View Full Version : 2003 subaru baja caught in flood

07-03-2009, 07:28 PM

I thought I would see if I could get help here from Subaru experts.

This past Wednesday I was at the Mystic Aquarium (CT) and it rained 4hours straight. Every car in the parking lot got flooded.

The water was up to my knees. My Baja had water go as hi as the bottom of the shifter. We had to push the car out to a dry area. All cars that would not start had to be pushed to higher ground except SUVís and Truck. There must have been countless amounts of cars flooded. Too bad.

I tried to start my Baja but it would not. I stayed overnight hoping it would dry out and start the next morning. The next day I tried and it would not start. I think itís totaled.

As well as all the cars that would not start had their cars also towed home. I had my car towed home.

What I did was removed the plugs and turned over the engine to get the water out. There was no water. I put the plugs back in and it still would not start. Also there was no water in the oil. When I do turn it over, I can smell gas etc.

I do have the insurance adjuster coming on Monday. It was an ďAct of GodĒ so Iím covered with my insurance.

I thought I would ask experts on this forum to see what else it could be so I can get this started.

Can it be fixed is the question.

Anything suggestion would help.
Happy 4th of July!!

07-03-2009, 09:35 PM
I would say as long as you didn't get water in the engine or oil is should be able to be saved. Make sure you didn't get water in the tranny and front and rear diff as well before you try to drive it. You might check your air filter and see if it is saturated, that would cause it not to start. As if you got alot of water in your gas tank that could cause it not to start as well. When you tried to start it the first time would the engine turn over???

07-04-2009, 08:54 AM
Thanks so much for your help. That's good news!

First we got it out of the deep water to try and start and Yes, it did turn over but didn't start. Water of course was shooting out of the pipes.

When it does turn over, you can smell gas I think but not as strong as gas. So maybe it is watered down. Also, when I checked the oil for water, it was OK but I was missing some oil.?????? The air filter was completely dry too.

I had to disconnect the battery because this Part(see attached) was getting hot. I don't know why. But when I disconnet the power it cools down. I thought I would include the car in the water. :-(

When the Insurance adjuster comes over, I'm hoping he gives me a GOOD return Because the interior was soaked up to the bottom of the shifter.s I would think it ruined other things but don't know. There will probably be underlying issues to come. I'm hearing that the Air Bag control is under the drivers seat. Also the speaker were submerged too.

Do think the adjuster will consider it totalled? Did you ever see this happen to another forum member? This 2003 baja only has 65,000 miles on it. I think the bb value is around 14,000. Is that correct?

I'm going to try and get this going but wait for him to see what I'm going to get back for the damage.

This is what I'll do after the appraisel:

-check the trans fluid,diff fluild and gas for water

What else would you suggest. Thanks for helping here.


07-04-2009, 12:34 PM
I forgot about the water being that deep inside the car like you said before. It just came to me. I know why it won't start. Your computer is under the passenger side floor mat. If it was submerged, which I am sure it was, that it is fried for sure. They don't like water of any kind. That part in the picture is you EGR, or exhaust gas recirculation valve. It is controled by the computer. The computer is probably sending too much voltage to in and causing it to heat up. I would imagine you are probobly going to have to replace all the control modules, ECM, TCM, and air bag. Yeah now that I think about it your ECM is definately fried causing the no start. I am also sure that your rear diff is going to have water in it also, the vent for it is on top of the diff which is pretty low, and judging from the pic you posted it was definately submerged. So yeah I bet change your fluids out and replace your control modules and you will be back on the road in no time. After drying out the interior lol. Good luck, I hope the adjuster gives you some good news.

07-04-2009, 12:43 PM
I forgot to tell you that you can probably take care of the interior yourself, I worked on a suzuki that had been put in a ditch full of water, broke a rod in the engine and flooded the interior like yours. It is a time consuming job but if you have a garage to park it in you can take the seats and the floor mat and carpet out yourself. Put a heater in the car, a radiant type, not one with a fan or you will melt plastic parts and leave your windows down a little. Lay the floor mat and carpet over the back of the car for a few days and put a heater with a fan blowing on it and it will all dry out. Just try to get it done as soon as possible so mold doesn't have a change to start growing. Within a few days it will be dry and good to go.

