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Linda_Owl's avatar

Are most of you aware that the air-intake systems on most newer cars are on the bottom of the car?

Asked by Linda_Owl (7743points) October 17th, 2010

This is something that I had never even thought about. I have been driving for a long time & when I learned to drive, the air-intakes were on the top of the motor. I learned the hard way about the air-intake being on the bottom of my car. It was raining & the city I live in (Arlington, TX) really has no drainage on the streets. I turned from one street onto another & there was water on the street. Cars were driving back & forth thru the water & I did not have any reason to think that my car wouldn’t – but it didn’t. The motor in my car ended up having to be replaced. So, for 2½ weeks I was driving a rental (fortunately I have full coverage insurance). I finally got my car back last Thursday. On my way home from the service center, I noticed that the brakes seemed to be functioning oddly. So I called them as soon as I got home & they said bring it back – but it was too close to closing time. So I told them I would bring it back after I got off from work the next day. However, on my way to work the next morning, I began to hear an odd sound that kept getting louder, & then the car began to vibrate. I thought that I had a tire going flat or something. I got off the highway & pulled into a parking lot & got out & checked the tires, they were fine. I had to call roadside assistance & have my car towed back to the service center. So now I am driving a rental again & the service center does not have a clue what is wrong with my car. They said it is not the brakes, they think that the transmission may have gotten water in it. They are going to have to take my car to the dealership to find out exactly what is wrong with it. This whole scenario could have been avoided if I had only been aware that the air intake system was on the bottom of my car. I will, I think, be totally paranoid about even driving in the rain from now on!

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6 Answers

LuckyGuy's avatar

What kind of car is it? Most GM cars have the intake in the engine compartment to one side of the radiator near the headlights. It is designed to be self draining so water won’t get in.

Linda_Owl's avatar

It is a 2008 Chevy Cobalt. It has been a dandy little car & now I am really worried that it might never be the same.

woodcutter's avatar

wow that really seems like a crappy design there. See if K&N makes an aftermarket intake for that car.

jerv's avatar

Some cars place their intake somewhere where it can grab cold, fresh air, but those cars generally use a bypass valve or something functionally equivalent for exactly that reason.

If there is even the slightest glimmer of truth to the “water in the transmission” part then there are many other issues here. I’ve driven through water deep enough to blow bubbles with my tailpipe and give the weatherstripping around my doors a test and not had that issue. The only way you could’ve had the problems you did is if you ran through water that was deep enough to swim in, or at least short out your electrical system. A mere 6–8 inches of water isn’t enough to cause that sort of issue, at least not at any prudent speed, and deeper water should be avoided.

Speaking of the electrical system, you are aware that many transmissions these days (basically, any automatic) are electronically controlled, right? Guess what! And ABS sensors are also electrical, so a screwy sensor or three may cause odd brake operation.

Just a hunch, but I suspect that you did more to your car than hydrolock the engine.

@worriedguy Those things only work if at least part of the intake system is out of the water and has access to air. Based on what I’ve seen of the design of the Cobalt’s intake, it sounds to me like the OP was in up to their headlights.

@woodcutter Many companies make CAIs and/or short-rams for the Cobalt.

Linda_Owl's avatar

I don’t have a clue as to what I actually did to my car. I know that other cars were driving thru the water in the street, but I don’t know if my car sat any lower (closer to the surface of the street) – but I do know that it ended up with the motor in my car having to be replaced, as well as the transmission. I will probably be positively paranoid about driving in the rain from now on.

jerv's avatar

I wouldn’t worry about mere rain, but I would beware of standing water. You never know how deep it really is, and many people have lost cars, been injured, and occasionally killed by guessing wrong.

BTW, your car may now be listed as “flood damaged” in certain jurisdictions. Some places will require it to get a special title to denote it’s status. I believe that Texas requires a Flood Title brand, whereas some other states require a Salvage title. I predict you will have other problems with it, mostly wit hteh electrical system, and I sincerely hope that you do not have ABS or care if your airbags work as both of those systems either are or probably soon will be inoperative.

Do a little Googling on what flood damage can really do to a car and you might see why I am a bit pessimistic.

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