A couple of days ago, my place was hit by a tropical storm. Many areas of my city were flooded, so school and work were suspended for a while. I didn’t have to travel (as I hold office at home), but then I had to run some errands, so I had to go drive to get to places.
Thank goodness I didn’t have to wade through knee-deep flood waters. In these cases, it’s best to avoid travel at all. But just in case you find yourself stranded in the middle of a storm with rising waters, here’s what to do, based on some tips from Smart Driving UK.
Check the depth first. Generally, water that reaches to the center of your wheels is already asking for trouble. Not only will you let water seep into the car’s underside, there is also a chance of water entering the engine compartment. It’s best to estimate the depth first. If there are other cars ahead of you wading through the flood water, then that can be a good indicator of depth.
Beware road obstructions and hazards. Floodwaters will hide any obstruction or hazards on the road, like potholes, open manholes (if any), or even the curb. Be sure you know the road you’re traversing or you might hit something not visible.
Air is your engine’s friend. Fuel is only half of what powers an internal combustion engine. The other half is air. In diesels, air is compressed to a high temperature to ignite the fuel. In petrol engines, a spark plug does the ignition. So this means if your engine cannot “breathe” then you will stall.
Running through floodwaters, you should make sure that your engine does not lose air intake, and that water does not flood the engine. Water tends to enter the system through the exhaust pipe, or through the air intake/filter itself. So while traversing a flooded area, you should rev the engine so engine exhaust is forced out of the tailpipe. Driving a manual transmission, slip the clutch while revving the engine while at a stop.
Some 4x4s and off-roaders having air intakes located atop their roofs so the vehicle can “breathe in” air even with the engine submerged. You shouldn’t do this unless absolutely necessary, as your engine’s electrical system might be damaged by water.
Drive slow. Anything faster than a slow crawl will create “bow waves” in the floodwater, which could flow onto the oncoming lane or the curb, and could cause water to enter into your air intake. Driving fast through floodwaters might also soak any pedestrians on the curb, and is very inconsiderate.
Again, if you’re driving a stick-shift, be sure to rev your engine high while moving. You can do this by slipping the clutch while moving. When driving automatic, keep your gear to L or 1 or L1, depending on how it’s labeled on your selector (so you’re locked in first gear).
One car at a time. Flooded areas are best traversed one car at a time. This It’s also best to let oncoming traffic pass first, so if ever bow waves are created, these will not hit oncoming traffic.
Losing grip. In case your tyres lose their contact from the road, your car might already be floating. You can open a door to let water in, so your car is weighed down and tyres can get contact with the road again. This is a last resort, of course, as you will obviously ruin your car’s interior.
Check your brakes. Once you’ve passed the flooded area, you have to check your brakes–do this while driving slowly. Wet brake pads lead to inefficient braking, and you might lose braking power, so be sure to drive cautiously from this point.
Have your car checked. Be sure to check with your mechanic, in case your car sustains some damage from flood waters. This is especially so, if your car has been left standing in deep water. Water-logged cars are considered wrecks, and might be dangerous to drive, given that water damage compromises the structural integrity of a car, and might ruin electronics systems.