Auto centers swamped with waterlogged cars

Posted at 7:06 PM, Jan 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-12 10:18:14-05

SAN DIEGO - With repair shops across San Diego County swamped by waterlogged cars, many are wondering how much would water have to rise to total a vehicle.

Anthony Claure finished an 8-hour shift inside Fashion Valley Mall when he went to a parking structure and saw a flooded garage.

"I was upset and shocked the water was already going into the car. [I] didn't know it could rise that fast," said Claure.

From flooded parking structures to flooded streets, last week's rain was unkind to vehicles.

So how high is too high when it comes to water levels?

Jeremy Cadwell, the parts and service director at Toyota of El Cajon, said in older cars, water can ruin the carpet, but the total damage is generally limited if the water doesn't rise above the dash.

In newer cars, it's a different story.

Water on the floor of the car can knock out pricey electronics for seats, stereo system and speakers on the door.

If the water rises to the dash area, that could spell the end.

"That's where it can get expensive, because there are computers in the dash area. There are many electrical components within," said Cadwell.

Insurers determine the cost of the repairs is more than the car value and the car is usually totaled.

"Last week, the water went a third of the way up the door of a 2015 Toyota sedan and it turned into a salvage vehicle," said Cadwell.

The news was also not good for Claure. He didn't have comprehensive coverage and may be out the $4,000 he paid for a car that now won't start. A GoFundMe site has been set up to help out the Fashion Valley worker.

Cadwell said old or new car, the best advice is to not drive into standing water because you don't know how deep it is.