sized hole in the radiator. He speculates that the fan blade impacted the radiator.

    I asked him about the knocking noise that is produced after it overheats and his impression was that it was probably nothing to lose sleep about (unless one drove while it was overheated for a prolonged period of time).

    Anyhow, hopefully that is the end of it... $470 later!

    Thanks again for y'alls help.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 13,152
    Keep us posted about how it continues to run. You might also consider changing the oil in light of everything that happened, if you have not done so already, just to ensure it is giving your engine the protection it needs.

    I think you handled the whole situation very well. Hopefully you have many years of enjoyment from this vehicle yet to come!
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    $470 is about a quarter of what I was expecting for the repair. I hope that's all it costs you.

    Definitely change all the fluids.
This discussion has been closed.