Breakdown numbers always increase during periods of wet weather, as the damp causes problems with engines and electrical systems, particularly in older vehicles. If you must drive, there are a handful of steps you can take to reduce your chances of an accident or breakdown dramatically.
Many rain-related breakdowns are easily avoidable as they are often caused by people driving through deep standing water. While cars have improved significantly in technical terms in recent years they are still not waterproof and will break down if they are driven through deep water. This can lead to catastrophic engine failure which will be extremely expensive to put right.
A catastrophic flood-related engine damage incident is typically caused by water being sucked into the engine which causes the engine to lock up and can in turn damage important engine components including piston connecting rods and valves.
This inevitably means a new engine will have to be fitted, but what people generally don’t understand is that it is the owner who is likely to have foot the expensive garage bill unless they can demonstrate to their insurer – like any accident – that it was not their actions that caused the damage.
Before setting off:
- Consider whether your journey is essential. If not, can it be delayed until after the rain has subsided?
- Plan your journey in advance, taking care to avoid areas which are prone to flooding, and factoring in extra time to allow for slower speeds and potential congestion
- Let relatives and friends know your intended route and expected time of arrival and where possible, travel with others
- Check that your windscreen wiper blades are fully functional. If both front and back blades are not up to scratch, get them replaced
- Make sure you fill up. Using your lights and heaters and being caught in traffic use more fuel than driving in normal conditions
- Carry a mobile phone in case you encounter any difficulties during your journey
On the road:
- Use dipped headlights so that other drivers can see you more easily
- Don’t use rear fog lights. They can mask your brake lights and dazzle drivers behind you
- Reduce your speed and leave more space between you and the vehicle in front to account for greater stopping distances – remember the two-second rule
- Look out for large or fast-moving vehicles creating spray which reduces visibility
- Listen out for local news bulletins to keep up-to-date with road closures, flooding and forecasts
- If you break down in torrential rain keep the bonnet closed while waiting for help to arrive, to avoid the electrical system getting soaked
- Driving too fast through standing water could lead to tyres losing contact with the road. If your steering suddenly feels light you could be aquaplaning. To regain grip, ease off the accelerator, do not brake and allow your speed to reduce until you gain full control of the steering again
- Driving fast through deep water can cause serious and expensive damage
- Be considerate to other road users and try not to spray pedestrians and cyclists as you drive through water
Driving In Flooded Areas
The following tips should always be followed for driving in flooded conditions:
- Do not attempt to drive through water if you are unsure of the depth – the edge of the kerb is a good indicator
- If you do go through water, drive on the highest section of the road
- Drive steadily and slowly so as not to create a bow wave in front of the vehicle and allow oncoming traffic to pass first - make sure you have a clear route ahead so you do not have to stop in standing water
- Driving at speed may be dangerous to other vehicles or pedestrians and could cause loss of control
- Drive a safe distance from the vehicle in front
- Never attempt to drive through fast flowing water – you could easily get swept away
- Test your brakes after leaving flood water
- If your engine cuts out after driving through deep water, do not attempt to restart as engine damage may occur – instead call for assistance and have the vehicle professionally examined.