Hydro-locked Engine

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Hydro-locked Engine

Post by Mcarlo77 on Mon Aug 05, 2013 7:54 pm

Anyone ever deal with a hydro-locked engine?  My niece calls me last week and asks if I'd come over and look at her '01 Dodge Neon.  She can't get it started after it stalls while driving through a flooded alley behind her apt. building...4 WKS AGO!!  She's the typical poor college kid living on her own with extremely limited funds and couldn't afford to have it towed to a shop (I didn't ask...nor, did I want to know...if she had proper insurance to cover these expenses, but I'm guessing not).  I finally get a chance to run over there and soon discover there's water in the cylinders...it's hydro-locked.  Pull the plugs (it's a 4-banger) and suction out what I could.  Turn the key and it's still shooting water in the air from the spark plug holes like 'Ol Faithful!  I'm thinking...this can't be good.  I get the front end up in the air so I can crawl under it and change the oil.  Pull the drain plug and I'll bet between 1 and 2 cups of water came pouring out ahead of the oil.  More water comes out with the filter change.  With the oil & filter changed, I turn the engine over again a few times without the plugs in to try and clear any residual moisture.  Install the plugs and give it a try.  Won't start.  Pull the plugs again and clean them off.  Install and try again.  Still won't start.  Seems to be just enough water vapor to prevent the plugs from firing.  Did this 7-8 times with slight improvement in the engine wanting to start.  Niece says, "let's put new plugs in".  I say it probably won't make much difference, but frustrated, figured "why not".  Run and get plugs and wouldn't you know...it starts and idles (roughly) for about a minute before stalling...but, no strange knocking sounds at least.  Repeated attempts failed to start it.  So, out come the plugs for the umpteenth time.  Clean them and try again.  It starts...but, this time has a moderate tapping noise that sounds like it's coming from the top of the engine.  I'm familiar with sticky lifter noise, but this sounded different.  My question to you engine builders is this...can anyone speculate as to what could have been damaged?  I was hoping it was a lubrication issue and pouring some SeaFoam in the crankcase would help...but, we let it idle for maybe 30 mins and there was no change.  The oil will need to be changed again, but I'm afraid she's facing some expensive engine repair.
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Re: Hydro-locked Engine

Post by Joe73 on Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:07 pm

I'd change the oil and put some marvel mystery oil in it with the proper weight oil. I wouldnt let it idle, I'd vary the rpms and get it up to operating temperature. Only at operating temperature will moisture be burnt off. And with the varying rpms your oil pressure will vary and not be just bottomed out. More oil pressure the better. Keep your fingers crossed. And some marvel mystery in the gas tank as well.
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Re: Hydro-locked Engine

Post by driveit on Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:22 pm

Just because I am curious, how would that much water get into the engine. How flooded was this?
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Re: Hydro-locked Engine

Post by 77mali on Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:30 pm

I agree w/ Joe & the sooner the better.  If the water has been in there that long chances are pretty good the piston rings are gone & not sealing they way they should.  The rings might have rusted & expanded and could possibly be scratching the combustion chamber, which may be what you are hearing.  Water will probably be in the exhaust manifold(s) also & if it made it to the crank case, check the timing chain/belt cover if it has a recess at the bottom where it could trap the water.

How deep was this flooded area?  It must have got in through the air intake system somehow...I can't see it getting in to the combustion chamber any other way can it?
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Re: Hydro-locked Engine

Post by bigredlaguna on Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:32 pm

The car had to have been sitting in deep water for that much water to get into the crankcase. I'm betting the coil packs or ignition module have some kind of water damage causing the hard start.

I suggest replacing those ignition components. The ignition module can be checked at most auto parts stores so you can rule that piece out or verify if it is bad.

If water got into the crankcase, then it probably got into the trans and differential too. Back in my 4x4 days, it was standard fare to change all lube fluids after a dip in the drink.
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Re: Hydro-locked Engine

Post by Biomedtech on Mon Aug 05, 2013 10:07 pm

Not sure about the newer cars but on the old trannies wasn't the adhesive in the clutch packs water soluble?
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Re: Hydro-locked Engine

Post by Mcarlo77 on Mon Aug 05, 2013 11:06 pm

This occured during one of those super storms that dumped like 8" of rain in just a couple hours...overwhelming the storm sewers. She told me the water was deep enough to flow over the door sills and into the car when she opened the door. She also claims it wasn't immersed in that deep of water but for only a short time while she pushed it the rest of the way into the parking lot from the alley (strong girl!). The water appears to have been sucked in through the air intake as the filter was still wet. You ask how that much water could get pulled into the engine? Well...once I had the engine started, I put my hand over the air intake opening (I had pulled the filter off at this point) and was amazed at the suction from the engine. Could readily see how it could pull lots of water in a short time. As for the coil pak, I considered pulling it. But, it sits on the highest point of the engine, so don't really think it was submersed...but, who knows? She would have been pushing water with the front end and it could have washed up that high.

The idea behind just letting it idle was to prevent any added stress on internal parts until new oil could work it's way around the engine while residual moisture could vaporize with a warmed up engine or, be absorbed by the SeaFoam. But, I do get your point that you aren't going to burn off moisture until the engine thoroughly warms up from higher rpm's. That was going to be my next strategy once the SeaFoam was circulated for a short while and the oil was changed again. I'll throw in some Marvel Mystery oil as suggested.

Unfortunately, there's only so much I can do in the parking lot of her apartment bldg. In fact, we had to do the oil change on the sly as they have a policy against even doing that. After that, about all I can do is share your suggestions so she can decide what her next course of action is.
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Re: Hydro-locked Engine

Post by BlackChevelleSS on Tue Aug 06, 2013 12:44 am

ID check the new oil for any milkyness. If the oil still looks new and no water  after running it, Id let it run for a while. Those are probably hydraulic lifters and need to circulate the oil and get out any doo doo that would be in it from water setting for soo long in it. I doubt any oil treatment would help.

Also remember guys if theres water in the engine the best way to get it out is change the oil in one of your other cars and use the old oil in the watered engine. For some reason old oil sucks the water out better than new oil.

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Re: Hydro-locked Engine

Post by jerry46765 on Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:24 pm

If there is water in the crankcase, it's also in the fuel tank.

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Re: Hydro-locked Engine

Post by Tom77 on Tue Aug 06, 2013 6:50 pm

Check the muffler if the car died under water it sucked up water in the tailpipe like a straw. May be reducing the exhaust flow.
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Re: Hydro-locked Engine

Post by Mcarlo77 on Tue Aug 06, 2013 8:40 pm

After we got the engine running, the exhaust didn't appear to be restricted. At least it wasn't blowing out water droplets. But, how would I check the muffler anyway...short of cutting it out of there? Talked to her today and the car seems to start fine...but, it still has that loud tapping noise. She still hasn't done anything more than let it idle.

As I said previously, the loud tapping sounded like it was coming from the upper part of the engine...like around the rockers or valves. I got to thinking...because this is a 2.0L 16-valve SOHC engine, could one of the intake or exhaust valve stems be stuck and the rocker is banging on the end of the shaft? And, if so, could continuing to start it and letting it run in hopes something will loosen up inside cause even more damage? It looked like it would be easy enough to remove the valve cover to take a look at things. Maybe turn the engine over with ignition disconnected and see if something is not moving as it should inside there?

Am curious...how would water get pulled into the gas tank?
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Re: Hydro-locked Engine

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