'Up to Dh50k for a second-hand engine': Repair shops handle influx of cars after floods

Flooding damage in the UAE has left car repair garages with a backlog while other motorists wait anxiously for insurance claims to be approved

Flooded roads near Al Maktoum Airport last week after the heavy storms and rainfall. Antonie Robertson / The National
Powered by automated translation

Car repair garages are being inundated with requests to repair vehicles that were damaged in the floods that hit the UAE last week.

Garage owners told The National they have never seen such a demand for vehicle repairs as that created in the wake of last week's storms and heavy rainfall.

The most serious damage is being done to car engines, with many motorists left counting the cost of having to buy replacements.

Owners should not attempt to start [a dried out] car without the presence of a specialised technician
Khaled Tahboub, Off-Road RS Automotive owner

Khaled Tahboub, the owner of Off-Road RS Automotive, a car repair and maintenance shop located in Ras Al Khor said he had never received so many requests for car repairs.

“I have never witnessed this amount of broken down cars before in the three years since I first opened the shop,” Mr Tahboub told The National.

"It's not just in my shop, but also in other shops surrounding me in the area, to the point that we ask the customer to keep the car where it is because there are not enough spaces to park cars at the stores.”

The surge in repair requests began at the end of the second day of the rain last week, he added.

He also warned motorists that retrieving cars that were left in the floods could be a tricky proposition for many.

"Whether their cars were parked in car parks or moving on the streets during the storm, owners should not attempt to start the car without the presence of a specialised technician to ensure the safety of the car before starting it and to avoid any additional damage," he said.

Damaged engines

Another expert in Dubai also said there was a huge demand for car repairs from motorists.

"Some of our garages work with fleet customers, who have had a lot of vehicles affected by the floods," said Glenn Power, co-founder of Dubai-based repair garage Powerworks.

"Those garages are far busier than usual."

Engines damaged by the flooding is the most common complaint with many motorists left anxiously waiting to see if their insurance will cover the bill, added Mr Power.

"A lot of people found issues with driving through water. Driving too fast through the water is probably the main cause," he said.

"In some instances, people got stuck in traffic with the water rising around them.

"We've had several customers that we had to call out to and rescue them out of the car as they couldn't move."

Dubai and much of the UAE is still coming to terms with the impact of the floods. For many motorists that wait could continue for several weeks.

"It's not cheap if they require a replacement engine and once the water gets in there it can take some time to find out where you can start from [with the repairs]," said Mr Power.

"It can take around 16 or 17 hours just assessing the damage before you start the actual repairs.

The National reported how the flooding across the UAE had created a backlog for insurance companies to deal with motorists' claims for damage to their vehicles.

Mr Power said he had spoken to several motorists who were currently looking at delays of at least three to four weeks to get their cars back after submitting an insurance claim.

He added that opting to pay for the repairs themselves could be an extremely expensive process, depending on the make of each car.

"It depends on the car and the engine but we have a Mazda 3 in now that has a small four cylinder engine which will cost around Dh10,000 for a replacement second hand engine," he said.

"Then we have a Bentley that's going to cost over Dh50,000. Again, for a second hand engine."

On April 16, the UAE experienced its heaviest rainfall since records first began, back in 1949.

Homes and roads were flooded, while partly submerged cars were abandoned on motorways and flights were cancelled, delayed or diverted.

Taking the initiative

Mr Tahboub also was behind the formation of a team of volunteers to offer support to those most badly hit by the floods.

After witnessing the extent of the flooding in Sharjah and the urgent calls for help circulating on social media, he and a group of fellow off-road enthusiasts quickly mobilised.

“Seeing those videos prompted us to take immediate action specially that we in the off-road community knew our vehicles were suitable for these conditions, and we couldn't just stand by,” Khaled told The National.

By early Friday, a group of five men gathered essential supplies including water and bread, and made their way into the most affected areas such as Jamal Abdul Naser and King Faisal streets, and Abu Shagara and Al Qasimia areas.

After taking these supplies to people, the actions of this small group quickly resonated across the community, drawing more volunteers to join, taking the number of volunteers on the ground to nearly 30.

“This reflects the incredible spirit of generosity that characterises the UAE," Khaled said.

Additional items such as baby formula, nappies, and women's health supplies were soon included in their deliveries.

Updated: April 26, 2024, 7:43 AM