Water Sloshing under Driver Seat Troubleshooting
We purchased a used 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited in Aug of 2016. Early on I heard the sloshing sound under the DRIVER seat which triggered this troubleshooting write up.
It appears that the most common reasons for the sloshing are as follows:
1.Gas tank baffle issues.
2.A/C drain hose is loose
4.Floor wells or spare tire area missing body plugs
5.Side Door seals leaking
6.Frame seals missing
7.Sunroof seals/alignment issues
8.Roof rack rails leaking
9.Sunroof drain tubes leaking
It is also important to note that weather, fuel capacity, speed, maintenance and angle can all play a part in the diagnoses. Obviously weather is the biggest reason for a leak - sunny days don’t offer much water, unless you wash your car. The fuel issue is easily solved by listening to the “sloshing” at various stages of fuel, if repeatable you have a solution. Speed can factor in if the leak is driven by wind forcing water into areas exposed, or if you love driving fast through large puddles of water forcing water to enter the bottom of your Jeep finding seams or holes in the body. If your Jeep is parked on an incline outside during wet weather the leak may present itself but if parked in a different angle the leak does not happen. It is also important to note that some leaks may take a while to manifest themselves right away so the cause and effect are delayed.
Bottom line is that you can’t take anything for granted.
In February we returned from a ski trip and noticed a musty smell and discovered the driver side carpet below my Husky liners, soaked, but did not hear the sloshing sound. In fact it had been since fall that I noticed the sound, so I finally decided to get involved. I started by undoing trim pieces and removed the driver seat, carpet, and black plastic floor piece. I found about a cup of water in the well. I drained and vacuumed the well so as to monitor the leak.
I was not able to see ANY clear source of the water leak so that lead me to believe it might be the A/C drain hose. I confirmed one end was ziptied to the HVAC and the other end of the drain hose was secure in the transmission hump and not leaking when running the A/C for 15 minutes. However in February we at times have very little humidity in the air so the A/C might not have much moisture to drain. Also the amount of water in the well could not explain a A/C drain leak producing that much moisture.
As part of my investigation I built a little wooden floorboard so I could still drive yet monitor the well for water accumulation anytime.
So it seems that items 1 and 2 have been taken off my list.
I then chased down the assumption that it might be from the rear of the Jeep via the lift-gate. When we purchased the Jeep the lift-gate had some alignment problems and I noticed that the left hinge had some rust spots, I assumed it was from the previous owner attempting to fix the alignment issue. That night I took a very bright LED flashlight and searched for signs of water leaks. This works best at night because the LED light seems to highlight subtle water “stains” on the plastic panels as I moved the flashlight around. I started looking on the left side first assuming the rust on the hinge bolts may indicate a water leak on that side, and sure enough found some “stains”. I then made sure that the rubber grommets at the top of the lift-gate were all sealed properly and free of cuts or holes. Although everything looked good I did discover a .75 inch dia hole right behind the rubber strip at the top that diverts water between the body and the lift-gate. I assumed that somehow, either because of an incline or highway speeds water was entering this hole. I went to the dealer and looked at a new JGC to verify that it should be plugged and it was! I ordered a new plug for $4.00. This confirmed item 3, kinda.
I also removed all the plastic panels from the lift-gate to see if I could find more evidence of a water leak or damage. The inside of the panels had a dust coating with a few areas indicating some leaking, but not much else.
The problem with this water leak is that for the amount of water I had in the well the hole would have to be a major entry point for water to run down the lift-gate panels, into the cargo area make its way forward and deposit into the well. That’s a long road to travel and I was unable to find any water in the spare tire area, cargo load floor or wet carpets in the passenger floorboards. Granted, the water path may just be a lucky clean shot toward the front via seams and channels in the body frame, but I am struggling with that assumption. Though during this investigation I confirmed my spare tire area was also dry, which at least eliminated any major leak from the rear at this time.
