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What’s Under Your Car’s Carpet?
It has now been two years since stories of flooded cars from Hurricane Katrina filled the buyer-beware world. But it’s not just flooding that causes problems. Other liquids such as spilled milk, melting snow, pressure washed carpets or leaking wind can also cause serious problems. Let us show you how serious a wet floor can be!
We specialize in airbag systems, airbag replacement and airbag service, so we are often called upon to carry out investigations of insurance companies, attorneys and individuals involved in accidental or inadvertent deployment of airbags. After inspecting many such vehicles and knowing the serious personal injuries they can cause, the reason for installing these airbags is astounding. There is a common theme to what we have discovered…liquids and electronics do not mix!!
This article will show you exactly what is happening; not necessarily immediately, but 6 months, 1 year or even up to 4 or 5 years down the road. Once you know the facts, being aware of these serious situations and dangers can help you deal with the cases and can save you from serious personal harm.
Although an estimated 500,000-600,000 cars were damaged by the hurricane and subsequent flooding, many non-flood vehicles are vulnerable to the same type of damages. What damage? Water or moisture collecting under the seats and console damages highly sensitive electronic components.
The airbag control units for most vehicles on the road today are located on the floor, or near the center of the vehicle under the seats and consoles. They are specifically placed there by the manufacturers in order to replicate, as closely as possible, the effects of an accident on the passengers in the vehicle. But by being placed at such a low point in the vehicle, they are at risk of being contaminated by water or many other situations. Some simple, normal, everyday things that happen when you drive a car can have serious consequences. Here are a few.
With winter coming and snow flying in many states, melted snow and ice will now be delivered to vehicle floors across the country. Turn on the heater and this snow and ice turns to water, flooding the carpet and eventually draining into the lowest pint in the vehicle…the floor under the seats.
As vehicles in ‘sun conditions’ age and sit in the sun day after day, the soft rubber seals around the windscreen begin to harden and crack. Once the brittle seal cracks or breaks, any rain or water from the car wash that hits the roof and windscreen is now channeled into the car, hidden by the interior trim panels and travels down to the lowest areas in the car…the floor and under the seats.
Or what about the used car dealer who wants to get the most out of his cars? With the best of intentions, power cleans the interior of every vehicle it gets from the auction. These are not flood cars, just used cars with dirty carpets. With a pressure stick in hand, or a power steamer, the carpets are purposefully washed and then dried as well as possible. But it’s too late… the water that wet the carpet during the process has already seeped through, drained under the seats and is now collecting on the metal floor, saturating the road padding and goes exactly where we don’t want to get it wet; around the airbag control unit.
And with so many people eating and drinking in their vehicles, cup holders all over the dash and console, the potential for a soft drink or cup of coffee is greater now than ever. And guess where the spilled liquid goes… Right, through the console to the floor, or between the seats where you can’t wipe it off.
Whatever the reason, fluids make their way onto the carpet and into the vehicles exactly where we don’t want it… mixing with the electronic control module.
This is what happens when water and electronics mix. These pictures capture the inevitable consequences of ignoring a wet floor problem. Over time, water can turn the part on the left into the part on the right. Which one is in your car?
The owner of this part of the vehicle suffered serious injuries as the airbag deployed immediately after starting her car one morning. She was not belted in place, nor was she prepared for the impact of the airbag. She had just started her car to go to work when she was hit in the face and jaw by an airbag at a speed of 200 mph. (General Motors Safety web page)
Airbags are designed to protect us from injury, but just like so many other facilities in our lives, they require care and maintenance to insure their reliability. Most car manufacturers recommend servicing the airbag systems every 10 years. Checking the floors for moisture build-up should be included in that procedure and done more often. But as a vehicle owner, it is ultimately your responsibility to look after and maintain your car. After all, you are at risk.
Here are some simple things you can do to identify if your car is at risk. Be aware of any of the following indicators. They can indicate a serious problem with brewing:
Dampness in the floor and carpet; moisture inside the instrument panel
- Rust on internal screws and other metal parts
- Mold, debris and mildew in places where it shouldn’t normally be found
- under the seats or carpet,
- in the trunk, or
- in the back floor wells
- Water stains or discoloration of seat belts and door panels
- Musty smell or strong odor Lysol or deodorant used to mask an odor problem
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