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Hydrolock is possible.

Old 07-17-2013, 10:25 PM
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Hydrolock is possible.

Hello all,

From some research I have been doing over 5 years of owning my RX8, the random question among rotary enthusiasts seems to pop up more often than I would have thought about whether or not a rotary engine can be hydrolocked. I am here to tell you that it is possible. Because, unfortunately, I have achieved it.

What the main conversation seems to be about rotary hydrolocking is that apex seals are spring loaded so, unlike a piston engine, they can't seize to the chamber. While this is to an extent true, which I will get back to later, the issue with hydrolocking a rotary is the stationary gears. If water gets involved with them.. toast. But not necessarily...

My story:
My 8 had 164,320 miles on it. Running great, and was dead set on hitting 200k miles. Mods that have an affect: AEM cold air (yes I had the water sock on) and Eibach lowering springs. Driving through a torrential rain storm for 25 mins I pull into my work's parking lot. Which is flooded. I drive around back and come in from the opposite side (Gigitty) because there is less water build up from that way. Going about 7mph I turn to pull into my parking space.. and she dies.
At first I thought it was something electrical because when I turned the key again my fuel pump didn't turn on. It sat for the hours I worked and hours I spent staring and thinking about it.
I tried turning the motor manually with an open end wrench and.. nothing.. confirming my worst fear. I then took a socket with a rather long piece of pipe, and got the engine to turn.
Step two:
Ok, the motor turns, it's free to do it's thing. Kinda
There's still nothing short of what has to be an extraordinary amount of water in the motor. True story. I removed the plugs, disconnected the e-shaft sensor, pulled the fuel pump fuse.. cranked and cranked. Watched fuel/water/oil mist rise up through my windshield. Plugs back in. Everything connected. No start..
I continued on in that fashion for 10 hours.. yes.. 10 hours. I even tried having it pull started and droping the clutch once. What iI had noticed throuhout that time.. is the slow decline of my compression from my 2nd rotor. I tried seafoaming everywhere, even straight through the spark plug holes, to try and clean out stuff, hoping the apex seals might just be stuck :/
Throughout the hours though I knew my efforts were in vane when I could no longer hear the air from my 2nd rotor when trying to clear it out.
My advise:
If you have any suspicion, pull the plugs. Don't let them foul up, unless you have another set (I went through 4.) Let it sit with the plugs out, oil filler cap off, intake filter off, and intake manifold nipples off. It sat for 8 hours like that and sounded the best it had trying to start.(btw I didn't factor in those 8hrs of trying to get her started into the total time.)
I can't say anymore about this. Still a sore subject being only two days ago. I will respond to any questions as soon as I can because I know I've probably been vague on some points.
Just let me know. It took me a long time to type this on my phone, so I'm sorry for being brief.

Last edited by tablesRX8; 07-17-2013 at 10:32 PM. Reason: phones suck for posting.
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Old 07-17-2013, 10:46 PM
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Interesting on the locking of the engine in place. I don't disbelieve you, though I'm curious if it was really water locking it or a broken apex seal that got wedged.

If you have comprehensive coverage through insurance, this would be covered.

Several others with low intake pickup points and deeper water have cracked the engine block instead, when the water wouldn't compress and the inertia from the car in gear rolling forward inexorably demanded that it compress. Since you didn't have coolant and oil pouring from the iron or housing, you probably didn't do that.
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Old 07-18-2013, 07:03 AM
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Originally Posted by RIWWP View Post
Interesting on the locking of the engine in place. I don't disbelieve you, though I'm curious if it was really water locking it or a broken apex seal that got wedged.

If you have comprehensive coverage through insurance, this would be covered.