I then checked the rubber drain plugs in the well area to make sure it was properly seated and intact. I understand that some dealers simply removed the drain plug so that the leaking water will drain out and the sloshing sound goes away. This of course probably works pretty well as it allows for the water to escape and the majority of Jeep Grand Cherokee owners never find themselves in water deep enough to allow water to enter through that hole as to cause an issue. Even if it did the dealer could simply say, “looks like there was a plug missing” and wash their hands of the situation. Of course the leak would not be solved but the perceived “problem” resolved. So that eliminated item 4.
I checked the seals around the doors and made sure that there were no tears, cuts or misalignment. I also looked at the dirt and dust accumulation patterns and found them as expected, nothing indicating a water leak. I can therefore reasonably exclude item 5.
The issue of frame seals missing or incomplete is daunting and I was unsure where to start looking. It is also really hard to test those areas for leaks considering their location and complexity. I decided that I would pursue that as a last resort or sell the car! I will dismiss item 6 for now.
The sunroof was my next target area and I did review the class action lawsuit regarding the sunroofs but my issues do not seem to be the same. Specifically I can not find any moisture on the headliner, side walls, or leaks from the middle console on the roof or from the rear view mirror. My leaks seems to be at the carpet level or below, so I will eliminate alignment issues and seals at this point found in item 7.
The other leak point people have pointed to are the roof rack rails. I did recently remove and replace some bolts on the rack to put on my ski racks but again my problem started well before I did this and I assume that this type of leak would be at the headliner level. I will eliminate item 8.
So the other night I opened the sunroof and poured some water into the sunroof driver side drain hole. Sure enough I could see the trail of water pouring into the well!
This was great at it allowed me to fully confirm the other items on my list as possible leak sources since it was so quick. Car washes or rain over a period of time would create the sloshing sound if it was unable to evaporate more than the new water coming in. So I figure the cause and effect were delayed to some degree but at least the primary leak was found.
I have read many solutions to fix a clogged sunroof drain and have had a few problems with each one. The primary one is the term “clogged”. Is it a clog or a cracked/split or disconnected tube? The remedy I read about most often is to use an air hose to “force” the clog out. The problem is that if the clog is significant it might just compact the debris and in my situation does not explain the leak at the bottom of the drain. A wet headliner would make more sense as the clog forces the water to back up and overflow onto the headliner.
The other solution has been to cut the “valve” at the bottom of the drain so debris and other obstructions can exit freely from the drain tube. The valve has “fingers” which are very flexible and releases water when a small amount of water builds up and forces it out. Problem is that the 2014 JGC does not have "fingers" to cut off the drain hose and as I found out later the end of the drain hose on the driver side exits someplace deep inside the engine bay.
I have also read that if you pour VERY hot water and bleach into the drain to remove any slime, grime, mold, etc. Again this is a fine idea but if the clog is due to plant material or very small rocks this will only be a partial solution. Again in my case I would only be draining hot bleach water into the well.
Others have recommended using a flexible metal wire with the coating still on to physically force a clog out the end. I get the idea, but am concerned that the wire could puncture the drain tube causing another leak. So if you want to “clean” out a drain tube every so often, use a thick plastic weed trimmer line which is flexible, long, and go slow and gentle. Any resistance should be considered carefully before you try to go further
I did some research and discovered that older JGC’s use a blue corrugated plastic hose which may easily puncture or crumble if pressure is applied. The good news is that the 2014 at least uses a thick solid rubber hose. I decided to start with trying to clean out the drain hose just in case but also to “measure” the distance of the hose so I could get a sense of any problem. The trimmer line I used is fairly thin and it took a slow spinning motion to start the “snake” as it went into the drain tube.
REPAIR of FRONT DRIVER SIDE SUNROOF DRAIN LINE.
about 1 hour from start to finish - this does not include the removal and installation of carpeting, floorboard, seat and trim panels, etc.
