WATER HAMMER: THE RISKS AND HOW TO MANOEUVRE IT
“Water hammer” is a term you may often hear during the rainy season, when roads are inundated and cases of motor vehicles breaking down become more frequent. It describes a condition when water gets inside the cylinders and disrupt engine operation. During this time, water blocks the pistons that are trying to move to its extreme point.
Both a motorcycle and a car are at risk of water hammer when the driver forces to drive through deep puddles. Water seeps through the muffler and to the intake manifold until it reaches the combustion chamber.
At this point, the engine will stop working. Moisture overcomes the oxygen needed for combustion, and water itself is not flammable. Water may also get sucked into the air filter and prevent engine from compressing air.
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There are fatal consequences to water hammer: connecting rods may bend and engine overhauling may be needed. Your cylinders may require relining, or you may even need a new engine block. Suffice to say that the repair costs can be extremely high.
To avoid it, stay away from flooded areas. If there is no better option, always use the following rules of thumb. For car owners: never drive your vehicle if your tires are completely drowned. If you must, then keep your engine at 2,000 rpm to prevent water from getting inside and go easy on the accelerator. Moreover, pay attention to the movement of other vehicles around you. Keep a good distance from big four-wheelers in the opposite direction, such as a truck, which may create small “waves” as it passes by – and more risk for your car and you. Always put your safety first; turn off the engine and evacuate if necessary. Call the towing service after you get to a safe spot.
For motorcycle riders: the safe water level is approximately 30 cm from road surface. If you do experience water hammer, you may try to remove the spark plug and air filter. Clean and dry them. If your motorcycle has a kick starter, use that several times before putting the spark plug and filter back in place.