Car Won’t Start After Driving Through Water [Solved]

The main reasons behind the car won’t start after driving through water are a dead battery, malfunctioning catalytic converter, damaged electrical components, water in the fuel system, and damaged head gasket.

car won't start after driving through water

Keep reading this article to find out more about these issues that keep you from starting your car after driving it through a puddle or deep water. Let’s dive in!

Car Won’t Start After Driving Through Water [Solved]

There could be a number of reasons that cause your car to not start after driving it through the water. Without taking a look at it, it’s hard to diagnose the reason why your car won’t start.

Depending on the depth of the water and how you’ve driven through the water, endless things could go wrong with it. However, here are the most common issues that could explain why you drove through water and your car won’t start:

Note: You can also read how to fix the hooked battery up backwards now car won’t start.

1. Dead Battery

Electrical components and water don’t go hand in hand. They should be kept away from each other as much as possible. And when you drove the car through the water, you may have damaged the battery.

Having a battery dead after driving through water is a common issue that people who drive their car through the puddle face. But there could also be other issues in addition to it that can keep your car from starting.


The solution for a dead battery is simple. You need to replace the battery with a new one. When you’re replacing the battery, proceed with caution as the water inside the battery can cause it to malfunction and electrocute you.

2. Malfunctioning Catalytic Converter

How deep was it when you drove your car through the water? If it was quite deep when you were driving your car and you stepped up the gas pedal, the water could get into the exhaust system and damage the catalytic converter.

catalytic converter


You need to replace the catalytic converter in your car if it has gone bad. Replacing a catalytic converter is a pretty easy job and you can do it on your own. Locate the catalytic converter first and that should be easy as they’re placed right underneath the cars.

The main problem is that the bolts that hold it in place can get corroded as they are exposed to dirt all the time. Spray some WD40 to lubricate the bolt and leave it overnight.

Unscrew the bolt the next day using a wrench, socket, and a long extension part. When you pull the bolt hard enough, it’ll come loose and you’d be able to take out the catalytic converter.

Then, put the new catalytic converter in its place and tighten the bolt once again. Start the vehicle and make sure that there are no leaks coming from the catalytic converter. It should be quiet. 

3. Damaged Electrical Components

It’s common to face electrical problems after driving through water. If the water wasn’t too deep and your car won’t start after driving through a puddle, it could be due to damaged electrical components.

In some cars, several electrical components are placed low enough that they can get damaged even when you drive through water that’s not too deep.


The first thing you need to do is to check whether the electrical components are placed low and if there is the possibility of water going into them.

If you think it can happen, it’s a good idea to take your car to a mechanic and know which components have been damaged.

Chances are that multiple components will be damaged and it’ll cost you a lot to repair or fix them.

Because these parts are destroyed by water, there’s a strong possibility that you won’t be able to repair them and you’d have to replace most of them.

4. Water In The Fuel System

If you find your car not starting after driving through the water, it could be because it has entered the fuel system when you drove past the water.

Even driving through a little bit of water can make it enter the breather system and fill the cylinders with water.

When that happens, the pistons won’t be able to compress the water as they can with the air. So, there’ll be a hydro lock condition and the car won’t start. It can cause major engine damage if left untreated.

If you keep trying to start the car in this condition, you can damage the connection rod and cause major engine damage.


Crank the engine by hand at first to get the water out of the pistons and the cylinders. Once you do that, try using the starter to crank the engine faster and get all the water out from the cylinders.

Inspect the engine oil and if it looks like chocolate milk or there’s more of it than there should be, you need to drain it out. Wait for the electrical components to dry and attempt to start your car again.

5. Damaged Head Gasket

If the water you’ve driven through is quite deep and your car died after driving through the water, the water may have gotten into your head gasket and damaged it. The valves can also get damaged.

 head gasket


Head gaskets are expensive to repair and replace but in this case, it can be easier for a mechanic to replace them as all that needs to be done is to get water out of the system.

If you need to replace the head gasket, it can easily cost more than $1000 for most modern cars.

How To Start A Car After Driving Through Water

If following the above steps didn’t really help you or they don’t seem like what went wrong with your vehicle, wait for a couple of days and let the car dry out.

Don’t attempt to start it during this time. After you’re sure that the car is dry, you can try to start the car.

Dollars to donuts that the car won’t start. In that case, you need to have a mechanic take a look at your car and find the issue for you.

But brace yourself as a lot could go wrong with your car when you drive it through the water. He could hand you a long list of repairs with a huge bill to get your car up and running again.


How to restart the car after stalling in water?

Make sure that no water has gotten into the intake system of your car and wait for the components to dry. If no parts of your car have been damaged, your car will start again.

How long does it take for a car engine to dry out?

It depends on how much water you drove through. It’s recommended that you leave your car as it is for a few days and wait for it to dry out if it doesn’t start after your initial attempt.

Can water damage a car starter?

Yes, water and silt including sand, fine clay, or other types of sediments are the main things that can damage your starter.

What does a clunking sound mean after driving through water?

When you hear a clunking sound after hitting the accelerator, it means that the pistons aren’t able to compress the water. It can damage the connection rod and make it come off leaving a big hole in your engine.


Now you know the most common reasons why your car won’t start after driving through water and how you can fix each of these issues. Although we’ve discussed the most common causes, there are plenty of other things that could go wrong and keep your car from starting.

We hope you’ll find out why the car is not starting in your case after completing this article and fixing it. Leave a comment below if you have any more questions about why a car won’t start after going through water.

About John M

John contributed as a technical head at an automobile company just 2 years after his post-graduation in Automobile Engineering. He loves to lead a free life, so he left his job & started blogging. Now, he does research on every automotive problem, part & product and seeks a better solution & best products & shares his findings with his readers to help them as well as to minimize their struggle.

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