It can be dangerous to drive through heavy rain, especially if the car’s air filter is located too low. Always approach the area with heavy water with caution at low speed and always look for a safe, alternate way if the water is too deep to pass through.
Seasonal changes bring risky weather, including rain and flood, and in most cases annually we are dealing with floods.
Most of the time you should avoid driving through stagnant water. In case of extreme emergency, however, it may be necessary to do so. By taking a few extra precautions, you will be able to pass through flooded areas safely.
Things to have in mind when approaching a flooded area
If you approach standing water on the road, do it really slow and check carefully the area you want to cross. Before you start, see if it is safe and if you know the way. If the flooded area doesn’t seem safe, find an alternative route and don’t try to go through that area.
- Turn on the emergency lights and keep them on while driving through the flooded area. This way other drivers will notice you and keep the safety distance. When you get to the other side safely, you can turn them off if it’s daylight.
- Check the water condition. Try to determine the water depth and if there is a strong current.
You should also look for large floating objects that could hit the car and cause serious damage. Worse, it could push you down the valley.
- If necessary, get out of the car and check the water depth before passing through it. Don’t go any further if the water is above the center of the wheels.
- Small cars can lose traction with the road surface and can float in less than 30 cm of water. Larger cars can be swept in just 60 cm of water.
- Turn off the air conditioning or heating. Doing so will prevent the fan in the engine compartment from breaking if it comes in contact with water.
- Put the transmission in drive 1 (manual mode, select the first gear) or in the 1st gear in the case of an automatic transmission.
This prevents the engine from changing speed, which causes water to be drawn through the exhaust system back into the cylinders.
Entering and exiting a flooded area
Once you make sure the car is in 1st gear, the emergency lights are on and you have checked how deep and safe the water is, it’s time to start driving through the flooded area.
- Drive slowly and steadily. Keep a constant speed as you go through the water. Keep your foot on the acceleration pedal but make sure you are always ready to brake in case you notice somethings strange.
- Safety Tip: When driving through a flooded part of the road, go in the middle, because there the road has the highest height, and the water should have the lowest depth.
- If the car starts to float and loses contact with the road surface, open the door and let the water in.
It might sound like a really bad idea and the water will damage your carpet, but it will make your vehicle heavier allowing the wheels to make contact with the road again. If you have passengers with you, have them open the doors.(Remember this will not make you popular but it will get you out of trouble)
- Get out of the water. After passing on the other side you can gradually accelerate to leave the flooded area. Make sure the car is completely out of the water before you stop to check it.
- To dry the brakes, in case they get wet, gently press the brake pedal with your left foot while driving slowly.
What to do if the car gets stuck in water
Unfortunately, one of the risks you take when driving through a flooded area is that the car may stall. When that happens, you have a few options. If you are lucky, you can restart the car and continue on your way. If not, you must proceed as follows:
- If your car gets stuck while driving through a flooded area, do not start the engine again. Restarting it will draw water through the exhaust pipe into the cylinders.(Trust me that is bad news)
- Abandoning the car could be your best alternative at this point. The water will recede as time goes on, allowing you to restart the engine when the water level is bellow the exhaust pipe.
- If the vehicle has stalled and the water continues to rise, consider leaving the car. If you have to leave the car and the water is too high to cross it, call 911 or signal for help to those who pass by.
- You should also climb to the highest point which, in most cases, is the car roof.
- If the car has stalled while passing through a flooded area, you will need to check it for damage. You can do this yourself or ask for the help of a reliable mechanic who will check your engine for water damage and help you repair it.
How to check your car for water damage
If you have the knowledge remove the spark plugs or injectors. After inspection and cleaning refit the spark plugs or injectors and start the car.
Dry the car. If water has entered the passenger compartment, you must clean and dry all the wet carpets. One option is to take the car to a professional car wash. They can remove moisture and the smell of mold caused by water. Let the car dry with opened doors for a few hours .
By following the instructions above you can stay safe while crossing a flooded area.
If for any reason the car gets stuck and suffers damage due to water entering the engine, call a professional mechanic to repair your vehicle. Call the mechanic immediately if you notice any strange engine noise or if your car doesn’t run as usual.