Firstly, if you can avoid driving in extremely wet conditions, do so! If your trip is essential, or if you suddenly find yourself driving through a flash flood, then read on to get some useful tips for driving in these conditions. Flooding can happen any time, not just when it is raining – it can also be caused by blocked drains, burst water mains or burst river banks.
Breakdowns increase during periods of wet weather as water plays havoc with engines and electrical systems. It is also extremely dangerous and hazardous when driving through water and you can easily flood your engine. Read through these useful tips which will reduce your chances of a breakdown or an accident.
DRIVING IN HEAVY RAIN
⦁ Turn your headlights on
⦁ Always reduce your speed when driving in heavy rain – rather factor in extra time for your trip
⦁ Keep a safe, following distance. Leave twice as much space between you and the car in front of you as stopping distances double in wet weather as the tyres have less grip on the road
⦁ Try to avoid flooded areas or areas which are prone to flooding.
⦁ Listen to the news bulletins on the radio or on your mobile for warnings of flooded areas. Re-route or take a detour if necessary.
⦁ Dip your headlights so you are more visible to other drivers
⦁ Keep your air conditioning on – this prevents the windows from misting up
⦁ Stay alert – look out for cars creating massive spray as they drive past
DRIVING THROUGH STANDING WATER AND FLOODED AREAS
Driving through water – still, standing puddles of water or moving flood water – could be very dangerous and cause serious damage to your car. Moving flood water or fast flowing water deeper than 30cm is powerful enough to move your car and sweep you away. The car could become buoyant and begin to float.
Also avoid driving in water that downed electrical or power lines have fallen in as the electric current will pass through the water. Look out for items traveling downstream as they can trap you if you’re in their path.
If you are faced with no alternative but to drive through, then:
Estimate the depth of the water – you may need to get out of your car to do this. The standing water must not be more than 15cm deep and if it is moving, no more than 10cm deep. If it is deeper than that, you must find an alternative route or way out. It is not safe to drive through.
Once you have decided it is shallow enough to risk driving through, do the following:
Keep your car in low gear and keep the engine revs up. Enter the water at approximately 3 kph and then accelerate up to 5-6kpm – drive slowly and steadily. When you emerge on the other side, gently tap your brakes a few times to create some friction and heat, pause and let any excess water drain away.
If you drive too fast though the standing water, you could start aquaplaning which means the tyres lose contact with the road and your steering suddenly feels light as you lose control of it. If this happens, ease off the accelerator, do not brake but slow down gradually until the tyres regrip and you feel you have control of the steering again.
BREAKING DOWN IN THE RAIN
If you break down in a heavy downpour, do not open the bonnet whilst you are waiting for help as the electrical system will get soaked.
Your engine may stall if you attempt to drive through water – do not attempt to restart your engine as this could cause irreparable damage to it and other engine components.
Rather turn on your hazard lights and call for assistance.
HAVE YOUR CAR CHECKED AFTER DRIVING THROUGH DEEP WATER
Even if your car seems to be running fine, it is best to have it checked thoroughly after you have driven through standing water, even if it was only for a short time.
⦁ BRAKES – they can lose their grip after being submerged in water
⦁ ENGINE – listen to your engine and let your mechanic know if you hear any unusual noises or loss of power.
⦁ OIL – check the dipstick and if the oil looks milky, there is water in it. If this is the case call a tow truce – do not try to drive on it or it will cause engine damage
⦁ AIR FILTER – if the filter is wet, do not keep driving
⦁ ELECTRICAL – check your lights, indicators and fuses. If there are any issues, disconnect the car battery and call a tow truck
⦁ INTERIOR – check interior for signs of water damage. If they are wet, they will be prone to mould.
⦁ SPARE TYRE – make sure there is no water in the well that could cause rust
If any of the components or parts are water damaged, they must be replaced soonest. You can purchase from any local auto shops or even purchase online car parts.