Top Tips For Driving Your Car Through Deep Water

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Follow these tips to protect yourself and keep safe when driving in floods

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Flooding can occur when you least expect it to, and while you should avoid driving in floods at all costs, sometimes the surprise nature of these events can leave us with little choice. Unpredictable weather can put you in a dangerous spot really quickly, especially when you're in your car. It's therefore important to know what to do when you find yourself on a flooded road, whether the water is rushing by or just stagnant. Let's look at how you can best protect your car, yourself, and your passengers.

Flooded Roadways unsplash.com

Driving in Deep Water

Whether it's pouring with rain, there's rushing water in the street, an area of the road has flooded and you need to pass through, or you are stranded in an actual flood, these tips for keeping safe are applicable:

  • Be prepared. If you have the opportunity to do a quick inspection before heading out in a torrential downpour, check your car's lights, windscreen wipers, and tires. Ideally, you'd stick to a routine maintenance schedule to make sure everything is in working order. Engine checks are essential for the proper functioning of the car, but making sure your lights, wipers, and tires are in line with legal requirements will ensure you and your passengers are kept safe. You wouldn't want to find yourself without lights in heavy rain. The same applies to your windscreen and rear window wipers. If damaged or malfunctioning, they will not help your visibility much.
  • Take it slowly. Always drive at a much slower speed in adverse weather. Always extend your following distance in wet conditions, even if it's just a standard bout of rain. This logic is doubly important when driving through deeper water on the road, whether it's flowing or standing. If you have to pass through a section of road where you can clearly see a large puddle of water, slow down and switch to a low gear - enter the water only if you are sure it's shallow. Driving through water at a high speed is a recipe for disaster: it can cause major damage to your car. Deep water can also hide debris, holes, and road segments that have been washed away, so taking it slow and steady is the best approach. As a rule, avoid water that has had powerlines fall into it.
  • In the middle. It's always best to stick to the center of flooded roadways as that's where the water tends to be shallower. Water that is deeper than even just four inches can flood the exhaust pipe of most small cars, so it's best to avoid it altogether.
  • Think of others: Always be considerate of other drivers when the roads are flooded. If there is traffic, try driving in unison with the other cars and if there are oncoming cars, allow one or two a chance to travel through the center of the flooded road before you take your turn. Speeding past others will just send waves or fountains of water, adding to the danger and making it impossible to see.
  • Avoid fast-moving or deep, standing water. If there is a section of road that has water flowing across it, do not cross if the water reaches halfway up your car's wheels. Even water that is less than a foot high can still float your car, and you may find yourself swept away by the current. Two feet of moving water can carry even heavy, lifted pickup trucks away. Standing water is just as dangerous as you can quickly find your car afloat in the water with no momentum to carry you to solid land.
  • Let it be. If your car stalls while in water, or after driving through, do not try to restart it as this can flood the engine and cause irreparable damage. If the engine of your car gets flooded with water and won't start, hang tight and call for help.
Driving In Floods unsplash.com
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What to do After Driving Through Water

Here's what to do after driving through water that isn't so deep that it floods your car:

  • Dry your car's brakes with slow, light taps after exiting the water - keep your speed low.
  • Pull over when it's safe to do so, walk around your car and check for any obvious problems such as damage from submerged debris.
  • Listen for any changes in how your engine idles, if there is loss of power, or unusual noises.
  • Check whether any water has entered your car's air intake and inspect the air filter for moisture.
  • Make sure none of the electrical components in the car are wet, and check the fusebox.
  • Inspect your oil dipstick; if the oil is milky, then water has made its way into your engine.
  • Check your carpets and around the spare tire for any indication that water has seeped through the undercarriage.
  • If you suspect water in the motor, get your car towed to a professional for a proper diagnosis of its condition.

Flash Flood Survival Tips - What to Do if Water Gets in Your Car

What happens if you are caught in a flash flood, though? It's not always a simple matter of finding an alternative route; in areas prone to flooding, you need to know what to do when you're caught in your car during flooding. Here are some vital survival tips and suggestions for what to do if your car gets flooded:

  • Be attentive to weather reports and flood warnings in the wet months - stay off the roads and in doors if a flood warning is issued.
  • If you are in your car and trapped in a flood, exist your car if the water surrounding you is not moving too fast - seek higher ground and don't stand around in the water.
  • If you are trapped in a car that is sinking, follow these important steps:
    1. Try to keep calm - don't try to make emergency calls with your cellphone, rather use the time to get out of the car
    2. Unbuckle your seatbealt and instruct passengers to do the same, then open the window closest to you and get out - take small children/infants with you, if they cannot follow the instructions on their own
    3. Move awy from the car - swim towards safety using the flow of the water to your advantage. Call for help when you are safely out of the water
    4. If you cannot open a window, break it - using a sharp or hard object, punch through the center of the window closest to you - not the windshield.

Why Avoiding Water on the Road is a Good Idea

Driving through water is dangerous, no matter how deep it is. If you drive too fast over even just an inch of water, your car can hydroplane as it loses traction with the road. This inevitable loss of control can lead to a serious accident. Hitting water at speed can also damage the front bumper of the car as well as any components located along the undercarriage as the water rips through. Here are some helpful notes to remember:

  • Six inches is enough water to cause a car to lose traction on the road, which could lead to hydroplaning and sliding.
  • 12 inches of water is enough to flood most cars, which could compromise the engine and result in the car being stalled in the water, potentially leaving you stranded in a dangerous spot.
  • 24 inches of water is enough to sweep away most vehicles; even a full size SUV wouldn't stand the force that much water can carry.
Driving through water unsplash.com

FAQs

Are electric vehicles safe to drive in floods?

Despite coming equipped with myriad electrical components and a battery, EVs actually hold an advantage over regular gasoline-run cars when it comes to fording. This is because EVs are built to be more water-resistant and do not have air intakes, which means the propulsion system can't be affected by being immersed in water. It is still recommended to avoid driving during times of floods, regardless.

How high does water have to be to flood a car?

With most compact cars, such as a Kia Forte, water just has to be deeper than half the height of the wheels to be higher than the level of the chassis or exhaust pipe.

What vehicles can deal with high water?

Some purposed off-road vehicles, such as the Land Rover Defender, are designed to handle a certain level of water fording. There are also snorkel attachments that can increase the depth a vehicle can go through standing water.

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