A water leak is one of the most dreaded problems a new vehicle owner might experience. Water leaks are amongst the most commonly reported and universally irritating gripes amongst owners across a wide range of makes and models.
In a modern car or SUV, water leaks can have many sources. These include a poorly sealed windshield, improperly installed roof racks, a sunroof drainage problem, a leaky brake light gasket, a plugged-up air conditioner, and many others.
Regardless of the source, the outcome and warning signs of water are common: wet carpeting, a musty and damp cabin, and an accumulation of water in the lowest areas of your vehicle’s body. Water can pool in areas like the spare tire well, the insides of the doors, and in the case of this month’s Lesson Learned story, the battery compartment of one customer’s GMC Acadia.
Reddit user u/Schlooker shared this post, which includes a photo of the battery compartment in a customer’s SUV that was brought in for a misfire. The Acadia in question keeps its battery in a compartment just below the rear seat floor – one of the lowest points in the vehicle body and one that’s likely to collect water and drown the battery in the event of a leak. That’s exactly what happened to this GMC driver. In fact, online Acadia communities have done an excellent job of documenting water leak problems reported by some owners for years.
Miraculously, the post says the submerged battery wasn’t causing any problems, which we figure makes this particular customer one of the luckiest people on the road, because we all know water and electricity don’t mix.
The electronic brains of every major system inside of this vehicle are connected to the nearly submerged array of electrical connectors on top of the battery, so one wrong splash could short out multiple connections and spell instant death and destruction for the upstream circuitry.
If that wasn’t bad enough, leaving a leak unattended can cause problems with rust, mold, odours, resale value, and electronics – more so if the battery in the affected vehicle is neck-deep in water.
Of course, this is a safety hazard for the mechanic tasked with fixing the issue, too.
“Let’s play a game,” commented one user, referencing the high likelihood of technician electrocution.
As another Reddit user pointed out, this could be a serious problem if the water were to freeze, which could crush and rupture the battery.
Some people go to extreme lengths to fix leaks on their own, since eliminating an out-of-warranty leak can be expensive, frustrating, and time consuming. Some shops won’t even tackle a job like this because of the inherent risks.
Lesson Learned? When buying a used car, a three-minute check for dampness, water staining or standing water in areas like the carpeting, glovebox, ceiling liner, spare tire compartment, and doors can save you thousands in repairs and ensure you get a decent used car – not a smelly, rust-prone mold-impregnated collection of wiring problems.
Pay attention to the area around the sun visors and dome lights, the rear floor corners in pickup trucks, and the front carpeting of any vehicle where it turns up from the floor to the firewall. This is especially important on sunroof-equipped models.
In cars and SUV models where applicable, be sure to remove the rear trunk or cargo area floor cover and track down the exposed vehicle body beneath. Many vehicles keep their spare tires and/or batteries in this area. If there’s a water leak problem, you’ll notice rust, standing water or dampness here, too.
There’s a lesson to learn for used car shoppers when it comes to water leaks. That lesson is that water leaks suck, and you should be on the lookout for them. Remember that water leaks can be sneaky, and that some drivers go for months or even years before noticing them. Often, by then, plenty of damage has already been done, so next time you’re shopping for a used car, add checking for leaks to your to-do list and you could save thousands of dollars in the process.