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Old 09-02-2019, 12:47 AM
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Exclamation My Jeep fell into a Lake

Ok, here goes. Fair warning this is a long read:

The Short: Jeep TJ fell down boat launch, was running in neutral, completely submerged. I don't have all the details from insurance yet but I assume they'll total it, cut me a check and give me the option to buy back. Is it worth trying to fix? Details below...

The long: My pride and joy, Josie, '06 manual TJ in Jeep Green (I6) fell into Lake George this weekend.

I was on a boat launch, put up the e-brake, figured since the ramp was on such a soft incline and I was just pulling a tiny sunfish sailboat onto a trailer, I could just get the boat on the trailer quick and go.

Fatal mistake, I will forever hate myself for not shutting her off and putting her in first. But luckily no one was hurt, no injuries. As I was putting the sailboat on the trailer, I started pulling the manual trailer winch and it knocked my jeep loose, she started rolling, I tried to save her but failed...it all happened in seconds. Ended up getting in the driver seat in chest high water. I can't remember details as it happened so fast but I think I shut off the engine if it didn't already stall or lock up. Seconds later the water was way over my head so my priorities changed and I had to swim out.

I was able to swim back in, get my tow strap, with the help of some guys there tie it to the bumper and have someone with a truck pull her out. She must've been under water for 10 minutes. It was very clean lake water (not salt). Her lights were flashing once out, even when I pulled the key out and turned off the lights. I disconnected the battery and parked her in the lot.

Then, I had a hard choice to make, get my girlfriend and I a ride from my (very kind) parents (6 hour round trip) or stay with the Jeep. I called insurance, took the ride and the jeep is still there. Dipstick didn't show any water droplets but I didn't get the chance to pull the plugs and drain all the fluids.

She's been sitting as it for two days now, she'll likely sit for a week before I can get back up there with a UHaul, if the insurance money works out okay.

I need advice, I obviously have a strong attachment to this jeep (don't we all). I figure I could drain the oil, coolant, diffs, tranny, t-case, gas tack etc etc, pull the spark plugs and try to get the engine working, but the tranny and t-case might be messed up, electronics probably very shot. It was clean lake water and 10 minutes of it but it'll sit as is for a week. If there's water in the cylinders/in the engine will it sitting essentially score the cylinders and corrode the engine? It'll probably get a salvage title, insuring will be hard, should I even bother?

Has anyone dealt with something similar??

Thank you all in advance for your help.



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Old 09-02-2019, 02:31 AM   #2
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Tragedy. Sorry for the loss! I've done worse, so no snide remarks even possible. Good luck, hopefully some knowledge will come from the forum on what to do.
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Old 09-02-2019, 04:08 AM   #3
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Wow that sucks. Thanks for sharing the story. I wish I could help you out. If it was me, I'd probably try to salvage it, but there's so much there that is going to need replacing. And then when you've done a bunch of replacing and still something's wrong but you just can't pin point it...good luck.
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Old 09-02-2019, 06:36 AM   #4
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Wow! Lake George is one of my favorite places. I'm shocked the EPA, DEC, etc didn't get involved and section the area off, then have a license tow company pull it out. That lake is pristine, and people drink from it. I'm not lecturing you about it, but I've seen people lose vehicles in other less desirable areas and go through a big production getting them out.

With regard to repairs, a vehicle with an automatic transmission would probably need a complete transmission rebuild, a stick I'd swap out the gear oil. Brake fluid will have to be completely flushed out, the brake booster is probably shot. The engine oil and filter changed out, a few times, then hope it runs well again. I'd probably change out the spark plugs, cap wires, rotors, coil/coil packs [I'm generalizing here], everything blown out and dried. And see what else is needed, possibly a starter and alternator will be needed, maybe not. Gas tank drained, dried, and hope for the best, fuel pump? Probably shot. The computer is toast, electronics, radio etc. probably toast. Differentials and transfer case fluids changed out, a few times. I just rattled off a few things in no particular order. It could be a very time consuming costly project.

