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So, yesterday we had very heavy rains, and unfortunately I was driving in an unfamiliar area of town. I drove through high water, which caused my car to sputter and so I turned around. The car behaved normally until I got to higher ground and started to accelerate, then the car choked out and died. I was able to restart the car after attempting to turn over the engine for a few seconds. When it restarted, it was still sputtering, but upon revving it, it blew copious amounts of steam out the tailpipe and it appeared (and still appears) to be running fine.

I am concerned though about possible longer term damage that may have occurred. I figure at the very least an oil change is in order (water contamination in the oil from excess moisture in the compression chamber), although I also wonder if a compression test (could the presence of water in the combustion chamber have damaged the rings or seals?). I am also curious if steam could have damaged the iridium plugs. Is there anything else that should be considered for inspection?

For reference, the car in question is a 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse; it has a 2.4 mivec engine in it, and the (f$*#ing) previous owner has put an aftermarket intake with the filter behind the fog lights.

  • Just went through the same thing with my 9n3 yesterday. Googled my predicament and chanced upon this forum. Needless to say it has given me some peace of mind though my headlamps are all misty bleargh. Cheers! – Joey Nenoy Jun 27 '17 at 10:54
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It sounds as though you did suck up some water and were on the verge of hydrolock, but didn't quite get there. I also doubt you have caused any damage to the engine, in fact, you may have inadvertently helped your engine (though I wouldn't suggest you do this again!!!). The extra sputtering may have been a case of the filter on your CAI getting soaked with water. I think you got very lucky on this, but have probably come through unscathed.

I figure at the very least an oil change is in order (water contamination in the oil from excess moisture in the compression chamber), although I also wonder if a compression test (could the presence of water in the combustion chamber have damaged the rings or seals?).

Check the oil via dipstick. If the oil does not appear milky, I wouldn't worry about it. After oil is up to operating temperature, all of the water in it will evaporate fairly quickly and be taken out through the PCV and burned in the engine.

I am also curious if steam could have damaged the iridium plugs.

In and of itself, steam will not damage any engine parts (since we have eliminated the possibility of hydrolock here - excessive water will, that's for sure!). Think of water/meth injection systems. They put copious amounts of water (or water vapor) into an engine. As an aside, water injection can be used to effectively increase the octane of fuel, it cleans the combustion chambers, keeps NOx down due to the cooling effects as it enters the intake tract, etc. Also, given the right amounts, water expands greater when it becomes steam than the air/fuel does when burned. Obviously, if too much water is introduced, it will kill the combustion. Lots of water = bad; minor/measured amounts of water = good.

Is there anything else that should be considered for inspection?

Doing a leak down test could tell you if you might have any internal damage. The greatest possibility might be bent valves, but from your description of how it's running, I doubt there is any.

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    If i could, I'd plus one this again for the recommendation against trying it on purpose. :) – Sidney Jul 22 '15 at 21:10
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    @Sidney - Thanks! I did add a teeny bit more to the steam portion about the expansion of water to steam. I meant to add it in the first place, but got long winded and glazed over it. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jul 22 '15 at 21:27
  • Interestingly enough, I did find that I was having an easier time maintaining highway speeds on the way home from work today. You mention water can help clean engines; is that because the rapid expansion of a heavier gas (steam) knocks the deposits lose, or does the vapor help to soften carbon build up somehow? – Sidney Jul 22 '15 at 22:09
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    @Sidney - To be quite honest, I really don't know. I do know it's easy to tell which cylinder has had a head gasket leak where coolant enters the cylinder ... that's because it's cleaner than all the rest. Whatever the action, it does it's thing. It could be any (or all or none) of the things you mentioned. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jul 23 '15 at 0:35
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You likely just steam cleaned the internals for a brief stint.

Just for good measure, here's what happens when you run the full output of your garden hose through a small car engine:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSSSosql1zc#t=1m5s

protected by Community Jul 24 '17 at 12:17

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