What’s under the carpet of your car?

It has now been 2 years since stories of flood cars from Hurricane Katrina infused the world of “buyer caution”. But not only flood cars cause problems. Other liquids like spilled milk, melting snow, pressure-washed carpets, or a leaking windshield can also cause serious problems. Let us show you how serious a wet floor can be!

Our expertise lies in airbag systems, airbag replacement and airbag service, so we are often hired to conduct investigations for insurance companies, attorneys and individuals regarding accidental or unintentional airbag deployment. After inspecting many such vehicles and knowing the serious injuries they can cause, the reason for these airbag deployments is shocking. What we have found has a common theme… fluids and electronics don’t 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 later. Once you know the facts, just being aware of these potentially serious situations and dangers can help you deal with the causes and potentially save you from serious personal harm.

Although an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 cars were damaged by the hurricane and subsequent flooding, many non-flood vehicles are vulnerable to the same type of damage. What damage? Water or moisture that collects under the seats and console can damage 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 placed there in a targeted manner by the manufacturers in order to reproduce the effects of an accident on the vehicle occupants as precisely as possible. However, because they are positioned at such a low point in the vehicle, they run the risk of being contaminated by water or many other situations. Some simple, normal, everyday things that happen while driving can have serious consequences. Here are a few.

With winter coming and snow flying in many states, melted snow and ice will now hit the floors of vehicles across the country. Turn on the heater and that snow and ice turns into water that soaks through the carpet and eventually drains down to the deepest pint in the vehicle…the floor beneath the seats.

As vehicles in the ‘sun states’ get older and sit in the sun day after day, the soft rubber seals around the windshield begin to harden and crack. Once the brittle seal cracks or breaks, rain or water from the car wash that hits the roof and windshield is now channeled into the car, concealed by the interior panels, and channeled to the lowest points in the car…the floor and under the seats.

Or how about the used car dealer who wants to get the most out of their cars? With the best of intentions, he cleans the interior of every vehicle he gets from the auction. These aren’t flood cars, just used cars with dirty carpets. With a pressure rod in hand or a power steamer, the carpets are specifically washed and then dried as well as possible. But it’s too late… the water that soaked the carpet during the process has already seeped through, seeping under the seats and now pooling on the metal floor, soaking the upholstery along the way and getting to exactly where we didn’t get it wet want to have ; 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 risk of spilling a soft drink or cup of coffee is now greater than ever. And guess where that spilled liquid goes… That’s right, through the console onto the floor or between the seats where you can’t dry it.

Whatever the reason, liquids get into the carpet and interior of vehicles right where we don’t want them… and mix with the electronic control module.

Here’s what happens when water and electronics mix. These images capture the inevitable consequences of ignoring the problem of a wet floor. 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 the vehicle from which this part came suffered serious injuries when the airbag deployed as soon as her car was started one morning. She was not wearing a seat belt or prepared for the impact of the airbag. She was just starting her car to drive to work when she was hit in the face and jaw by an airbag at 200mph. (General Motors Safety website)

Airbags are designed to protect us from injury, but like so many other conveniences in our lives, they require care and maintenance to ensure their reliability. Most car manufacturers recommend servicing airbag systems every 10 years. Checking floors for moisture accumulation should be included in this procedure and performed more frequently. However, as a vehicle owner, it is ultimately your responsibility to look after and maintain your car. After all, it is you who are at risk.

Here are some simple things you can do to determine if your car is at risk. Watch out for one of the following indicators. They can indicate a serious problem in brewing:

  • moisture in the floor and carpeting; Moisture on the inside of the instrument panel

  • Rust on internal screws and other metal parts
  • Mildew, debris and mildew in places where it is not normally found
    • under the seats or carpets,
    • in the trunk or
    • in the rear floor shafts
  • Water stains or discoloration on seat belts and door panels
  • A musty odor or a strong smell of Lysol or deodorant used to mask an odor problem