It's Absurd How Much Water Can Get Trapped Inside A Car

Illustration for article titled It's Absurd How Much Water Can Get Trapped Inside A Car

Owners of first-generation Volkswagen Touaregs have been noticing sloshing noises while driving their SUVs, only to find a crap ton of water stuck in their rocker panels. Just watch how much these owners drain from their cars’ side sills.


Search online, and you’ll find a bunch of forum threads about the Volkswagen Touareg’s rocker panels, which apparently have a tendency to act as giant water storage tanks. The common solution among owners is to pull a plug or two from the rockers to let water drain. Just look at how much H20 escapes from YouTuber Chris Harris’s rig:

How water gets into those cavities seems to be a mystery, with some owners guessing that the fluid gets in through some trim on the bottom of the door jamb, with others saying the plugs themselves let the juices in. The Cayenne—built on the same platform—apparently has a similar issue:

Here’s another video of the water works:

The rockers aren’t the only spots that seem to store water; the cowl drains just ahead of the windshield also tend to get clogged by leaves and pine needs, especially when owners regularly park under trees.

According to owners on forums, if those cowl drains aren’t regularly checked for blockage, water can actually enter through the footwell, and potentially compromise interior electronics. Watch at the violent waterfall gush out of this Touareg’s cowl drain, which is located behind the front wheel liner:

The Audi Q7 has a similar setup that can trap what seems like a whole swimming pool worth of water:

Now, obviously, the Q7, Touareg and Cayenne aren’t the only cars with a tendency to trap water, even if the number of complaints on forums does seem a bit high. No, pretty much any car’s cowl and sunroof drains can succumb to pine needles, and AC evaporator drain hoses can also get clogged with road debris, sending water dribbling onto floorboards. Eric The Car Guy describes a number of different ways a car can trap or leak water in the video below:

So while it’s not surprising that a car’s drainage system can clog up, it’s still amazing to see owners drain so much water (five gallons!) out of their rocker panels.

Sr. Tech Editor, Jalopnik. Owner of far too many Jeeps (Including a Jeep Comanche). Follow my instagram (@davidntracy). Always interested in hearing from engineers—email me.



I can vouch for how much water can get trapped inside a car. . .

Last Thursday I almost got hit by a runaway truck. I had my company car parked at an account and was outside on the passenger side, leaning in to get something from the passenger seat. I heard someone shouting, but it did not register that he was shouting at me. I just happened to stand up and turn around to go back into the account when I saw his pickup truck rolling right at me. It had been parked uphill from me and apparently slipped out of Park. I stepped out of the way just in time and the truck slammed into my passenger door, putting a pretty good dent into it. Still driveable, but I am waiting to get the door replaced.

I told you that story to tell you this story.

Today, I took my car through the car wash, and as soon as the spray hit the passenger side, water started pouring in. Apparently I am getting a less than perfect door deal after the accident. But of course, when something like that happens, panic sets in and I assumed that the window was not all the way up. So I tried to roll it up, and then found out that there must be some electronic issues with the door as well, because it reversed and went down instead.

Let us just say that having the inside of your car soaked is nothing compared to taking a pressure washer blast in the face. And you would be amazed at how much water can enter a vehicle in a matter of seconds while you wait for the window to roll back up.

On the plus side, the inside of my windshield is cleaner than it has ever been. . .