So you are splashing around in your local water hole making waves and having fun—in your Jeep. All of a sudden, your engine stalls. What now? What happened? Is your Jeep hurt? Can you prevent engine damage? What do you do to get your Jeep started and back out having fun?
Warning: Submerging your Jeep’s air cleaner and sucking water into the engine is very, very bad. If this has happened to you, turn off the engine as soon as you can. Also, mechanical and electric fans can eat radiators if they get submerged in water. These are just a few of the issues that you could run into when playing in water. Here is how to check for damage and get your Jeep back out in the dirt.
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The first step to take after your Jeep has stalled is to pop the hood and get a look at your air cleaner. That means opening the airbox, or just examining your air filter if you have a conical or old-school round air filter. Look for any evidence of water getting on or in the air filter or airbox. If there is water in the bottom of the airbox, you may be OK. If there is water on the filter, on the top of the airbox, or bottom of the round air filter housing or carburetor, you probably got some water in the engine. That’s bad.
If you think you got some water in the engine and it did not end in severe damage, count yourself lucky. The next step is to pull the spark plugs and crank the starter. This will shoot any water that got into the cylinders out safely. Once you have cycled the engine a few times, you can put the plugs back in. This is also a good time to check the fan and radiator to make sure they did not meet and hurt each other when you were playing scuba Jeeper.
Another thing that frequently happens is water intrusion under the distributor cap. Luckily, there is an easy fix for this if you happen to be carrying a can of WD40—also known as Water Displacement fluid batch 40. That’s right, WD40 is named for what it does—displacing water. Pull the distributor cap and spray some WD40 under the cap and on the distributor’s internals (and then wipe any extra WD40 off to prevent future fires). This should displace any water that is under the cap. When you get home, pull one spark plug wire at a time and make sure the terminals are not waterlogged. If there is water in the wire, it will cause corrosion and eventual failure.