I've done it with my brother with inboard and outboard boat engines that went under in salt water and was successful. Never a vehicle on wheels.
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Old 09-02-2019, 07:13 AM   #5
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Sorry about the misfortune. Don't further the tragedy and try to save it. There is a reason insurance companies total water damaged vehicles. Unless your going to remove EVERY electrical component and wiring harness and replace it (which would be completely cost prohibitive) you will be chasing electrical gremlins for the remaining life of the vehicle as connections continue to corrode over time.
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Old 09-02-2019, 07:22 AM   #6
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Meh... I wouldn't hesitate to fix it.... Heck as long as the engine didn't get major damage I prolly woulda driven it home...
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Old 09-02-2019, 07:32 AM   #7
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The trans and xfer are fully mechanical so a few drain refill, drive drain and refills will get it back. The drive gets it up to temp to evaporate water. Diffs are easier because you can easily take off the covers and clean them properly.
Good luck, hope it all comes together for you. Dash and such, cant offer any advice except to say I hope it dries quickly.

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Old 09-02-2019, 08:03 AM
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Thank you all for your replies, the Jeep family rocks.

Since I think insurance will just let it sit for a bit while they twiddle their thumbs, I'm thinking of getting a UHaul truck and flat trailer with a comealong and driving the 3 hours to get her myself.

That way I can drain all the fluids, let her dry and make an informed decision on the extent of the damage.
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Old 09-02-2019, 08:32 AM
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Demarpaint, you're right. The DEC was contacted but I was told because there was no visible oil slick and that she was in there for the whole of 10 minutes, they just couldn't be bothered to come. I got lucky, as far as I know there are hefty fines associated with this stuff.
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Old 09-02-2019, 08:53 AM   #10
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wow, that's a sad one...Sorry for your loss. Draining every fluid pulling carpeting, pull body drain plugs, opening the whole thing up to dry out can't hurt and should't interfere with the insurance company's visit. It would only help you later if you decide to save it. I'd also make it sit on an incline to aid water draining. I would imagine to save it you'd also have to open up all of the electrical equipment and dry it out too...relays and things alike would go bad over time from being wet if you didn't replace them.
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Old 09-02-2019, 09:01 AM   #11
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I wouldn't even involve the ins. co. Fresh water, engine off, manual trans, pull the plugs, change the fluids, fire it up and drive it home.
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Old 09-02-2019, 09:07 AM   #12
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Thatís terrible! Iím sorry to hear that. I agree with what most on here are saying about drying it out. For electronic connections and junctions, Iím wondering if electrical part cleaner would be helpful? The kind that dries super fast and displaces water? Good luck to you! Iím putting good thoughts out there for you and your Jeep.
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Old 09-02-2019, 09:27 AM   #13
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I've had about 40% of the electrical stuff in my Jeep underwater dozens and dozens of times without even giving it a second thought. I've also pressure washed my instrument cluster dash wiring computer, everything, MANY times....
Open it up, dry it out, unplug connections blow out with air, etc.

Your only major concern is if the engine hydrolocked...


Yes absolutely do not wait on the insurance company if you want to save the Jeep. Go get it and get to work now.
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Old 09-02-2019, 09:33 AM   #14
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I must be the only one thinking the obvious.
It could've been worse.

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Old 09-02-2019, 09:38 AM   #15
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At worse things could have happened than a submerge in fresh water. The biggest issue is if you hydrolocked the engine. Then it is likely you have severe internal damage. If not then you can recover this fairly easy. Change ALL fluids and expect to do it again in 100 miles. Open and dry all electrical connections, drain and replace the fuel. Pull the spark plugs and crank over the engine to push any water in the intake and engine. Verify the function of all the electronics and repair as necessary. Basically, just get the water out of everything. If you didn’t hydrolock it most likely it will fire up.
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Old 09-02-2019, 09:38 AM   #16
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gotta get it opened up, and air circulating, if it's covered tight windows up, it's a pressure cooker.......... if windows are down and it rains it'll also never dry.
can you get someone local to tow it in and start getting it dry?
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Old 09-02-2019, 09:48 AM   #17
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It's a good looking Jeep. It's a shame to see it crushed at the recycler.

I would use the insurance game against them. I would probably let insurance total it then find out how much the buyback is. You very well may get it for $500 or less. It's been totally submerged after all!

