How to: tackle floodwater

How to: tackle floodwater
How to: tackle floodwater

Flash floods can happen at any time of year. Here’s how to keep driving safely

The first thing to consider when confronted with flooded roads is an alternative route. It’s always better to add a little extra time to your journey than it is to put your car’s engine and electrics at risk, or in the worst case scenario being swept away by the water. Never take on deep, fast-flowing water – you will lose.

If an alternative route isn’t practical, you should always check water depth. Keep a pair of wellies in the boot for that purpose, and have a torch in the car for night-time testing. Failing that, park up and watch how other vehicles get on.

If there are vehicles coming towards you in flood water, let them get past before you try to get through. If they’re going quickly, or are large vehicles, their bow-wave could drown your vehicle. Plus, most roads are crowned (higher in the middle than at the sides) so it makes sense to wait so you can drive down the centre of the road.

Ordinary cars (ie not high-riding 4x4s) shouldn’t be taken through water deeper than 10cm. Because modern cars are pretty watertight, they can easily float away in water as little as 30cm deep. That’s less than a foot in non-metric.

Keep your speed down. 3-4mph is plenty. Driving too fast doesn’t just create a wave for road users, it will increase the chances of your tyres losing contact with the road. If that happens, don’t hit the brake: take your foot off the accelerator pedal and hold the steering wheel straight until grip comes back.

Slow driving is important, but so is keeping going. Stopping in deep water may let water up the exhaust pipe, which will result in expensive engine damage. Keep the engine revs up by slipping the clutch if necessary. This will produce enough exhaust pressure to keep water out. If your car is an automatic, put it into the lowest holdable gear.

Once you’re through the flood, choose a safe place to lightly apply your brakes a few times to dry them off. If despite everything you do get stuck in deep water, stay in the car and phone for help. Getting out or opening the bonnet could cause extra damage. Don’t try to restart the engine or water could find its way in.


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