Does your car interior smell? Water leaks may be the cause.

water leaks in car

Water leaks in the car when it rains! This is a growing problem that is leaving people frustrated and broke.

Vehicles are being damaged left and right from unseen water leaks…..

Clogged sunroof and cowl drains can be a major issue, that if not addressed can cause more damage that the average person may realize.

When a vehicle’s sunroof and cowl drains are not cleaned major water leaks after heavy rain is almost sure to happen.

The water simply has no where else to go other than under the carpet of your nice new vehicle.

The smell is musty and nasty after a while.

This has become a very prevalent issue in our shop.

Interior water leak damage from clogged cowl drains can be quite expensive to clear up.

I hate to admit it but even my own car fell victim. If you have a nasty smell in your vehicle that you just can’t seem to pinpoint there may be water trapped under the carpet.

Every vehicle should have minor services performed on a regular basis, however a mechanic that is not clearing out the cowl and sunroof drains during these services is not doing you any favors.

How it starts

It’s kind of funny but one day after a heavy rain storm I got in my car and started heading for the shop.

Out of the blue my battery light comes on…. “Shit, probably needs an alternator.” I think to myself as I keep going hoping to make it to the shop on time.

At the first stop sign I heard it……………

What the hell !

The telltale sound of water sloshing around in my car…. Oh shit.

Another thing on the overloaded list of crap to get done.

More common than you think

The truth is I see this a lot in my business.

Many vehicles come in with electrical issues and smells that the customer can’t pinpoint.

All because of water leaks that could have been avoided.

There are times when I feel the carpets and they are completely soaked through.

It’s avoidable in most cases, however it’s something that is quite expensive to fix once it happens.

One major cause

Shops are performing services but fail to blow out the debris in the cowl and engine compartment.

These key service items are ignored along with checking sunroof drains.

I made the same mistake on my Volvo until the cowl drains clogged and let water overflow into the interior right onto my CEM module.

The CEM module is one of the main electrical distribution points in this car.

Electrical problems galore!

Even as I am writing this post there is a Audi Q7 on the lift with issues.

This vehicle has a slew of electrical issues due to water intrusion getting into all the wrong spots…..I’m talking major electrical damage here!

Blowing into the sunroof drains trying to clean out the drains you could hear the water bubbling up on each side of the rear engine compartment cowl.

After the drains were cleared out a rush of nasty muddy leaf filled water came pouring out.

What a mess, this water was sitting in there, just waiting to spill over and fill the interior under the carpet or toast a expensive module.

This is not uncommon at all, we have had vehicles that were so filled the carpets were wet front to back.

The 220 body S class Mercedes is a great example.

In the cowl there is a drain that is so poorly designed it gets clogged all of the time with leaves and debris. If you live in the right area it’s not a question of if…..but when.

The real issue here is you don’t know what’s happening until the damage is done.

Water slowly makes it’s way in and soaks the underside of the carpet.

It eventually makes its way back and floods out a few modules along the way.

We used to laugh and call them junks, but you know what, it’s not a total issue with design.

The main cause is lack of proper service.

These vehicles are getting older now so we don’t see many anymore, however back then they were big money cars coming in flooded.

They needed major dollars to fix, all of which could have been avoided by blowing out the accumulated crap at every oil change service.

The bottom line is, the average customer is not even thinking of this as an issue, it is the responsibility of automotive professionals to make sure this gets done properly.

This is the main reason you should be doing minor services and not just oil changes.

As for my Volvo, I need to take my own advice….. it needs a 600 dollar CEM and programming.

Lesson learned.

What I try to always think about as a automotive professional is bringing value to the customer.

Whether you are a professional mechanic or a weekend warrior, steps should be taken to ensure you have no issues that could have been avoided by proper service.

For you professional techs out there…

Let your customers know about the importance of this little step that takes all of 20 seconds to complete.

This will make your shop shine simply because a ton of places don’t even mention it….

Let alone do it.

The next steps needed if you do have a car with major water intrusion?

One recommended and fantastic scan tool is the Autel 808ts

Read my full review of the Autel 808ts here:

You would not believe if I told you how many people want to go cheap on this.

“Can’t we just put a fan on it for a day?” Is the usual line.

In my opinion this is not an option, of course the customer can refuse the repair but I will make sure I do whatever I can to explain either myself, or through the service writer how critical it is to eliminate ALL moisture from underneath the carpet.

Think about it, how much festering mold will grow under the seat.

What about the child in the back, or the beloved family dog?

This is why it is critical that we do our jobs and explain and fix the issue.

For some reason I can not explain, people would go nuts if their basement gets flooded but won’t even batt an eyelash sitting in a mold filled car.

People spend more time than ever in their vehicles these days.

It needs to be a healthy place to sit, especially when there are child car seats involved.

What about safety?

Another huge……and I mean huge issue you need to consider and understand is SRS Airbag systems. Seat pads, connectors, modules.

These little gems all sit in a sweet spot for water damage.

That nasty green fuzz that starts to grow on the connectors is sure fun ! It’s like the guy that got that new Porsche cheap because it just got a “little” water in it.

Nine times out of ten he could have gotten a clean one for the same money it takes to fix all the unseen water damage.

Wrapping up

Water damage is just that, damage, it causes many short term and long term issues for you and your customer.

Clean the cowls, check the drains.

If you have long term customers that bring you their car for every service right after they are out of warranty, it will not look good when their car has damaged components because you never cleared the vehicle’s drains properly.

It’s simple maintenance that can save hours and dollars for not only you, but your valued customer as well.

Thank you for reading!