Puddle-Related Power Failure?
November 5, 2008 8:26 PM   Subscribe

What happened to my car? What did I do when I drove through that puddle? [1999 Ford Taurus]

Today I pulled into a Safeway parking lot and my power steering and brakes failed (the dash lights and headlights dimmed as well). This went away about 15 seconds later. I stopped the car, re-started, drove around in the parking lot a bit, then left. I drove maybe another half hour tonight and the car has run fine.

After leaving the lot, it occurred to me that I drove through a 6" deep puddle on my way in. Is this what caused the temporary loss of power?

Either way, is it something I need to be concerned about?
posted by rossination to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total)
Sounds like an electrical problem - the water from the puddle probably caused a temporary short.
posted by exogenous at 8:32 PM on November 5, 2008

Hmm. I am thinking your fan belt, or belts, got wet and slipped, thereby killing or greatly reducing the mechanical drive for both electrical and hydraulic systems. The braking loss is a bit of a mystery but can perhaps be explained by the brakes--the pads and the braking surfaces--getting physically wet.

Was there a squealing sound after the encounter with the puddle?
posted by bz at 8:33 PM on November 5, 2008

It could be any number of things. I might lean toward vacuum, but then again it could be a belt or a hydraulic system. If you stopped the car and it's fine, then I don't think you need to be concerned. If it happens repeatedly, then yes.
posted by luckypozzo at 9:26 PM on November 5, 2008

Best answer: Your belts got wet. My friend who drives a '98 Taurus had just that problem last spring during mud season and the problem went away when he got the belts properly tensioned.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:58 PM on November 5, 2008

Best answer: You might want to check or have checked the tension of your belts. I'm pretty sure that the Taurus has a belt driven power steering pump and from your description, the most likely cause is that the belts got wet and started slipping. This shouldn't happen enough to notice with a properly tensioned system. If your system is not tensioned properly, you may cause extra wear on the belts and other systems as well.

Also, in the future, be careful driving through puddles at any speed other than extra slow. Not only can you have problems like this, it is also easy to cause electrical problems, or to suck water up the intake and hydrolock the engine, which will almost certainly cause thousands of dollars in damage. I have personally killed an Explorer in this way (and I have no excuse, since I knew the possible outcome.)
posted by no1hatchling at 11:30 PM on November 5, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks all. I'm due for an oil change; I'll take it to my regular mechanic (instead of Jiffy Lube) and have them take a look at the belts while I'm there.
posted by rossination at 1:16 AM on November 6, 2008

Another possibly useless anecdote about 1999 Tauruses: I needed $300 dollars for repairs after driving through a massive puddle in my 1999 Taurus wagon. The dash and AC flickered but things seemed fine at first. But then it just wouldn't start after about a week. Maybe get things checked out before it comes to that?
posted by zeek321 at 2:24 AM on November 6, 2008

Weird things happen with my 1999 Ford Taurus when I drive it through rain puddles. It is like it is easily susceptible to water getting places where it shouldn't.
posted by collocation at 6:26 AM on November 6, 2008

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