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Old 07-19-2012, 05:50 AM   #1
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Water Entry & Electrical Weirdness After 3" of Rain

I have a 2002 Boxster (98K miles) and last night we got a little over 3 inches of rain here in south Georgia. After the rain started to let up, I heard my alarm going off. But it wasn't normal. It would sound for a few seconds then stop for a minute or so, then sound again, then stop, and so on. I went outside turned on the key to shut it up. I noticed that the red light on the dashboard stayed on even after switching on the ignition - it's never done that before.

As soon as I switched it off and got out, the alarm started going off again. So I decided to disconnect the battery and deal with it in the light of day.

This morning I reconnected the battery and red dash light stayed off, so I thought it was resolved. But when I tried to start the engine, I got nothing. All the dash lights come on and the oil monitor does it's thing, but there is no reaction to turning the key to the Start position. No clicks, no nothing. I thought maybe the battery had run down, so I tried jump starting it. No luck.

Shortly after I bought the car, we had another downpour and the next day I found the carpet on the floor behind the passenger seat soaking wet (US spec, driver on the left and passenger on the right). I did some research and learned that there is a drain on either side of the well that the top lowers into. It turns out the drain on the passenger (right side when seated in the car) side was clogged. I cleared and checked the drain on the other side. It was clear, but just to be sure, I poured water into both drains and it drained out nearly as fast as I could pour it in.

So I checked that area again and it was dry. I also checked all the carpet in both trunks and all around the cockpit. Then I found the carpet on the floor behind the driver's seat to be soaked. There was actually standing water in the floorboard! From what I've found researching, the engine computer and/or alarm controller live in that area, which would explain the weirdness. So what's my next move and where could the water have come from?

I soaked up as much of the water as I could with a towel (several towels, actually) and then pushed the car into the garage where I opened everything up and set a fan to blow on the floor behind the seat. Hopefully it will dry out, but I am assuming that I'll have to remove whatever electronic brains are in there to try drying them out. Is it as simple as removing the seat and pulling up the carpet, or is there a specific procedure to access those components?

The best case scenario is that everything dries out and I'm good to go. Worst case is fried electronic brains. If that's the case, what am I looking at to get them working? I'm a fairly handy DIYer and don't think I'll have too much trouble swapping out the controllers - if it's that simple.

Finally, where could the water have come from? Assuming the drain in the well for the top is clear, what are the other possible entry points? I have owned and worked on BMWs for about 15 years and they are notorious from water leaking from inside the doors, so I checked along the bottom edge of the driver's door, but it's dry. There is also no moisture around the firewall or elsewhere around or behind the seat. It all seems to be only on the floor behind the seat. Is there another drain somewhere that I don't know about?

If a computer brain is fried, can it simply be swapped? And what would be a good source for a replacement?
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Old 07-19-2012, 07:13 AM   #2
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Your CLU is shorting out ...

... because of the water.
the Central Locking Unit is responsible for the windows, locks, alarm and immobilizer functions.
It is located under the driver's seat.
Remove the seat.
Pull the unit out of the car and open it.
remove the printed circuit board and immerse it in isopropyl alcohol for about 30 minutes (this displaces any water in the components).
Let the PCB air dry (don't force-dry with a hot hair dryer).
Dry the carpets completely and re-install.
Check the fuse on the CLU to make sure it hasn't blown.
& out of 10 times you can get it working using this technique.
If it's fried, you'll have to get a new one. The CLU can only be programmed once, so get a new one, not a used one.
A dealer or someone with a PST-II ('97-'04) or PIWIS will have to reprogram the keys so the car can start.
You probably have one or both of the drains under the soft top clogged.
Put a garden hose with a nozzle right on the drain hole and spray. This usually cleans out any debris such as leaves, pine needles, etc.
Good luck.
Happy Boxstering,
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Old 07-19-2012, 07:44 AM   #3
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Hey Pedro, thanks for the suggestions! I will try that tonight when I get home from work. Maybe I'll get lucky and that will fix me up.

Thanks again!
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Old 07-19-2012, 08:56 AM   #4
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Been there done that. Luckily have a good friend who is a technician at Hendrick Porsche in NC. I did clean dry and replace fuse and was able to get it runiing but did have widow problems, eventually had to replace it and the keys. Make sure you clear you drains front and rear. Check with you insurance Co. my was covered under comprehensive.
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Old 07-19-2012, 09:33 AM   #5
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Where are the front drains? I haven't been able to find them.
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Old 07-19-2012, 05:48 PM   #6
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I found the front drains near the battery and made sure they are clean.

I pulled the CLU and it was full of water. I opened it up and soaked the PC board in isopropyl alcohol for a good 30 minutes. I'll let it dry overnight and report back what happens when I reinstall it.
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Old 07-20-2012, 04:39 PM   #7
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No luck.

