Even drivers with local knowledge can be caught out during heavy downpours
Driving in wet conditions can be hazardous, but you have a better chance of staying safe if you prepare for wet weather.
Even drivers with local knowledge can be caught out during heavy downpours, as even the most modern road surface is still susceptible to standing water. This creates a potential aquaplaning hazard as well as significantly reducing visibility. Take it easy through standing water and if the steering does become unresponsive due to the rain, ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually.
The AA has its own specially-trained and equipped flood rescue team called Special Operations Response Team (SORT).
Darron Burness, Head of Special Operations, says: "If you come across flood water, you should only attempt to drive through if you know it's not too deep and maintain a steady, slow speed to avoid creating a bow wave."
The engine's air intake on many cars is low down at the front of the car and it can take just an egg cupful of water in the combustion chamber to wreck an engine. Water doesn't compress and the piston in effect hits a wall, bending or breaking a con rod. Driving fast - even if the intake's above the water level - could cause water to be ingested
Darron continues: "If you're unlucky enough to break down in heavy rain, don't prop the bonnet open while you wait for the patrol to arrive – the engine will be more difficult to start again if the electrics are all rain-soaked. Instead, pull over to a safe and visible place and wait for help to arrive."
Be safe, and prepare for wet weather:
Only drive through water if you know that it's not too deep. Drive slowly and steadily to avoid creating a bow wave. Allow oncoming traffic to pass first and test your brakes as soon as you can after leaving the water.
Don't try driving through fast-moving water, such as at a flooded bridge approach – your car could easily be swept away.
Watch out for standing water, trying to avoid it if you can, and adjust your speed to the conditions.
As you drive slowly through standing water, use a low gear so the engine rev's are higher; water in the exhaust could otherwise damage the catalytic convertor.
If you break down in heavy rain don't prop the bonnet open while you wait for the patrol to arrive. The engine will be more difficult to start again if the electrics are all rain-soaked.
Fords are not always safe to cross
Don’t assume that a ford is always safe to cross just because the road goes into the river on one side and comes out on the other – the depth of the water and its flow rate will change with the weather.
If you’re using sat nav, don’t follow it blindly across water – it doesn’t know anything about the current state of the river.
Always check depth gauges and heed warning signs/lights - most fords don’t have gates/barriers that can be closed when the river’s impassable.
If you’re at all unsure of the conditions it’s safer to go the long way round rather than risk your vehicle being swept down river – conditions can change very quickly, particularly following heavy rain.
When deciding whether to cross or not, bear in mind:
(19 February 2014)