Flooded Mitsubishi i-MiEV

by Ben N on February 17, 2013


“You did WHAT?!?!?”

“I bought a flood damaged Mitsubishi electric car, sight-unseen, through an on-line auto auction.”  As my wife hurled a cast-iron frying pan towards my face, I was glad that this was only a FICTIONAL conversation that was going on completely inside my head.

In truth, she’s actually been very supportive. While some of my EV adventures seem kinda out there, they have usually turned out pretty well for me.* So, by now, you may have already heard that I bought the car. Well, the other day, it showed up in my driveway, about four days EARLIER than I was expecting it. Which would be a nice thing, except that I wasn’t ready! I didn’t have garage space cleared out, and I had no way of MOVING a disabled vehicle, especially one that was in park and marked as completely inoperable! That, and I was working a gig, and couldn’t be home to help unload.

Fortunately, the delivery driver made it pretty easy for me. I already had a nice clear shot to the garage and he was smart enough to disconnect the shift linkage to the transmission, manually put it in neutral, release the handbrake, and roll it off the truck to right in front of my garage.

When I got home from work, it was still light out, so my first view of the car was as I pulled into my driveway. And I broke out laughing.

It’s a funny car. Yeah, OK, maybe funny-looking. Earlier in the day, my wife texted me “The car is cute, so is the driver.” And while I can’t comment on the physical attraction of this particular truck driver, yes, the car is cute. Having an EV Grin before even setting foot into the car seems like a good start to this project.

Of course I wanted to start poking at the car right away and see if I could get a sense of how much water damage there really was, and how reasonable it would be to repair this car for use, or see if it was only destined to strip for parts. At first glance, the car looks to be in good shape! With the exception of a scuff on the front bumper, the exterior looks good. The interior was in perfect condition as well…. other than being damp!

The back seat was actually pretty wet still. Foam rubber soaks up water as well as any sponge. After getting my hand all wet from leaning on the back seat, I licked it. (My hand, not the seat.) Salty. Dang! Sure enough it wasn’t just water damaged…. it was salt-water damaged.

Pretzels, popcorn, peanuts, the rim of a margarita glass. All of these things are good salty, but not an electric car!

When I headed back inside the house, my wife mentioned that there was some paperwork left by the driver. Sure enough, a nice big envelope that included the title. The title includes information on the previous owner.

The good news is that the previous owner was indeed a Mitsubishi dealership…..

The bad news is that it was the dealer on Staten Island!

OH NO! Sure enough. Worst case scenario. Not just storm damaged. Super Storm Sandy Damaged! Doh!

The next day, I got to look at the car in a little more detail. It took a bit to figure out how to open the hood. Turns out the release is a tiny black latch under the far corner of the PASSENGER-side dashboard. (It took me a while to realize that MOST of these cars are right-hand drive, and there are a number of quirks left-over from that.) Looking under the hood, things didn’t look that bad! The 12V battery was completely dead, but I removed it, rigged it in parallel with a good battery, and charged it, and it seemed to take a charge just fine. Other than some sediment under the hood, everything looked pretty brand-new!

Inside the car, I wanted to get at the motor, transmission, and inverter, and since it’s a rear-wheel-drive car, those are accessed through the rear hatch. Which only opens electrically…. On a dead electric car….

I double and triple-checked, and there’s no manual release from the inside for opening the hatch. Apparently it’s not a requirement for hatchback vehicles. Nope, there was no way to open the back and get access to the drivetrain without electrically powering the back of the vehicle.

Hmmm. What to do. A little web forum searching seemed to indicate most people thought it would be fine to briefly power just the 12V system. (I had already removed the high-voltage battery pack service plug, but I had to take out the driver’s seat to do that!) The other trick was I know latches get sticky sometimes, and didn’t know if there was any corrosion on the latch or not. So, I slipped a flat prybar (wrapped with cloth, to prevent scratching the body) under the hatch, and hung a small weight from its handle. In the front of the car, I jumpered 12V of power to the system with the key in the accessory position – ‘POP’ – in a good way, the hatch popping open, (not the “POP!!@#!$$” of magic smoke being let out!) The weighted prybar did it’s job opening the hatch by an inch or so after the latch released.

With access to the back, I could remove the cover over the drivetrain. While the sound-deadening foam was wet, other than a layer of dirt on the motor and inverter, it really looks fairly decent. These components are all really outside the vehicle, so they are designed to handle the weather, although perhaps not Atlantic Hurricanes. In what little technical info I’ve found so far on these cars, there are several references to “completely waterproof” when talking about the motor and inverter. On the other hand, I’ve also found “Air-Cooled Main Battery Pack” referred to as well!!!! Where air can get, water can get! Yipes!

I had also removed the front seat to get at the service plug, and then the back seat to make it easier to get to the driveline (and to dry it out!) Under the back seat are two metal covers. When I opened the first, it looked AWEFUL! Still water in there. Brand new, still in plastic, were a tire repair patch kit, and an air compressor. My heart sank a bit as I poured filthy water out of the air compressor!

Removing the other panel revealed the EV-ECU and Battery-ECU. Unlike the driveline, these are NOT designed to face the elements, and under the back seat was the one really wet spot in the car. So far, the worst of the worst has been seeing that these crucial components were in the maximum wet zone!

So far, I’ve disconnected a handful of electrical connectors, which seem to be a mixed bag. A few connectors have o-rings in them, and there is ZERO corrosion on those connections. However, the standard connectors, which are just plastic and wire, have various degrees of corrosion to them.

I also removed the interior panel on one of the rear doors, just to see what it looked like INSIDE one of the body panels. Truthfully, it looked fine. It’s kind of odd where there is or isn’t any corrosion. The entire body of the car is perfect! Anywhere there was factory finish paint is just fine. Where there is corrosion is in places like the sliding mechanism under the seat. Those are more or less bare metal and have a surprising amount of rust. Any other parts that are plastic, fiberglass or painted metal just need a good wipe-down and some Armor-All!

Still, the big question is the status of the main battery pack. I don’t even yet know how to test its voltage. It’s not like the car came with a Chilton’s manual! I have zero reference material for how do to testing and troubleshooting on this car. All I have to go with is my Harbor-Freight multimeter, my school-of-hard-knocks EV training, and one night-school non-credit Intro to Electricity course!

So far, only one thing is for sure. This will be an adventure. Can I get this car running? I sure would love to! If I can’t, I’ll be stripping it for parts, trying to make up the money I spent buying it.

But sure would be cool to say that not only did I drive an electric car, but that I salvaged it from Davey Jones Locker!

Take care,


PS: Here’s a couple YouTube videos for you if you haven’t seen them yet!

*OK, yeah, except for this one, but that was my dang fault!

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Ben's Refurbished Mitsubishi Miev - Page 11 - Fuel Economy, Hypermiling, EcoModding News and Forum - EcoModder.com
February 17, 2013 at 10:00 am

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