I soaked the PCB in alcohol and then let it air dry for 24 hours. I put it back together and still no start.

Some more info:

When I bought the car, the key remote didn't work, so I have always locked and unlocked it with the key in the door lock. Before this happened, the alarm would "beep" once when I lock the doors.

Now, when I lock it using the key in the door it beeps once with a brief pause, and then emits two more beeps. It does this every time I lock it.

The windows both go up and down fine and the top works. But when I turn the key to start it, nothing happens. I can hear things coming on when I turn the key and the radio and OBC all work.

Am I hosed?
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Old 07-20-2012, 05:25 PM   #8
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one beep indicates something is not locked - frunk, center console. two beeps indicate a fault in the central locking system.

did you check the fuse? i believe there is one on the unit and one in the main fuse box.

i'd say at this point, it's going to have to go to a shop.
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Last edited by tonycarreon; 07-20-2012 at 05:27 PM.
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Old 07-20-2012, 05:29 PM   #9
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Thanks for the info on decoding the beeps. I didn't get an owner's manual with the car, unfortunately.

All fuses are good.
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Old 07-21-2012, 10:03 AM   #10
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Just an additional piece to Pedro's advice from above. He is right that you can only program the alarm system once but you can replace the alarm controller, the ECU and the pill from the ignition key as a second hand set. I recently bought all of the above for $400 on eBay and it was a lot cheaper than replacing the alarm controller with a new one.
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Old 07-21-2012, 12:40 PM   #11
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Good tip, thanks! Maybe I'll be able to find a set.
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Old 07-22-2012, 02:14 PM   #12
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Just so you are aware. Someone listed a brand new alarm ECU (never programmed) for $200 on Rennlist yesterday. I don't think you will do better than that. No affiliation.

Laurie
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Old 07-22-2012, 06:15 PM   #13
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Hey Laurie,

Thanks for the tip! I really appreciate the heads-up. I sent him a message to let him know that I'll take it.

I'm having the car towed to the shop tomorrow to verify that the CLU is dead (not that I have any doubt).
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Old 07-25-2012, 02:12 PM   #14
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UPDATE: I met with the adjuster from my insurance company today and it looks like they are going to pay for the towing to Atlanta (115 miles) and repair. Yay!

The tow truck is going to pick it up tomorrow and take it to the dealer for an official diagnostic. Assuming the problem is what we think it is, they will cover the costs.

I'll update again when I have news on the repair status.

It kinda sucks that it's this much trouble to fix it, but at least it'll be fixed. And it's unlikely that I could have fixed it myself for less than the cost of my deductible.
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Old 07-25-2012, 05:51 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BimmersInGA View Post
UPDATE: I met with the adjuster from my insurance company today and it looks like they are going to pay for the towing to Atlanta (115 miles) and repair. Yay!

The tow truck is going to pick it up tomorrow and take it to the dealer for an official diagnostic. Assuming the problem is what we think it is, they will cover the costs.

I'll update again when I have news on the repair status.

It kinda sucks that it's this much trouble to fix it, but at least it'll be fixed. And it's unlikely that I could have fixed it myself for less than the cost of my deductible.
Good luck with it. I have heard of insurance companies totaling a car for water damage. If they give you any BS, and you need a good independent P-car mechanic in Atlanta to look at it, I would suggest Franz Blam Racing in Tucker. They have done a great job on my 986 and one of my BMW's when I encounter something I don't want to work on myself.

I had a sunroof leak on an older E36 a few years ago, and had to remove the seats and strip out the carpet to get it dry. The padding they use under the BMW carpet is unbelievable at soaking up water and holding it. I hope for your sake the 986 isn't the same stuff.
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Old 07-25-2012, 06:21 PM   #16
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I seriously doubt they will total it over this. But if they do, that's okay with me. I'll just find another one. That's one of the great things about USAA; there is very little BS. They are a great company to deal with. Fortunately, I've only had to deal with them twice in the last 20 years!
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Old 07-25-2012, 07:06 PM   #17
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earlier this year, we had a bad flood in the DC area. my co-worker drove his mercedes through water and it died (the road was flooded, but it was dark and he didn't see the water until he was at the bottom of the hill). he and a friend pushed it partially up the hill for the night. when he came back the water had risen and covered the trunk. car was totaled. but it took out more than the "computer" under the seat.

he was actually glad because it paid off the car and he got a few extra $$ to work on his expedition.
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Old 08-17-2012, 05:27 AM   #18
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UPDATE:

I finally have the car back. Nearly a month after the initial problem, it is back on the road. Even though I still think it was my best option, getting an insurance company involved really slows things down.

The total bill from the dealer was $1680 which includes $960 in labor to remove the seats and all carpeting to dry it out. The rest of the cost was for a new alarm module, key fob, and programming.
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