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lou's garage

A tow truck driver floats a car out of the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto on July 8 2013. Flood damaged cars cannot be repaired in Canada, and for good reason.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

A healthy amount of rain has been coming down here in Ontario over the last month and that has me thinking about a vehicle’s resistance to water penetration. We’ve all seen videos of vehicles entering flooded underpasses but failing to emerge out the other side. So how deep is too deep?

In Canada, flooded vehicles are not allowed to be repaired and put back on the road once they are water damaged and written-off by their respective insurance company. They are labelled as “irreparable” for good reason. The same is not true of vehicles coming from south of the border as their laws differ from state to state. Unfortunately, an unhealthy amount of these flood-repaired vehicles make their way into Canada. Unwary Canadians end up with a car that may seem normal when it is first imported, but which will slowly develop electrical issues that never seem to go away. It will end up costing a fortune to perpetually repair such a vehicle.

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How much water is too much water? Your vehicle is designed to resist a fair amount of normal rainwater with under-shields and panels that are designed to use your vehicle’s momentum and deflect water outwards. Even your carpet is rubber backed in efforts to keep moisture out of the cabin electronics. But there is only so much that can be done at the manufacturer level to limit water penetration. If you are about to enter a flooded area and the bottom of your front bumper is submerged, you’re cutting it close. Water that makes it up into the engine air intake system will lead to a variety of unpleasant results, with the worst being a hydro-locked, destroyed engine. Water that fully penetrates the cabin, which means it’s high enough to get your feet wet, will now also cause vital wiring harnesses and control modules to be waterlogged. You may get lucky. The car may dry out, letting you carry on temporarily. But it could still result in long-term electrical issues due to corrosion.

To those customers who ask for definitive water-in-vehicle advice, I always ask about carpet saturation. If placing your hand on the carpet and pushing down on it results in water coming through the carpet, you need to get that carpet and under pad dried as quickly as possible. If there was at any point two inches or more of water sitting in the cabin, you should consider calling your insurance company. Most contemporary cars sport six inches of ground clearance, roughly that amount of water puddling on the side of the road is nothing to worry about. My general rule is that if your front bumper is plowing water, you are too deep. If you are driving an electric car, they will offer similar, water penetration resistance as their manufacturers take additional measures to seal their batteries and electronics.

Your automotive questions, answered

I am surprised that you would not be in favour of direct reading TPMS; being able to check tire pressures digitally is a lot simpler than the manual check previously recommended. Like oil pressure and temperature gauges being replaced by check engine/warning lights, indirect systems reduce the information supplied to the driver, never a good trend. The small cost of sensors is more than justified by the early warning they can give of potential issues. You can pick up a slow leak in advance and make an informed decision when you need to stop and add air/reduce speed before the tire is damaged.

Alex M

The piece you are referring to discusses the differences between direct and indirect TPMS systems.

I’m still going to advocate for getting rid of, or at least drastically improving, the direct TPMS.

I will agree that, yes, an indirect system reduces the amount of information available to the driver, but I will argue that it is the superior system overall as the information that is provided is sufficient for 95 per cent of drivers. The key information required for a driver is to be informed when a tire is losing air and to identify which tire is problematic. Knowing the exact pressure is a nice bonus, but not essential.

In my opinion, the problem with the direct system is the pressure sensors located within each wheel. They are a royal pain from a servicing perspective. Any auto technician will tell you that they are problematic, failing frequently, causing drivers of aging vehicles to just ignore the whole system all together. Every time your tires are rotated on a direct TPMS equipped vehicle, the vehicle’s computer is supposed to be reprogrammed to update which corner the sensors are now located, which unfortunately rarely gets done. This misleads drivers, causing them to frequently put air in the wrong tire because they are improperly orientated on their dashboard display.

Alternatively, the indirect system requires no additional sensors, no reprogramming at every tire rotation interval and provides a simpler system that will continue to work properly as the vehicle ages because there are fewer parts to fail.

Reviewers of the new Genesis cars, the G80 and others mention how good they are and what terrific value they are compared to the BMW, Audi or Mercedes. There is no doubt they have all the gaudy bits like heads up, great leather seats with heat and cooling, GPS, and all the best safety features etc.

But what about the parts that take a beating on our brutal Toronto roads: the suspension, the brake system, the steering, the hoses and belts, the fuel system, the air conditioning system, etc?

As a person specializing on these bits, what do you say? In particular, I am comparing the top G80 with the top 540 for thousands more.

Phil P

We service and repair many five series BMW’s and a handful of the newer Genesis products. I assume this is due to the relative newness of the Genesis brand. From my perspective, they are both wonderful cars to own and drive while the manufacturer is paying the warranty repair bills. Time will tell regarding long term reliability of the G80 as it has only been in production for approximately five years. But so far, they seem decent. BMW, on the other hand, has proven to be heavy-handed in the chequebook department as they age.

That being said, they are both upscale vehicles designed to cater to a specific market. That market wants sophistication, elegance and an elevated driving experience, leading their respective manufacturers to design and build complicated pieces of machinery. Accordingly, BMW delivers a driving experience that is guaranteed to thrill but comes at a price. It appears that the Genesis might be slightly cheaper to maintain, but it will be several more years before a solid conclusion can be made. I believe that our brutal roads will wreak havoc equally on either model and shouldn’t be a key factor in your decision-making process.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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