6 tips for driving safely through water

Image source: Getty Images

Driving on flooded roads can be risky for drivers and other road users. However, if it’s unavoidable, it’s recommended that you drive slowly to make sure you can react quickly to changing situations. Vehicle leasing company Vanarama points out that it’s also important to have a fully charged mobile phone with you when driving in heavy rain to ring someone for help during an emergency. But what else should you do? We take a look at the most frequently asked questions about driving safely through water.

Why is driving through water dangerous?

When driving through water, you risk damaging your car and losing control of your vehicle. You also risk getting stranded. Water can damage your car’s engine, clutch, brakes and electrical system.

If water gets into the exhaust pipe, it can get sucked into the cylinders and damage the engine. A good tip is to ensure your vehicle doesn’t come to a stop in water, and if it does, to keep revving the engine.

What should you do when driving through water?

A rule of thumb is to avoid driving through fast-moving water and drive slowly through standing water. Cars are typically built to be water-tight, meaning they can float. In fact, experts highlight that a modern family car can float on water that is only 30 cm deep. If the water is fast-moving, you can expect your car to be swept away with you in it.

Additionally, it’s recommended that you drive in the middle of the road – most roads dip on either side to help drain water. If there’s standing water, it’s most likely to be around the edges. As you drive in the middle, be mindful of other drivers and take turns letting other vehicles pass.

Vanarama also highlights the importance of drying your brakes after driving through water. Brake drying is achieved by lightly braking while driving slowly in a safe place. If you don’t dry your brakes, you risk losing control of your car. 

What depth of water can a car drive through?

It’s said that a standard car can be driven safely through 10cm of water, which is about a third of the average wheel height. However, larger 4×4 vehicles can handle deeper water.

That said, it’s wise to keep in mind that standing water can hide structural problems on the road. There could be a new pothole or a portion of the road that has been entirely washed out. So, drive slowly or find an alternative route.

What gear should you use when driving through water?

It’s best to use first or second gear. This should help you maintain a speed of around 5mph. Driving too fast could cause your tyres to lose contact with the road, leading to an accident, or you could create a wave that can wash back into the engine, causing damage. You could also splash someone with your car, leading to fines and penalty points.

Are you insured if you drive through flood water?

In most cases, comprehensive insurance covers damage caused by driving through water. However, it’s important to check the specifics of your insurance cover since different car insurance policies may differ. 

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