07-05-2009, 08:54 AM
Thanks Rutech!! This really helps me.

I'm hoping the adjuster doesn't consider it totalled. I'm hearing if they do, they take the car and give you BB value.

I want to have the opportuinity to fix this. We love this car besides it only has 65,000 miles and not even broken in. I don't want to depart from it.

Is there any chance I can get a hold of a install guide for the control modules, ECM, TCM, and air bag. Do I have to purchase some or all of these parts at the Subaru dealer. Maybe I can get a Haynes manual.

Just from your experience can you give me an estimate for what whould a dealer charge to replace these parts with labor along with fluids? I just want to make sure I have some kind of a number so I can compare from what the adjuster comes up with.

Thanks for helping out here. I will let you know what the adjuster comes up with. He's coming tomorrow.


07-05-2009, 02:27 PM
Your welcome, I am glad I can help. I would recommend replacing your ECM yourself, it is super easy, it costs $500- $600. I would recommend having the dealer replace the air bag control module though, they are around $400 installed. I would also recommend having the dealer replace all your fluids for you, make sure they do a transmission flush not just a drain and fill. I think all the fluids and flush and everything is about $400-$500. The TCM is pretty easy to get at and replace yourself too, it is located under the dash on the drivers side. Not sure what the TCM costs though, wild guess would be $300-$400. I can walk you through the replacement of the ecm and tcm if you want, probly save you a couple hundred dollars in labor. Sometimes it is just easier to have someone else do it though lol. Well good luck with the adjuster.

07-06-2009, 08:40 AM
Yes, I hope we get a decent return for repairs etc.
I found the ECM location under the front passenger mat but won't open it until after the adjuster leaves. Yes, the flush will be done. I do have a 5 speed transmission so I'm assuming to change the TCM anyway, right?

I'll keep you posted.

Thank you,


07-06-2009, 09:23 PM
Hi Rutech,
Let me know your thoughts here.
The adjuster did his thing this morning giving me the estimate. I was quite surprised that he came up with a very low estimate. It seemed he was more experienced with auto collisions estimates than a flood car estimates. He said he never did a flooded car estimate before.
His estimate came to $1,625! Wow! I don’t need to go into all the details but this guy called a used auto parts shop the next town over for an estimate for the ECM. ??? They sit in their car with a cell phone and laptop and use the online yellow pages to lookup prices. The other part of the estimate was including the 1 towing charge and jump, 4 new speakers and the detailing for cleaning the seats etc. what a joke. I guess the insurance companies are tight these days.
It’s obvious the cost is going a lot higher than then that. I do have a 1 G deductable so that estimate is his estimate will only give me $626 to play with.
So what I decided to do was have it towed to the Subaru dealer that I originally bought the Baja. I talked to the service manager and I told him to make sure he tested everything from top to bottom. I mentioned the fluids along with the flushing etc. I think once they plug in the new ECM, more issues might surface.
I think it was the best move on my part to get the best bang for the buck by bringing it to a Subaru dealer!! The service Mgr will give me a call and at that time I ‘ll make sure he gets that car back like new.
Al I can lose out of all this is 1 Grand and it gets back my Baja back to normal with new parts. I miss the car.
What do you think?
Thanks for your help,

07-08-2009, 12:58 AM
Hey there, I can't believe that is all the insurance would cover. Seems very low to me but what do I know, I am just a dumb mechanic lol. I think you did right taking it to the dealer. It may cost a bid more but with a dealer you know it will be done right. Man that is crazy how they did the estimate, you should have had them look up the dealer number on the yellow pages instead of a place where you may or may not get a part that works. Pretty crazy. You may be right about other things coming up when the new ecm is installed too, it is very hard to tell what water will do to electronics. I will say that if a part is going to hold up, it will be a subaru part. I don't blame you for missing the car either, once you drive a subaru you will never go back to anything else lol. Hey good luck with the dealer, thanks for keeping me updated and please keep it up. I am looking forward to what the dealer has to say about the whole thing. You have a great day and look forward to taking with you again.