Several others with low intake pickup points and deeper water have cracked the engine block instead, when the water wouldn't compress and the inertia from the car in gear rolling forward inexorably demanded that it compress. Since you didn't have coolant and oil pouring from the iron or housing, you probably didn't do that.
When I got the engine free I still compression in both rotors. That's the only reason I tried saving her.
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Old 05-11-2017, 01:44 PM
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Ok I've read about water lock posts. I have the plugs out. did try pull start. to no avail. It still will not turn. What happened? Well I was driving and traffic stopped when it started to hail and rain. I was stuck there with no place to go. Trucks going by were really making waves, enough to move the car. I've had nothing since. I've replaced the starter because it had dirt and weeds in and around it. It has been sitting for two days with the plugs out, fresh battery and still will not turn over. Car is totally stock. No mods but stage one clutch. Nothing else.
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Old 05-11-2017, 01:46 PM
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with a breaker bar on the center ess bolt (19mm) iirc can you spin the engine?
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Old 05-15-2017, 06:45 AM
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Originally Posted by 200.mph View Post
with a breaker bar on the center ess bolt (19mm) iirc can you spin the engine?
Well, you can't compress a liquid, so either there was still some air left. If it's hydrolocked you just need to turn it in the direction that is possible.
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Old 05-15-2017, 10:08 AM
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We had a local guy drive over rail road tracks in a huge storm right into 4 ft of water. His engine seized, we could not turn it over with a breaker bar. Well we probably could have, but it was stuck for sure. We never got to tear it apart, the dealer just replaced the engine with a reman and his car insurance covered it.
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Old 09-21-2018, 06:37 PM
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Hydrolocked?

So was anyone able to get it up and running again? Or did you guys just buy new engine? Rebuild? Having same problem. Error code cylinder 2 misfire, Error code MAF high voltage. Lost power, pulled over on aode of road. Let sit over night. Changed oil, new oil filter. (Just changed coils, wire set and plugs last month.)(90k miles) so when i pulled spark plugs there was water on them. Sprayed with carb cleaner. Cleaned maf sensor. Pull ECC sensor. Tried to start engine with plugs pulled. Starter works, engine didnt start. Almost killed battery. Didnt have any water smoke or anything coming up that i could see. I was alone and in driver seat. Engine turns over with 19mm and small breaker bar. Had it towed home. The plugs didnt look to good, so buddu is bringing over torch tomorrow, will clean em up and see how they are. Also had water in a wire set, so sprayed that with maf sensor cleaner (evaporates super fast). Going to test the coils tomorrow too if i can get my hands on the tool. Its all jumbled but that it. Any advice on where to go next would be great. I found a mechanic, but wants to charge 3k to rebuild engine. I paid 3k for the whole car.
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Old 02-18-2019, 04:16 PM
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Possible Hydrolocked engine ( Automatic 2004 4port)

Yesterday I was driving in rainy weather and I drove by a flooded area. My car engine stopped turning (rotary engine/Automatic) and I had to get towed home. I checked my starter, spark plugs, battery, and oil levels they all seem fine. My intake air filter was soaked but I'm sure only a minimal amount of water made it through the throttle body since the oil in my dipstick looks ok with minimal yellow foam. It really seems like the starter is having trouble turning the flywheel. I crossed the puddle at about 5-10mph at under 3k rpm.. is it possible to manually crank the main pulley on an automatic to see if my engine is seized?
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Old 02-18-2019, 06:49 PM
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Liquids are pretty much considered incompressible, so even if you can get enough force to turn it without removing the spark plugs, you will likely damage your seals or rotor, just like how a piston-engined car will have bent pistons from hydro-locking. If you already tried this and there is some water in the engine, not much else I can suggest other than an engine replacement.

Remove your spark plugs, pull the fuel pump fuse, and then crank as you press the gas pedal all the way to the floor to see any water jets out.

Is your starter turning at all? Could also be an electrical issue as well.
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Old 02-18-2019, 06:56 PM
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What exactly happens when you try to start? Sounds?
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Old 02-18-2019, 07:08 PM
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Originally Posted by UnknownJinX View Post
Liquids are pretty much considered incompressible, so even if you can get enough force to turn it without removing the spark plugs, you will likely damage your seals or rotor, just like how a piston-engined car will have bent pistons from hydro-locking. If you already tried this and there is some water in the engine, not much else I can suggest other than an engine replacement.

Remove your spark plugs, pull the fuel pump fuse, and then crank as you press the gas pedal all the way to the floor to see any water jets out.

Is your starter turning at all? Could also be an electrical issue as well.
My starter works at least thats what I think. I hooked it up to a battery with jumper cables and it spins and also pops out.
here is a video of exactly what it sounds like when I try to turn it on. Also my dsc and traction lights are on.

https://youtu.be/to6BbkTKfJo
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Old 02-18-2019, 07:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Loki View Post
What exactly happens when you try to start? Sounds?
This is the exact sound it makes when I try to start the engine look at this youtube video. The engine wont turn because I can hear the starter engaging but it wont turn the flywheel.

https://youtu.be/to6BbkTKfJo
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Old 02-18-2019, 08:26 PM
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As mentioned, if you think there is water in the engine, pull the spark plugs before cranking.

