Spilling something is the worst, but it’s way worse when it happens in your car.
Underneath your vehicle’s carpeting is a thick, fluffy, and highly absorbent pad that’s used to muffle unwanted noises from entering the cabin through the floor. Your car’s carpeting also conceals countless modules, wiring harnesses, and electronic components.
Spill a little Pepsi on your centre console? Probably not a big deal. Carsick dog have a bit of an accident on the rear seat floor? Gross, but cleanable.
More and more vehicles are hitting the market with engineered seat fabrics and liquid-repellent surfaces, so even a direct hit from an overturned post-gym smoothie probably isn’t the end of the world if you’re quick with a towel and some cleaner.
But what happens when you spill a much larger amount of liquid inside of your car or truck?
One day, a friend was transporting a pair of five-gallon water bottles back to the office when he was cut off by another driver. His emergency manoeuvre prevented an accident but caused the water jugs to topple and break, resulting in a 10-gallon water spill inside of his old Kia.
He attempted to manage the situation by leaving his windows open a few days to “air the car out.” It didn’t work.
Rust, electronic problems, and odors came next. Several gallons of water wound up standing in the spare tire well for weeks, and the smell was potent. When it got cold, it also became impossible to de-fog the windows.
Spill the wrong household cleaner or liquid swimming pool chemicals in your car, and you could supercharge corrosion, destroy fabric and upholstered surfaces, and age vehicle wiring and other associated components rapidly – not to mention hurt your own health.
Spill a few gallons of paint in the back of your car, and you’d have a pricey disaster on your hands. Of course, paint needn’t spill to ruin your car’s interior – just look at what happens if you accidentally forget an aerosol can of spray paint in a hot car.
Still, of all the messy in-car spill-related stories I’ve encountered, the greasiest is this one from a member of the Reddit group r/Justrolledintotheshop.
This online community is updated almost hourly with mild-boggling stories and images from automotive service professionals around the world.
Titled “Customer spilt 20 litres of gravy in their brand new Land Rover Defender,” the post describes an unfortunate drive in which a brand new Defender was being used to transport an obscene amount of gravy to a sports event.
The driver put the gravy on the front passenger seat, and then accidentally hit a speed bump at a higher-than-advisable speed, sending a sea of gravy momentarily airborne and then onto the floor.
As five gallons of salt, beef broth, grease, and other delicious ingredients were rapidly sucked into the Defender’s carpeting and floor, the carpet padding became saturated. Gravy that couldn’t be absorbed flowed and pooled into various nooks and crannies beneath. A few inches of gravy even accumulated in a structural stamping beneath the driver’s seat.
Chips, anyone? (It’s a right-hand drive Defender.)
I spilled half a litre of gravy on my easy-to-clean kitchen counter once, and it wasn’t actually easy to clean. Imagine how impossible it would be trying to clean gravy out of a Land Rover’s carpet.
Imagine, if you will, the smell of a gravy-soaked SUV that’s been left in the sun for a few days. Your neighbourhood would smell like a poutine truck for a week or so and then more like the dumpster behind a butcher shop as the gravy-soaked carpeting began to spoil.
The comments section of this reddit post didn’t disappoint.
“Have you tried soaking it up with mashed potatoes?” one user asked.
The cost of this messy situation is unknown, but the original poster said that a few days of labour and brand new carpets and sound-deadening were required.
“I don’t know the exact figure, but it wasn’t cheap,” they said. A repair bill into the thousands would be very likely.
By the way, a few other things you should never spill inside of your car include wine, soup, beer, and especially milk. Chili is a bad time as well – but if you make it thick enough, it’s tougher for your carpets to absorb. Whatever food you spill in your car, make sure to clean it out quickly and thoroughly because if you don’t, your car can become a prime target for hungry rodents and insects that can sniff out gravy-marinated leather from a mile away.
Lesson learned? This story reinforces the importance of form-fitting, liquid-catching waterproof floor mats and cargo mats that are designed to contain significant amounts of liquid and keep them out of vehicle carpeting where they can cause damage.
We’re not sure if a set of WeatherTech or similar floor liners would have contained a gravy torrent of this magnitude, but we bet it would have helped mitigate the mess.
Also, most SUVs ship from factory with one or more provisions to keep bags upright and secured inside of their cargo area, usually in the form of grocery bag hooks. The Land Rover Defender is one of these machines. If you ever find yourself transporting any significant amount of liquid food (or anything else) in your vehicle, track down these hooks and use them. They could save you thousands of dollars. Use a liquid-catching cargo area mat for an added layer of protection.
Had our unfortunate victim used their grocery bag hooks, their disappointed sports team might have had delicious gravy for their post-game chips.