Even if you destroyed the engine there will be more than enough money in a total settlement to rebuild or buy another one. Everything else is easy if you can turn the wrenches yourself.


Edit: I'm assuming the Jeep is paid for and you're not upside down on a loan
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Old 09-02-2019, 10:13 AM
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It's a good looking Jeep. It's a shame to see it crushed at the recycler.

I would use the insurance game against them. I would probably let insurance total it then find out how much the buyback is. You very well may get it for $500 or less. It's been totally submerged after all!

Even if you destroyed the engine there will be more than enough money in a total settlement to rebuild or buy another one. Everything else is easy if you can turn the wrenches yourself.


Edit: I'm assuming the Jeep is paid for and you're not upside down on a loan
CommandoSandwich, correct. All paid for. And it's a rust free, clean TJ with 108k on the clock...
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Old 09-02-2019, 11:06 AM   #19
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Man, I would be looking at trying to keep it. Buybacks are usually very low. The insurance company wont part it out. They will send it to auction as is. They will have towing and storage fees. Auction wont bring much money as it was submerged, you have to assume as a buyer that you're going to replace all major components. Find out what scrap price is for it. Let the insurance company tell you what they want. If it's too high counter with maybe $100 over scrap price.
@daveTJ04 makes a very good point. Mold and mildew are going to be your enemy. You're going to gut the interior to make sure it's dry. You may replace the seats.

You're probably going to have electrical gremlins as it was running when it went in. Maybe you get lucky but I would have it in my head you're going to replace at least some of the major electrical components. If you end up chasing wire just replace the entire harness. It's not that bad of a job.

It will be some work to save it. Chances are good you won't just let it dry and start driving it again. If you're paying someone to do all the work it's not worth it. If you can turn the wrenches yourself I think it's feasible.

You've been wanting a new engine anyway right? If you're settlement is nice maybe you upgrade a little. $5k total including shipping:
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Old 09-02-2019, 11:25 AM   #20
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Old 09-02-2019, 11:41 AM   #21
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Definitely go pick it up and see if the engine was hydrolocked or not, flush the fluid just in case you do buy it back from insurance .
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Old 09-02-2019, 12:08 PM   #22
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I must be the only one thinking the obvious.
It could've been worse.

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Old 09-02-2019, 01:17 PM   #23
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By the way when you get it home and get everything fixed and everything dried out, don't tell the insurance adjuster that you did anything to it other than bring it home.... as far as he knows it's absolute junk. after he leaves you can start it up and cruise to town
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Old 09-02-2019, 03:50 PM
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Some great advice and kind words in here. I can't comment and reply on all the posts but thank you all for your time, support, and advice!
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Old 09-02-2019, 05:58 PM   #25
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Welcome to the Forum frenchhenry,
Sorry to welcome you here under such sad circumstances.

I'd get towed home as soon as possible and keep it in a garage if possible. At least cover it with a tarp if it looks like rain. You need to get it dried out as soon as possible. Call your insurance agent tomorrow to get the claim rolling.
I wouldn't bother with a U-Haul, I'd have a tow truck bring it home. Vandals will see it sitting and you might end up with a second claim.

I'd plan on keeping it. Once the adjuster has inspected it and while you're waiting for a settlement offer, drain the gas tank, pull the plugs and crank it over.
If it cranks, change the oil & filter, add some gasoline, dry out the distributor and see if it runs.
Then, depending on if it runs, once the adjuster makes an offer, you can decide if you want to keep it or not.
Never take the first offer! If you need more time to see if the Jeep runs, tell the adjuster that you're trying to find local comps for a Jeep as nice and modified as yours.

Fresh lake water isn't too bad. If it was salt water or flood water, I'd let it go.
Once the adjuster has seen it, pull the seats and carpets to aid in drying it out.
If you keep it you'll need to change all the fluids, including the brake and clutch fluids.

Keep us posted on what you end up doing.

Good Luck, L.M.
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Old 09-02-2019, 06:37 PM
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Welcome to the Forum frenchhenry,
Sorry to welcome you here under such sad circumstances.

