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What Is Engine Hydrolocking Explained

Vehicles are complicated machines made up of several sophisticated parts that work in unison to make everything work. But a smooth ride isn’t always the reality. Sometimes, crucial components undergo a catastrophic failure that can render your vehicle useless. Hydrolocking is one such failure, and here’s everything you need to know about it.

What is Engine Hydrolocking?

Hydrolocking: Engine’s Biggest Enemy

Amongst some of the most damaging failures onboard a vehicle, Engine Hydrolocking occurs when an engine either ceases to operate or suffers a substantial amount of damage due to the ingress of water greater than the volume of the cylinder enters into the engine.

It is common knowledge that an internal combustion engine is designed to deal with the compression of air. Water on the other hand is a substance that cannot be compressed without exerting a huge pressure, which only manages to barely budge the water. Thus, in an unfortunate circumstance, where water enters the engine cylinders, the rotating crankshaft forces the pistons in an upward direction in an attempt to compress the fluid. But since the reaction force of the water is larger than the engine can cope with leading to a seizure of the engine functioning leading to a halt. In other circumstances, the ingress of water may also lead to the engine simply idling instead of rotating. Both these circumstances are characterized as Hydrostatic locking or Hydrolocking.

Also Read Front, Mid And Rear Mounted Engines In Cars Explained!

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What happens when an Engine Hydrolock?

What happens in Hydrolocking

When water fills the combustion chamber, the rotation of the crankshaft will force the pistons upwards to try and compress the fluid. With the reaction force from the water being larger than the maximum stress the engine components can cope with, something has to give. If the engine is of small capacity and therefore doesn’t generate much force during reciprocation, the motor may simply seize up, grinding to a halt. This can also be the case if hydrolock occurs when an engine is simply idling rather than rotating at any great speed.

Catastrophic Damage of Hydrolocking

However, the most shattering damage occurs when a large volume of water suddenly ingresses the cylinder, especially of a much powerful engine that is running at a great speed/maximum potential. In such cases, the force of the reaction breaks away internal components especially the connecting rods, leading to a complete engine failure that is often irreparable, leading to your beloved vehicle being scrapped away.

What Causes an Engine to Hydrolock?

Flood Damage during Monsoon
Never Drive Over High Waters

Simply put, one of the most recurrent causes of Hydrolocking is driving through high waters. While all vehicles have vents to eradicate large volumes of water near the intake system, driving through high waters can lead to high volumes of water surging up the intake, leading to water entering the inlet manifold. From there starts an irreversible process of damage, with each revolution of the engine being more fatal than the previous one. Thus whenever you see high waters, take a moment to judge whether or not your vehicle is capable to take on such difficult terrain. Do not try to be a hero driving over high waters thinking you will sail through.

So this was all you needed to know about Hydrolocking. Stay pinned to the GoMechanic blog for everything automotive.

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Sankul Nagpal
Penultimate student of Law presiding over the courts of creativity

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