07-08-2009, 01:09 AM
Oh yeah, is that a five speed auto or manual???? If it is a manual than a simple drain and fill will be ok, if it is an auto than you need to do the flush, sorry, I should have asked you that question long before giving you advise.

07-08-2009, 08:20 AM
The dealer called me yesterday and he just ordered a new ECM and will be in a few days.

The dealer was also amazed about the low estimate but then again, I have a 1G ded and whatever the dealer charges is OK with me because the INS pays the balance for parts and labor.

He's working closely with the insurance company and they said to start with a new ECM and take the diagnosis from there. Like you said, there could be other issues to come.

However, according to the service man, he said depending on the amount of other issues popping up from the ECM, the INS CO. might not move forward with the additional repairs due to future problems like rusted wires etc and decide total the car. I don't want that to happen but it's a possibility.

I"ll keep you posted.

07-09-2009, 05:22 PM
Cool man, I hope they don't total it either, thanks for the update.

07-11-2009, 05:49 PM
Hi Rutech,

Found out today that when they put in the new ECM, the subara Baja started up. However, it was giving more error codes and the transmission was making a noise.

who knows if the dealer is trying to take advantage of this situation. The Insurance adjusting is going to the dealing on Monday.

It could be considered totaled.

I hope not.

A question for you:

IF the insurance company considers it totaled, do you get the money and the damage car back? I want that car back. I thought I would ask.

I would think you would get it back and decide if you want to take the insurance money and decide to repair it.


07-12-2009, 11:47 AM
Thats not good, I hope the dealer is not trying to take advantage of the situation, I would hope not but seems like you can never really know these days. Do you know what codes came up??? When the car was towed, was it towed on a flatbed truck or was it towed with two wheels on the ground??? I hope it was on a flatbed truck!!! As for the insurance question, I am not positive but I think if they total it, they will give you approx. book value for the car but they take the car. Most of them then go to an auction where people buy and fix them depending on the damage that was done. You may be able to get the max amount they will give you to fix the car and keep it but it won't be as much as if they took the car. I am pretty sure that is the way it works but like I said I am not positive. Get back to me if you get a chance about the codes and the towing question, maybe I can kinda confirm what the dealer is saying to be true or if it is starting to sound a little fishy.

07-13-2009, 08:24 AM
Thanks Rutech.

It was towed on flatbed trucks for both trips. I'll try and get the codes when I talk to the adjuster. Hopefully I'll hear something today and its good news.

I think you might be right with a car being totaled. I have to ask the adjuster the question because we do own the car not the bank. We have the title so I'm wondering if that makes a difference. I would consider taking the car along with some cash and see if I can fix it but if they can do the job and make like new, that would be nice.

I think something fishy is going on. "They said the transmission is making a noise? You would think they should have at least checked the Trans and the diff first before starting the car. ??

I'll keep you posted

07-13-2009, 08:01 PM
Yeah, if I was working on a car that had been in a flood I would have checked the tranny to see if the fluid level was high if it was a manual. If it is an auto then you have to start the vehilce to check the fluid level, in which case if there was any question about it they should have drained some of the fluid out to see if there was water in it before it was started. As for the diffs, it won't matter just by starting it but you definately don't want to drive it any with water in them so that part is ok unless they took it for a test drive. Man, sounds like a bit of a mess unfolding there. Good luck with the adjuster, but if the dealer is saying that the tranny is shot now I can almost guarantee they will consider it totalled. That would suck. You may be able to find a tranny out of a wreaking yard for fairly cheap if that is the case. I hate to say it but if the tranny is shot I don't think it was the flood that caused the damage, but it all depends on if it is a manual or auto. Well thanks for the update and good luck, sounds like you are going to need it.