I'd get towed home as soon as possible and keep it in a garage if possible. At least cover it with a tarp if it looks like rain. You need to get it dried out as soon as possible. Call your insurance agent tomorrow to get the claim rolling.
I wouldn't bother with a U-Haul, I'd have a tow truck bring it home. Vandals will see it sitting and you might end up with a second claim.

I'd plan on keeping it. Once the adjuster has inspected it and while you're waiting for a settlement offer, drain the gas tank, pull the plugs and crank it over.
If it cranks, change the oil & filter, add some gasoline, dry out the distributor and see if it runs.
Then, depending on if it runs, once the adjuster makes an offer, you can decide if you want to keep it or not.
Never take the first offer! If you need more time to see if the Jeep runs, tell the adjuster that you're trying to find local comps for a Jeep as nice and modified as yours.

Fresh lake water isn't too bad. If it was salt water or flood water, I'd let it go.
Once the adjuster has seen it, pull the seats and carpets to aid in drying it out.
If you keep it you'll need to change all the fluids, including the brake and clutch fluids.

Keep us posted on what you end up doing.

Good Luck, L.M.
Thanks Luckymac, great advice
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Old 09-03-2019, 01:18 AM   #27
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Water in the cylinders when NOT running is not the enemy. Letting it sit for a long time, not days could be. You mentioned you turned off the engine. That may have saved it. If the engine ingested water and stopped, then the engine might be gone. That would be a case of hydro lock. Air will compress, water does not and when the cylinder filled with water and the the piston attempted to come up it would suddenly stop.

I would remove the plugs, maybe use a borescope snake that you can use with a cell phone to look at each cylinder. If none of them are full of water, spray a good amount of WD40 into the cylinder. Also while the plugs are out see if you can manually turn the engine over a bit. (The WD in WD40 stands for Water Displacement and the 40 means it was the 40th formula, the first that worked. It was for a Navy contract for use aboard ships).

Servicing the differentials, draining and replacing the engine oil, transmission fluid and transfer case fluid is a must. Drain completely and refill the brake fluid is also a must, and of course bleed the brakes after the refill.

Your saving grace is that it was relatively clean lake water, not silty flowing water or salt water. In the Navy I flew Grumman S-2s. They had a 4 person raft in a compartment along the ridge of the aircraft that would automatically deploy when submerged. There was an electrical detector at the floorboard level in the cockpit. The system worked great in salt water (aircraft was carrier based so we were over water a lot) or dirty fresh water. We were always warned that the system would not work in clean fresh lake water as the electrical probes would not conduct current between them in clean water.

Most vehicles that have been totaled after being submerged were involved in floods or storm surges (as they are worried about from Hurricane Dorian) which are filthy. If you have ever seen a vehicle after a flood, you would really not want it.

If you decide to go the insurance route with them declaring it a total loss and do a buy back there are several issues to consider. In NY I am sure you would be issued a salvage title. This will decrease the value of the Jeep and the insurance company may decline to issue collision coverage on the Jeep.
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Old 09-03-2019, 05:46 PM   #28
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Look at my avatar photo...

It was totaled, as it should be. Yours is less electronic, but still likely to have long-term issues. But I'm not attached to any vehicle and really looked at it as a great opportunity to get a new Jeep. It's just a thing.
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Old 09-03-2019, 05:47 PM   #29
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Look up Rich Repairs and his flooded Tesla. I know it’s a totally different vehicle but he had to unplug and disassemble every connector on the car and clean every individual contact by hand.
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Old 09-03-2019, 05:52 PM   #30
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Buy or rent a couple small air movers (the ones that water damage specialists use for dealing with flooded-out homes). The B-Air VP-20 or VP-25 would work well.

Pull the rugs, the seats, and just blast air anywhere you can: inside the engine compartment, etc. Blow directly on any wiring harnesses, etc.

Do this right away. This will buy you time until you can properly disassemble and drain things. It's obviously not the only thing you'll have to do, but it'll dry up any water that can be reached by air before it rusts/corrodes/mildews something.

A heat gun dries stuff faster BUT you have to be there holding it the whole time because it can easily melt plastics and the insulation off of wires. It can also start a fire if left unattended.

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