How to beat leaky cars

Beat the leak that’s slowly rotting your car from the inside, with the Crawley Down Group’s guide to ensuring a soggy car doesn’t drain your bank account.

As the wettest winter on records draws to a close, the UK might be starting to dry out – but has your car succumbed to the torrential deluge that’s hit the South East? Find out if your pride and joy is slowly drowning with Crawley Down Group’s guide to saving a leaky car.

Water damage is a serious ailment for cars – ignoring just a small drip could end with your bank account being drained by a repair bill in the thousands or even a written off motor. So just why do cars and water make such poor bedfellows?

When leaks attack

Unlike the exterior of your car, which is well protected in its battle with the elements, the interior is not so tough when it comes to fighting off an attack – and it’s not just soggy carpets and that’ll be syphoning your cash if you don’t act fast to plug that leak.

Leaks originate at many ‘hot spots’ throughout your vehicle, from where the water can take a long and convoluted route to its final puddle. This means the wet stuff could be attacking bodywork and vital electronic components along its entire path.

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Water that makes its way through the dashboard can damage anything from the ignition system to heating and infotainment equipment, which could result in dangerous short circuits that cause sudden breakdowns – or even vehicle fires. So, thinking a minor leak that leaves just a small, occasional damp patch on your passenger footwell isn’t a problem – could be a costly mistake.

Health check

It’s not just your car’s internals that can suffer from leaks. Damp, dark areas of your vehicle’s interior make the perfect breeding ground for mould and fungus. Most of us won’t suffer anything worse than a natural aversion to a car that smells like an unhappy cocktail of boiled cabbage and sweaty socks, but a spore-ridden mouldy interior can cause potentially serious issues – such as asthma attacks and lung infections – for drivers with existing health problems.

Young children and babies will be far more susceptible to mould-riddled cars because their immune systems won’t be as well developed. If you’re worried about a leak and regularly carry a young child – give us a call at Crawley Down Group and we’ll make sure your car’s a leak-free and safe environment for all to enjoy.

Where’s the water coming from?

Finding your front-seat passengers regularly turn up for a ride wearing their wellies doesn’t mean that your car’s leak originates anywhere near the puddle in their footwell. Cars are designed with a complex system of gutters and drains designed to keep water out. However, if any part of this becomes compromised, the whole system can be knocked out of sync and water will take an unwanted diversion – straight to the soggy scene of crime in your interior.

car-leak-2Leaks can be caused by many problems, but most involve wear and tear, sloppy repairs or the fitment of aftermarket accessories. Here are the most popular points of entry…

Windscreen: This is one of the most common places for leaks to originate. If the windscreen on your car has recently been replaced, the chances are this is where the water’s getting in. You’ll need it taken out for a refit.

Door seals: These are always a prime suspect when tracking down the source of a leak. Deterioration of rubber due to age or damage can be one cause, while accident damage can leave doors or surrounding bodywork warped and unable to create a proper seal. Crawley Down Group has specialist equipment to check for this and fix any problems before they cause serious damage to your car.

Body seams: Anywhere that body panels join is an open invitation for water to penetrate your car’s interior. Problems with seams can result from poor work at the factory, or subsequent accident damage breaking the original seal. These won’t be easy to spot and are likely to be several feet from where the water eventually ends up. Fixing these problems will be straight forward, but you’ll need specialist equipment available to garages such as the Crawley Down Group to pinpoint the leaks without causing further damage to the bodywork.

Sunroofs: Great for sun – bad for rain. Sadly, the UK’s climate is not conducive to keeping sunroofs in good condition – resulting in many leaks. Most factory-fitted examples will have drainage pans and pipes built into them, but these can become blocked and need to be professionally cleaned to prevent serious damage that can go on to create serious, costly problems. Aftermarket holes cut in your car’s roof can cause far more serious leaks because most won’t have the support network of drains and gutters available to factory-fit units.

Accessories: Aftermarket add-ons – such as luggage racks and sunroofs – which require holes to be drilled can result in leaks. Make sure you choose a reputable agent to fit your accessories, otherwise you could be left with big bills and little hope of compensation.

Rust: If corrosion occurs, it’s likely that a leak won’t be far behind it. While rust will be more of a problem for older cars, newer vehicles can also suffer problems due to accident damage or poor manufacturing processes. These will need sorting out before they seriously impact your vehicle and its resale value.

Air-conditioning: Just to confuse matters, it might be that your leak is not really a leak at all – with the water coming from your air-con system. The air-con evaporator is usually situated beneath the dashboard and this can lead to condensation forming and dripping into the car’s interior. Getting this problem sorted should be straightforward and inexpensive. Give us a call at Crawley Down Group and we can fix the problem – and give your air-con system a service ahead of the blistering summer we’re all hoping for…

Coolant: Your car’s heater takes warmth from the vehicle’s cooling system – creating another possible source of a water leak from within the dashboard. Look out for coolant that’s sweet-smelling and a little sticky. Get your car to the garage before a shortage of water in the cooling system causes severe damage to your engine.

car-leak-3What next?

Don’t be tempted to leave a leak, it won’t get any better, but the damage it does will certainly get worse.

As we’ve already mentioned, you could be risking a sudden breakdown, vehicle fire or health problems – not to mention big repair bills.

Give us a call at Crawley Down Group and we’ll be happy to supply a quote for fully guaranteed repair work.

Name that leak

Along with leaks seeping into your car, you should also keep an eye on what’s dripping out. Here’s our guide to naming that fluid dripping on your pristine driveway…

Coolant: Most coolant will contain antifreeze, so look for sweet-smelling water that’s slightly sticky and orange, green, red, or blue in colour. Get this fixed before your coolant level runs low and causes fatal damage to your engine. The fluid is also extremely toxic to pets, so get your car looked at as soon as possible.

Where: Beneath the engine at the front in most cars. However, remember that some cars – predominantly sporty models – can be front- or mid-engined.

Fuel: You’ll be able identify this from its smell. Fuel at the front of the car will indicate a problem with a mechanical item – such as a fuel pump – or at the rear, which will suggest a damaged tank. Either way, get some professional advice as soon as possible.

Where: Beneath the engine or fuel tank are the most common locations.

Engine oil: Oil can be yellowish brown, dark brown, or black depending on how long it’s been in the car. It’ll be sticky and smell slightly of exhaust fumes. Get a mechanic to locate and plug the source as soon as possible.

Where: Under the engine or centrally towards the middle of the car.

Brake fluid: This is clear to yellowish in appearance and quite sticky. If you think you’ve got a brake fluid leak, call a garage for urgent advice. Your brakes could fail without warning if the fluid level drops too low.

Where: At the front beneath the engine or close to any of wheels – however, any suspicion of leaking brake fluid should be investigated by a professional.

Automatic gearbox fluid: This is most likely to be red in colour, but turns dark red or brownish as it gets older. This is a job for the professionals – before you get stuck firmly in reverse.

Where: Most likely in the middle region of the car.

Power steering fluid: This will be reddish or yellowish in appearance – similar to many other fluids – so look out for signs the car’s steering is becoming heavier to use.

Where: At the front of the car.

Water: If you find puddles of crystal clear, non-greasy water under your car then don’t panic. It’s probably just condensation dripping out of your air-conditioning system – and perfectly harmless. However, if it’s at the very front of your car, it could be a sign your car is leaking coolant and that you’re running on empty for antifreeze.

Where: Roughly below where your dashboard would be

Look out for our next blog – where we’ll be helping you avoid buying one of the many flood-damaged cars expected to deluge the used car market over the coming months.

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