If you get it to crank somehow without pulling them, say goodbye to your seals.

If you don't get it to crank and keep doing this, you are stalling your starter motor and can burn it out.

Neither are great.

It's all just us guessing and speculating until you try this first.
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Old 02-18-2019, 09:50 PM
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Originally Posted by UnknownJinX View Post
As mentioned, if you think there is water in the engine, pull the spark plugs before cranking.

If you get it to crank somehow without pulling them, say goodbye to your seals.

If you don't get it to crank and keep doing this, you are stalling your starter motor and can burn it out.

Neither are great.

It's all just us guessing and speculating until you try this first.
That is my problem I can't even crank it by hand I removed my spark plugs and they looked dry I did this the day after my car shut down after driving through the water. All spark plug looked ok except for one of the Leading plugs that looked just a little wet. My car is an automatic what is the process to try and crank it manually if even possible? I will take my starter to get it checked at my local AutoZone hopefully it is weak and that's my problem..
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Old 02-18-2019, 09:58 PM
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Not as familiar with automatics, but in Park the engine isn't connected to the wheels, so you should just be able to turn it by the main pulley nut, with a breaker bar? It shouldn't be that difficult with the plugs out.
Do the plugs look like the have any metal shrapnel on them?

Last edited by Loki; 02-18-2019 at 10:01 PM.
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Old 02-19-2019, 09:25 AM
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It honestly takes a LOT to hydro lock a rotary. You'd have to suck in a significant amount of water... Like 9k's example... driving through a 4in puddle with a low mounted CAI... probably. I would question driving any car into that kind of water though. I would say this would be impossible to do in normal conditions with say a water sock on a CAI. Even without the sock, it would take a LOT of water. I've had mine shut down from a large puddle. De-flooded and moved on. I've done this in my old RX7 and the 8.
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Old 02-19-2019, 03:01 PM
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Originally Posted by reddozen View Post
It honestly takes a LOT to hydro lock a rotary. You'd have to suck in a significant amount of water... Like 9k's example... driving through a 4in puddle with a low mounted CAI... probably. I would question driving any car into that kind of water though. I would say this would be impossible to do in normal conditions with say a water sock on a CAI. Even without the sock, it would take a LOT of water. I've had mine shut down from a large puddle. De-flooded and moved on. I've done this in my old RX7 and the 8.
Yes I agree It took about 3-4 seconds to pass through the highest part of the flooded area but still my air filter was soaked. I will try to crank the engine by hand while the Trans is on Parked with sparks out. Also I purchased a endoscope to see whats going on inside the rotor chambers through the spark plug holes.
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Old 02-20-2019, 05:17 PM
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Update on water damage

I was able to see Inside my rotor chambers and upper intake manifold with an endoscope camera there is no water inside my motor.. but still I am having trouble manually cranking the engine I was told to try and crank the main puley while on Park or Neutral how hard is it to crank it? Again this is an Automatic Transmission. I also took my starter to get it tested at AutoZone and it passed all the tests . Any suggestions
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Old 02-20-2019, 05:39 PM
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A couple guys already told you to crank the main shaft (ESS) bolt with the spark plugs removed. try that with a big breaker bar and report back.
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Old 02-20-2019, 06:07 PM
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Originally Posted by ShellDude View Post
A couple guys already told you to crank the main shaft (ESS) bolt with the spark plugs removed. try that with a big breaker bar and report back.
I got the engine to turn by hand finally I was able to see inside the other chamber and found this.

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Old 02-20-2019, 06:10 PM
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doh! that sucks dude
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Old 02-20-2019, 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by ShellDude View Post
doh! that sucks dude
looks like an apex seal right?
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Old 02-20-2019, 06:13 PM
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yup.... looks ALOT like a seal
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Old 02-20-2019, 06:15 PM
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do you have a higher resolution image? I dunno if it is just lighting but there are some proportions that make it look slightly different than a seal.

Is that a point / lip at the end? Towards the middle it looks like there is more to it than just a concave sliver of metal.

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