The worst would be wrecking it, of course. But having dealt with a particularly trying malady over the past fourteen months, I would like to suggest that a wet interior ranks pretty high on the ‘stuff you never want to happen to your car’ list.
The autumn after buying my SEAT Leon, I noticed the passenger footwell was very wet. The problem was traced to perished seals, both on the pollen filter housing, and the doors. I made quick work of repairing the seals, but drying out the car is something I’ve been working at now off and on for nearly fourteen months, and has required disassembling significant portions of the interior.
Winter is the worst time of year to have a wet car, because as soon as temperatures drop below 5ºC or so, all the moisture lingering in the car gets attracted to the inside of the car’s windows. This is a big problem: if the temperature stays above freezing, the windows take an eternity to demist, but worse, when the temperature drops, you get a layer of ice on the inside.
Compounding the problem is the fact that there is no easy way to deal with a wet interior. The insulation and damping material underneath the carpets is very dense, and as a result, can hold a substantial amount of water. In terms of getting it dried out, you have a few options. You could take the whole interior out and lay everything out to dry in the sun or near some radiators or dehumidifiers. Needless to say, if you have ever tried to remove and refit trim pieces, you know that this is not a job for the faint-hearted. Another option would be to hire an industrial dehumidifier and let it sit in the car for a few days. This is weather-dependent, however, as dehumidifiers don’t work well in colder temperatures, and can get expensive. The third option, which has been my method, is to use a wet/dry vacuum. This method involves pulling off a bit of trim, shoving the hose underneath the carpet and damping material, and trying to suck as much water out as you can. My vacuum also has a blower mode, which helps dry it out further once you’ve sucked out what you can. As a method, it works well, but takes time, and requires frequent repositioning of the hose to dry each part of the carpet and insulation.
There are a few reasons why I am still dealing with this fourteen months after I first discovered the problem. First, it is difficult to determine when everything is actually dry. The insulation in particular might feel dry to the touch, but inside might still be wet. In my case, this was true in the driver’s footwell.
Second, this is a slow process, and because I have a life, I can’t sit at home day after day letting the vacuum run. The process is further hampered by the need to use the car regularly. What’s more, if you get a number of wet or snowy days in a row, which has happened a lot this winter, you are continually tracking more moisture into the car every time you open the door and put your wet feet on the carpet.
Third, given the condition of the various seals, I had assumed the moisture had primarily affected the front of the car, and so had initially focused my efforts on the front door seals. Once the weather began to warm up last spring, the problem became less apparent, and I thought I had more or less sorted it out. However, with the onset of this winter, it began to reappear, and as I mentioned above, I’ve located some more moisture in the driver’s side footwells. The rear offside door clearly needs a new seal now too, but frustratingly, the sealant requires the outside temperature to be about 10ºC in order to adhere properly. We haven’t seen those temperatures here for a few months now, and the long-range forecast suggests it will still be some time before we do.
At the risk of jinxing myself, once I get this dry, that should be the end of it. And the next owner better be extremely grateful that I’ve sorted this out for them!
For all the problems cars throw at you, this is without a doubt the most frustrating and, indeed, infuriating thing I’ve ever had to deal with. Honestly, I would not wish this on my worst enemy, and every time I go outside and see the inside all fogged up, I want to kick every door panel in and just give the car away to the next person who walks by. If I ever have find myself with another wet car, I think I’ll just park it on top of a big fire.
In an effort to find silver linings, the car is running great, and continues to be great fun to drive on empty B-roads.
When I can see out the windows, that is.