The smallest of problems can stop an engine from working. This can happen immediately or gradually. Either way, engine trouble is not something you want to deal with. 

One of the major causes of engine trouble is hydro-locking. When fluid enters the combustion chamber of an engine, it could cause the car to stop immediately. Water in the engine of a car can be very devastating as repairs may be very costly. You can find so many causes of a hydro-locked engine.

Continue reading as we discuss what hydro-locking is, what causes a hydro-locked engine and how to avoid this problem. Also, we will discuss the measures you can take and easy hydro-lock fix ideas.

What Is Hydrolocking?

Hydrolocking, also known as the hydrostatic lock, is a term that refers to water inside an engine. 

What happens if water gets in your engine? If water is sucked into the engine, you will get the hydrauliced engine or broken engine. The pistons of an engine contain gas and fuel. The combustion chamber works because gas is compressible. This is not the same for water. A combination of water and fuel is incompressible.

When a huge amount of water fills the combustion chamber, the pistons will stop moving, rendering the engine non-functional. When there is water in the cylinder, you will hear a cracking sound that indicates the pistons have stopped moving, resulting in permanent damage to your engine. 

When the engine is hydro-locked, you may attempt to call a mechanic to fix the problem. However, be attentive to the major damages and components of the car, your car may have the symptoms and signs of a seized engine too.

Unfortunately, the cost of repairing an engine may eat away at your wallet. It is nearly pointless to waste your precious cash. Instead, you can sell your car to a junk car buyer. 

What Happens If Water Gets in Your Engine?

If water enters an engine, you can expect minimal to severe damage. This is dependent on the amount of fluid that enters the combustion cylinders. The more water you have, the harder it will be for the pistons to compress the mixture of fuel, water, and air. That is because the water reduces the air intake. There are two scenarios:

1. The car was moving at a low RPM or idle

If this is the case, there will be little to no damage. However, you should take your car to a mechanic to remove water and prevent corrosion. Sometimes small amounts of water are removed through the exhaust.

2. The car was moving at a high RPM

If this should happen, expect severe damage to your engine. This may damage different parts of your engine, rendering your car totaled. Removing water will not be helpful. Problems you can face include:

  • A broken connecting rod
  • Damage to the crank
  • Bend in the valves
  • Broken piston rings
  • A breach in the head

    Any Other Causes of Hydrolocking?

    A hydro-lock can occur when any liquid enters your engine. There are so many ways in which water can enter your engine. In most cases driving through puddles at high speed is the cause. So it is better to avoid puddles as much as possible. Any damage to the engine itself will make it easier for water to enter the combustion cylinders. Other causes include:

    • Driving through a flood
    • Driving through puddles
    • Parking a car in a flood
    • A damaged gasket
    • Damaged diesel pumps
    • Oil or water leaks in the combustion chamber

    What Are the Common Hydrolock Symptoms?

    The symptoms of a hydro-locked engine depend on the amount of water in the cylinders. The common hydro-lock symptoms are:

    1. Small amount of water

    If there is a small amount of water, the engine will make a rough sound. In most cases, the water will leave the engine through the exhaust. The engine will continue running.

    2. A large amount of water

    When a lot of water enters the engine, you will hear a crashing or knocking sound. This sound happens as water starts filling the cylinders.

    This lasts a few seconds before the engine goes off completely. When this happens, you will hear a loud thud. The engine will fail to turn over at this point.

    How Much Hydrolocking Damages an Engine?

    Water in a car engine can be very damaging. In many cases, it may require the entire engine to be replaced. The amount of damage that an engine faces all depends on certain factors. One of these factors is the speed at which the car was moving when hydro-lock symptoms started.

    At high RPMs, the damage to the engine is usually severe. This causes a large amount of water to enter the engine at once. It can result in a broken rod, damage to the pistons, or a bent valve. If any of these happen, the engine will stop working immediately. At low RPMs, only a small amount of water enters the engine. This water should be removed immediately. If that is not done, the engine will rust, causing trouble later on.

    How to Fix a Hydrolocked Engine

    DO NOT attempt to restart your car! The presence of water in your engine does not harm it; it simply shuts it off. You break things when you try to start your engine with water in it. You’ll need to remove the water from the engine after it’s out of the water. 

    1. Disconnect the battery’s ground and positive cables first, then place it somewhere dry. 
    2. Remove the plastic engine covers and use shop towels to dry whatever you can reach. 
    3. Remove the spark plugs and dry the insides of the cylinders by rotating the crank. 
    4. Disconnect fuel injectors to remove any remaining water inside the spark plug holes.
    5. Remove and replace all the fuses. 
    6. Replace the air filter and clean intake ducting. Worst-case scenario, you may need to replace the carburetor.
    7. Drain the engine and gear oil completely. Use cleaning additives if necessary.

      What are the Common Hydrolock Symptoms?

      The following are several of the most common symptoms associated with engine hydrolocking.

      1. Sudden engine stalling

      If water seeps into the air intake and fuel systems, it can change the air/fuel ratio, reducing the engine’s power.

      2. Failure of the engine to turn over

      If an engine is hydrolocked, it will not turn over or crank. However, you can try to manually crank the engine when trying to dry and repair it.

      3. The onset of knocking or hammering noise

      Your car’s engine will be running sluggishly if there’s a small amount of water in the engine—it may pass right through the exhaust, but when the cylinder has a lot of fluid, you’ll hear a loud knocking noise.

      4. There’s water in the oil

      Use the oil dipsticks and check if the oil is discolored or looks diluted.

      Causes of a Hydrolocked Engine

      Driving through high water is the most common cause of hydrolocking. When driving across a large body of water, the water can surge up one or more of the engine’s cylinders, saturating the air filter and allowing water to reach the entrance manifold, causing a hydraulic lock. However, there can be other causes that hydrolock an engine.

      Defective Head Gasket

      Hydrolocking can also occur when a head gasket fails, allowing coolant to reach the pistons instead of the coolant chambers that run around the engine block to remove heat. The failure of head gaskets is usually caused by the thermal expansion that is too fast for the gasket to handle, causing it to crack or break. 

      Engine Modification

      Hydrolocking can be caused by modifications that put the intake system’s starting in a vulnerable location. The cold air inlet and filter are located in the low corner of the bumper. This implies that intrusion of waterinto the engine can happen easier even when driving over bumper-high water.

      Fuel Injector Failure

      When an injector is jammed open or damaged, the engine can soon become flooded with fuel. This rarely happens, and it will require the intake manifold, cylinders, and intercooler to be drained of fuel.