07-14-2009, 08:16 AM
Your right I need all the luck now.

The baja is Manual. This is crazy! Everything ran beautiful before this happend.

Thanks for your insight and I'll keep you posted.


07-17-2009, 05:02 PM
Hey Rutech,

I wanted to bring you up to date. They decided to total the Baja. Too bad. I could have kept. It drove OK according to the Adjuster who took it for a test run but they thought there would be many problems to come.

I could have worked on the BAJA but I would need to get it inspected at the dmv due to being a flood car. That would be hard to get by inspection.

THey said due to the water being mixed with sewer water and possible salt water due to being close to the ocean they had to total the car.

If I kept the car I would have only got 2,600 - the ded = $1,600 to pay for the ECM that was put in.

They are giving me $ 10,300 after they minus the Ded. We need to clear the car tomorrow of any belonging and remove the tags. Very sad.

The GOOD note is: We are getting a new Subaru. We are starting to look now and decide what kind. We don't want to buy a used BAJA. Who knows how previous owners took care of their cars. We want to start from scratch.

We'll miss the BAJA becasue they don't make them anymore and can't buy another. Now we have to decide what KIND.

Thanks for all your help!!


07-17-2009, 10:39 PM
Bummer man, sorry to hear that. Well it might be for the best in the long run though and we gave it hell didn't we lol. Well if you are looking for a brand new car, check out the 2010 legacy and outbacks, they are pretty sweet and a trip to drive with the new transmission they have in them, not to mention the best MPG of all the new subies. I like them, and they look pretty good with the new body style, and they are bigger, lots more room in the back seat than before. Well RIP beloved Baja and good luck with your search for a new one. If you get a chance send me a pic of the new one when you get it. Good luck and have a great day.

07-18-2009, 09:28 AM
Hi Rutech,

Good news I think! Who knows if I can pull this off.

I did a 360 here. Iím hoping I can do this without getting flak from the insurance company. I would appreciate your thoughts after reading this.

After I sent the last thread out, the wife and I had a good discussion about what if we kept our Baja. We decided to keep it!!! We are hoping to get this back from the dealer today. However, we will get a new Subaru but this will buy us time to shop by having our Baja back.

Bill the adjuster took it for a ride on Wednesday and said it ran wonderful then the Thursday he calls us back and says after talking with his supervisor(s) they are going to total it because problems might come up the future. That bothered me.

If we don't accepted their offer and keep the car, they will give me 2,600 and I could keep the car with it label the car as ďSalvageĒ and as I said, we have to get it inspected via the DMV before you can drive it again. I really donít want to go through this process.

If we accept their offer of totaling the Baja they would take the car and give me $10,300.

With that being said, Iím not going to let the insurance company auction off a good running car and have the buyer get the benefit of the doubt.

I donít know how the insurance works but I might have to reject the entire claim and return all the money and pay 100% out of pocket. I think I have that right to cancel my claim.

Keep in mind, when the first adjuster came over 2 weeks ago and did an estimate, I got a check in the mail 2 days later for $650 minus the 1G deductable. That estimate was for repairs. The question is: Can I keep this money or do I have to return it to the insurance company? I'll find out soon enough.

If I can keep the $650 I can put it towards the new ECM, tow charge and the daily storage charge for keeping the car in the lot and pay for the rest of the expenses out of our pocket.

I think the insurance company might want the money back but donít know yet by going this route but at least my Baja wonít be labeled as ďSALVAGEĒ and I can drive the Baja immediatly as is.

Iím pretty sure I have the right not to use the insurance and pay out of pocket so I can finish getting our Baja back to normal. The only thing is that the ďAIR BAGĒ light stays on due to having to replace the module that was under water.

