Car Reviews & News

Driving in rain and floods

Water can seriously damage your car, but sometimes you can’t help being caught out in heavy wet weather – whether it’s torrential rain causing rivers to burst their banks, damaged water pipes covering a road or drains that simply can’t cope.

In this article, we look at some of the ways you can protect your car during heavy rain and floods.

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Driving in heavy rain
If you have to drive in heavy rain, we recommend you follow these tips:
• If you can’t avoid large puddle, drive slowly to reduce the risk of aquaplaning. If you do start the aquaplane (your steering will start to feel light), then keep calm and slow gently by easing off the acceleration.
• As per the Highway Code, leave at least twice as much space between you and the car in front as you would normally – stopping distances in rain are double what they would be in normal driving conditions.
• The Highway Code also says you must have your headlights turned on if visibility is reduced to less than 100m in front.
• If visibility is seriously poor, you can use your fog lights – just remember to turn them off again when weather starts to improve.
• If you break down, don’t leave you bonnet propped open, as rain could make it harder to start your engine, or even ruin your electronics.
Driving in floods
If you have to pass through floods or standing water as part of your journey:
• Where possible, try and find an alternative route – it may take longer but it should be safer.
• Avoid driving through moving flood water that’s more than 4 inches (10cm) high. Fast-moving water can be deceptively powerful and could sweep your car away in the worst instances.
• Water levels can change quickly, especially in heavy rain.
• It only takes a small amount of water to wreck your engines, and as many car engines’ air intake is low down on the front of the car - driving headfirst through high water can be incredibly risky (and expensive).
• When passing through water, let approaching traffic go first, then drive slowly – if you create too much of a bow wave or a splash, you’re going too fast.
• Flood or standing water can make it much harder to see the kerb, or other hazards like potholes or speedbumps, so it’s important to drive slowly and be aware.
• Be aware of other hazards, such as manhole covers lifted by water or other debris floating.
• If you drive fast enough to splash water onto pedestrians or cyclists on the pavement, then you could be fined and get points on your licence.
• As soon as you have passed through the water, test your brakes to make sure they’re working correctly.

Related: How to spot a flood damaged car.
What is aquaplaning?
Aquaplaning, also called hydroplaning, is when a layer of water builds up between a vehicle’s tyres and the surface of the road.

As the tyres can no longer grip the road, the driver is at high risk of losing control of their vehicle – they may be unable to steer, accelerate or brake. Aquaplaning can create the high risk of an accident and be pretty scary to go through.
Am I at risk of aquaplaning?
Water only needs to be one-tenth of an inch (2.5mm) deep for you to be at risk.

While new tyres in a good condition can hold off the equivalent of a bucket of water every seven seconds, older tyres with a low tyre tread at a higher risk as they’re struggle to clear the water.

Learn more about tyre tread and speed rating here.
How do I know if I’m aquaplaning?
There are normally four clear signs to aquaplaning, and you may experience any of them:
1. Your engine will suddenly become louder
2. Steering will suddenly feel lighter
3. Revs will increase, and it’ll feel like you’ve dropped the clutch down through gears
4. You may start ‘fishtailing’ – where the back of the car drifts side to side
How do I stop aquaplaning?
As mentioned above, the advised way to deal with aquaplaning is to gently ease off the accelerator and lightly hold the steering wheel straight. If you have cruise control, you should switch it off as you regain control.

Don’t hit the brakes (they may not respond) until you start the regain control. When you do, brake slowly to bring your speed down.

Related topics:

Road safety Handy guides