Monday 22nd December 2014
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https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/winter-driving/understanding-aquaplaning/Driving in heavy rain and flooding can be very dangerous. Damp weather, especially in older vehicles can cause issues with engines and electrical systems leading to breakdowns so make sure you look after your vehicle.

Advice on driving in heavy rain and flooding

Here are some useful tips:

  • Plan your journey – check which areas are more susceptible to flooding so you can try to avoid them
  • Use your dipped headlights to make other motorists aware of your presence
  • Don’t use rear fog lights which can hide your brake lights and dazzle drivers behind you
  • Reduce your speed to allow more space for stopping distance – as a general rule of thumb you are likely to need twice the normal braking distance.
  • Watch out for vehicles spraying water onto your car which can impact on your visibility.
  • Test your brakes after going through large amounts of water.
  • If you breakdown don’t leave the bonnet open so that the electrical components can be protected from the rain
  • Don’t drive through water if you aren't sure of the depth – you can use the edge of the kerb to give you some guidance as the deepest water is normally here.
  • If you do drive through water, stay on the highest part of the road.
  • Drive steadily and slowly if you do go through the water but drive in first gear and maintain a high engine speed by slipping the clutch to avoid stalling.
  • If water is fast and flowing don’t drive through it in case you get swept along
  • Should the engine cut out after driving through deep water, don’t re-start the vehicle and immediately call for professional assistance.
  • Driving slower will enable you to grip surfaces better so the tyres don’t lose contact with the road.

What is aquaplaning?

Aquaplaning (aka hydroplaning) is when a car loses grip, often between the tyres and the road because of excess water on the road surface. You’ll know this is happening because the steering goes very light and your tyres no longer make a noise on the road since the rubber on the tyres is not touching the road surface. This can last just a few seconds but on long very wet stretches of roads the steering can stop working and when you hit the brakes you start to skid.  Braking and steering are dependent on the friction between the tyres and the road and when aquaplaning happens you can’t steer, slow down or even increase speed. This is what you should do if it happens:

  • Don’t panic, keep your foot on the accelerator in the same position and avoid braking and turning the wheel.
  • Make small movements and dip the clutch if you have lost control of the steering.

You can help to minimise this problem in advance by ensuring you have tyres with good tread depth and pressure.  Also, reduce your speed on wet surfaces to keep the risk of aquaplaning down.

Water wrecks cars

Modern cars have improved vastly over recent years but driving through deep standing water can lead to a breakdown. Water flooding into an engine causes the engine to seize up and critical engine components such as the piston connecting rods and valves become damaged.  This could mean that a new engine is needed and that is usually the most expensive car part to buy, running into hundreds of pounds. What a lot of people don’t know is that the owner will have to foot the repair bill as the insurer will treat it like an accident and expect to see proof that the owner was not at fault.  They would regard driving through deep water as the driver’s fault since they would expect the owner to have taken another route to avoid the flooded area.  So it pays to be prepared or avoid driving in heavy rain and flooding.

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