I called the dealer this morning asking them for the repair amount etc so I can pick up my car today and they said they didnít have all the information because service man that managed the repairs was not in. They said to call back Monday. I said NO NO. I waited 3 weeks. I told them to gather the BAJA repair history one way or another and get ready for me to pick up the Baja today. They said it was more complicated then you think. So Iím waiting for the call. By right you would think they have to give me my car back today but might not. I got a feeling they won't call back today.

The saga continues so I might still need your help with things.
Does this make sense? Itís tough to part with our Baja.


07-18-2009, 11:11 AM
All right man, glad to hear that. I really have no idea what the insurance can or will do. They seem to have a mind of there own and do things with no real ryme or reasone so just have to wait and see on that one. I have a feeling the problem you are running into with the dealer at this point is that they can't legally let the baja go with the air bag light on. If they release the car to you knowing that the light is on and you get in a wreck, and the air bags don't deploy and you get injured or killed because of it, they could be held responsible because they let a vehicle go that they knew the air bags would not work. Then you get into law suites and all that good stuff. I am guessing that is the complitation they are talking about. You may have to have them replace the air bag module first. You may be able to sign a waver that states that you are aware of the air bag problems and that would make them not liable if something did happen, then they could release the vehicle. Well thats about all I can think of at the moment so once again keep me posted and if I think of anything else I will let you know.

07-18-2009, 04:16 PM
Hey Rutech!!

Just got the Baja back and to my house!!! The wife drove it home being she dirves it the most. It runs good. Electrical looks good. As we know they replaced the ECM.

No airbag light so that must be OK but the "check engine" light turned on at about 15 mile but ran smooth. The clutch pedel is OK. Shifting is OK.

Engine is idling OK. I removed the plugs and made sure there was no water etc. Oil looks good but I'll do a change tomorrow.

Here I go.. How do I check the codes etc. The dealer service man just told me like they all would that your going to lots of problems in the future and of course would not give me any codes or details. I hope I can resolve the issues and prevent any in the future.

Rutech, how can I start to make sure this baby is in order with parts?

Thanks for you help here.


07-18-2009, 04:25 PM

I just notice while the car is running and I gradually press in the clutch it makes a slight hissing noise. It never did that before. What could that be? Again it shifts OK.


07-18-2009, 04:55 PM

The engine light doesn't go on when the engine cools off. Just want to keep a listen of issues.


07-18-2009, 06:12 PM
Ok, well glad it runs good, that is a good start. You may want to invest in a OBD2 code reader. You can get them at your local parts store for around fifty bucks or so. It will definately come in handy. That will give you a reall good handle on the check engine light when it comes on and at least head you in the right direction. I hissing sound when you start to push in on the clutch could be the throw out bearing going bad, maybe it is getting rusty from the water. I could be that you have some rust and crap built up on your clutch and you are hearing the clutch disc spinning on the crapy surface. If it is rust on your clutch the noise should go away after a few days of driving it. Oh yeah, have you checked your fluid in the transmission and the rear diff for water yet??? If not do that as soon as possible, maybe even before you change your engine oil. Once again you are going to need a code reader to find out what the check engine light is coming on for and then we can address that issue. I will do some research and see if there is a way to get the codes without a reader but I am almost positive you can't on that car. I will let you know if I find anything out though. Check your tranny fluid and rear diff fluid asap if you didn't have the dealer change them when it was in. Talk with you later.

07-18-2009, 06:16 PM
Yeah I just looked an you can't get the codes unless you have a code reader or a scan tool. A code reader does not give you as much information but it is much much cheaper so I would recommend the code reader.

07-18-2009, 06:24 PM
Ok, I just found the exact same code reader that I personally use for quick code reading at work on ebay for fifty bucks shipped, it works really well. There are many differant ones on there as well ranging from $30-$70, so just depends on which one you want to go with. Like I said, I am happy with mine and know its a good one so if you want to check it out go to ebay motors, parts and accessories and look up launch CReader4 or I can email you with the link or you can go check them all out and decide for yourself. Or like I said before you can do down to the local parts store and they sell them as well if you don't want to wait for the shipping. Good luck.