7mm socket, 10mm socket, 10mm wrench, trim tools, small flat blade screw driver,large towel, Bright LED Flashlight, container with water and small funnel, 2014_wk2_interior_trim_removal_001.pdf document.
This is just for the actual fix not the troubleshooting process which of course took several weeks.
This repair assumes that you have already removed various trim pieces, driver seat, carpeting, and floor board in order to dry out wet carpets and drained the well (and verified that the drain plug is intact. We will pick up the repair at the next step.
Using the 2014_wk2_interior_trim_removal_001.pdf document as my guide I removed the A-Pillar trim piece to locate the drain hose and check for any sign of leakage closer toward the top, thinking perhaps before I delve into the following steps I would confirm all was well. My concern was that the drain hose was leaking from the connection at the sunroof and using the outside of the hose as its path toward the bottom and releasing at the end of the hose into the well. I also confirmed that the hose was a thick black rubber hose, not the blue corrugate style in older Jeeps.
Again using the 2014_wk2_interior_trim_removal_001.pdf document as my guide I reviewed the section on AIR BAG, Knee Blocker/Removal and found it deceptively confusing. BEFORE disconnecting the negative battery cable as instructed, first move your steering column out and down as far as possible. Then using a 10mm wrench disconnect the battery under the passenger seat and wait 2 minutes for the airbag capacitors to discharge.
The instruction sheet for step 2 is painfully lacking in help here so you might want to jump to the CLUSTER, INSTRUMENT step 3, only to find that it is only more confusing, but gives you a bit of info that is helpful. There is a plastic trim piece that goes around the steering column that has a fake leather “shroud” that is flexible so when the steering column is positioned it moves with it. The flexible material is attached to a hard plastic trim piece that clips into the dash. Use your hands and trim tool to release it. Once its free you will see four 7mm screws at the top of the steering column. The top two are for the instrument cluster and the bottom two are for the Air Bag Knee Blocker panel. Remove the two lower screws with a 7mm socket wrench, taking care to not scratch the steering wheel or turn signal stalks with your wrench. I used a soft rag to protect them.
Lay down a thick towel over the driver side sill and floorboard area to protect you back. If you lay down upside down so you head is now under the dash and legs awkwardly dangling out the door you will see a mass of structures, wires, vents and plastic bits. There are two 7mm nuts that you need to remove with a socket wrench. Look at the photos to help orient yourself and identify the two nuts, and remove them.
Now you can now easily remove the panel with a trim tool. Be careful to not pull the panel away too far as you still need to remove all the electrical and mechanical connectors. Start with the headlight switch. Pull the red locking tab up and then pinch the connector to remove. The fuel door connector uses a small tab connector that required a small flat blade screwdriver to push in while pulling the connector out. The hood latch release mechanism also uses a small tab that must be pushed down to release the whole assembly. Finally you need to disconnect the airbag connector. Again the instructions are poor at best. It took some time but I used the small flat blade screw driver to lift the orange locking clip straight up then used the plastic trim tool to gently pull the connector out from the airbag. There was no way I was able to “pinch” the sides to release the connector in that tight space. Now you can move the knee panel/airbag away.
At this point I used my flashlight with my left hand to highlight the area of the drain hose. Using my right hand I could pull the firewall sound proof material away enough to see the end of the drain hose dangling. The picture unfortunately does not show the drainage hole through the firewall because the hose is covering it. I superimposed a hole to help identify its location. This space is very tight and I was not able to get two hands in this spot at one time. The sound proofing is also very stiff and so it took some effort to weasel my hand into location, slide it under the sound proofing and manipulate the end of the hose and set the grommet in place securely.
Assuming your sunroof is already open to test the drain use a small funnel and container of water to slowly pour water into the drain. If all went well you can now proceed to step 6. Otherwise you will need to go further into your investigation. Sorry.
At this point its simply a reversal of the previous steps.
I apologize if I missed any steps or my tools are wrong as I did this during a horrible cold and not very clear in the head.