Avoiding Floodwater Mayhem: Essential Driving Advice
Driving through floodwater is a major hazard in the UK. A staggering 74% of drivers admit to being willing to drive through floodwater despite the risks. This complacency is concerning, as even a small amount of water can be enough to float a car and cause engine damage. Just 30cm of water is enough to float a small car.
Preparing for the Worst
Living in a flood-prone area in the UK requires special consideration for drivers, who must be vigilant and prepared for the challenges posed by sudden and severe wet weather conditions. There are essential preparations and precautionary measures to undertake before setting out, effective driving practices to employ during floods, and what steps to take if you find yourself in the midst of a flood.
Click4Warranty’s goal is to equip you with the knowledge to navigate floodwaters safely, minimise risks to yourself and your vehicle, and understand the actions to take should you become stranded.
- Assess whether travel is essential and delay if possible until conditions improve.
- Plan your route to avoid flood-prone areas and inform others of your travel plans.
- Ensure your car’s maintenance is up to date, especially windscreen wipers, fuel levels, and tyre tread depth.
Floodwater Driving Tips
Your car is in the water – what now? The good news is that there are steps that drivers can take to reduce the risk of accidents and damage when driving through floodwater. If you want to plan ahead, here are a few tips.
- Avoid Standing Water: If possible, avoid standing water altogether. Do not drive into floodwater that’s moving or more than 10cm (4 inches) deep, as it can be dangerous.
- Slow Down and Increase Distance: Reduce your speed significantly in heavy rain and flooded conditions. Stopping distances can be double on wet roads compared to dry ones, so maintain ample space between you and the vehicle in front.
- Use Appropriate Gearing: In a manual vehicle, stick to first gear to keep the engine speed high. If you’re driving an automatic, lock it into a low gear if possible. High revs can prevent water from entering the exhaust and reduce the risk of stalling.
- Drive Steadily: Drive slowly and steadily to avoid creating a bow wave. Aim to drive in the middle of the road, which is typically the highest point, to reduce the risk of water entering the vehicle.
- Test Your Brakes: After passing through water, it’s crucial to test and dry your brakes. This ensures they are working properly after being exposed to floodwater.
- Visibility Measures: Use dipped headlights so that other drivers can see you more clearly. Do not use rear fog lights, which can obscure your brake lights and dazzle other drivers.
- Be Mindful of Road Hazards: Floodwater can obscure hazards like kerbs and lifted man-hole covers, so be extra vigilant and drive carefully to avoid them.
Always stay informed about the weather and road conditions before setting out in your vehicle during adverse weather conditions.
Related Reading: Key Safety Tips When Driving In Poor Weather Conditions
What Should You Do If You Get Stuck in a Flood?
Navigating a flood situation requires prompt and informed action to ensure personal safety and minimise risk to property. In this section, we’ll explore the essential steps you should take if you find yourself unexpectedly caught in a flood while driving.
- Stay in the Vehicle: If you are trapped in floodwater, it’s generally safer to remain in your car and call for help. Exiting the vehicle can be risky as floodwater can be deceptively powerful.
- Call for Help: Use your mobile phone to call for assistance. You should call 999 if you are in immediate danger. Otherwise, if you are a member of a roadside assistance service, contact them for help.
- Avoid Walking or Swimming: Never attempt to walk, drive, or swim through floodwater. Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock over an adult, and two feet of water is enough to float a car. The risks of being swept away or struck by an object in the water are significant.
- Be Cautious if Exiting: If the situation requires you to leave your vehicle, do so only if the water is still and shallow enough to see the bottom and dry land nearby. Always test the ground before you with a stick to check for holes or sharp objects if you must walk in the water.
- Monitor Water Levels: Be aware that water levels can change rapidly, so keep monitoring the situation and make decisions based on the current conditions.
It’s crucial to have a plan in place before you find yourself in such a situation, including knowing the emergency contact numbers, having a charged mobile phone, and being aware of the potential hazards associated with floodwater. Always prioritise your safety over attempting to save your vehicle or possessions.
Related Reading: Top Tips For Driving In Winter
What if Your Car Gets Water Damage?
Where rainfall can be heavy and flood risks are real, knowing how to handle water damage to your car is essential. This section delves into the immediate steps to take when you discover your vehicle has been compromised by water, how to assess and limit the damage, and the crucial process of engaging with your insurance provider.
- Contact Your Insurer: Inform your insurance company immediately to assess the damage. Depending on the damage category, you might get a pay out or the option to buy back and repair the vehicle.
- Assess the Situation: If your car is submerged, it’s likely a write-off. If it’s in a foot of standing water, open the bonnet, doors, and boot to air out and remove carpets.
- Check for Contamination: After a car has been caught in a flood, checking for water contamination in the oil and the air filter is crucial:
- Oil Contamination: Water in the engine oil compromises its lubricating properties, potentially leading to increased friction, overheating, and damage to internal engine components.
- Air Filter Check: A wet air filter can restrict airflow to the engine and possibly allow water to enter the combustion chamber.
Early detection of these issues can prevent further damage to the car’s engine and electrical systems, which can be both dangerous and costly to repair.
Do Not Start the Engine
Starting the engine of a flooded car can cause catastrophic damage due to hydrolocking. Hydrolocking, short for hydrostatic lock, is a condition that occurs when a significant amount of water enters an engine’s cylinders. Since water is incompressible, when it fills the cylinders and the pistons attempt to compress this volume, the engine cannot complete the compression cycle.
This can result in severe engine damage, including bent or broken connecting rods, cracked or destroyed pistons, and potentially ruined engine block or cylinder heads. It is often a consequence of attempting to start or run an engine that has ingested water, such as when driving through a flooded area.
Dry Out and Unblock
Make sure to dry out the car and unblock any drainage holes to prevent further damage.
A professional assessment is essential to determine the extent of the damage and necessary repairs.
Related Reading: Do I Need Extended Car Warranty For A Used Car
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