Weathering the storm – how to drive safely in wintry conditions

You just have to glance at the news to see the devastating effects of the storms that are battering Wales and Western England, leaving whole communities ruined. The bad news is that it’s only going to get worse, with even more heavy rain predicted over the next few days. Two powerful storms after each other can only mean one thing – floods.

Treacherous Driving Conditions

Driving in wet weather can be dangerous and challenging at the best of times, but when there’s flooding things are obviously made even worse, especially if you’re inexperienced driving in such conditions.

We’re offering you some handy advice for driving in floods – it might just save your life.

5. Be wary of spray

Spray, water that’s forced from the road as a vehicle drives over it, can be deadly as it has the potential to completely cut out your already reduced visibility.

To avoid spray covering your windscreen you should keep a safe distance from the car in front of you, and if you see an oncoming heavy vehicle, switch your windscreen wiper setting to full in anticipation.

You should also be aware of the law – if you’re seen driving through a roadside puddle and splashing someone on the pavement, accident or not, you’re likely to receive a caution from the police, as it is an illegal offence.

4. Check your windows and wipers

Make sure your windows are clean – this will not only improve visibility but clean windows are actually less likely to mist up than dirty ones, so invest in a high quality windscreen washer fluid. When your windows do inevitably start to mist you can counter it by turning your heater fan or air-con on to clear it. Carry out regular checks before you set off on journeys to ensure your wiper blades are in good condition, if they’re not then they’ll be less effective at clearing away water on the windscreen. It’ll be handy to have a spare set in your car so you can replace them when you’re on the move.

Whenever it’s raining and you’re having to use your wipers, it’s a general rule that you should also have your headlights on and dipped.

3. Don’t aquaplane

Aquaplaning is a nice sounding word with a terrifying definition. It is the term used for when your car loses contact with the road and effectively surfs on top of water. You’ll be able to tell when your car is aquaplaning because your steering will feel unusually light and road noise will disappear – what you need to do is gently release your foot from the accelerator so your tyres can once again regain traction with the road.

It’s imperative you don’t brake or steer as doing either of these will cause you to lose total control of your car.

2. Avoid puddles

Driving through water is, as you can imagine, incredibly dangerous. If you get water in your engine electrics it will cause it to stall, not only leaving you stranded but also incurring expensive repair costs.

As a rule you should never drive through water that is as high as your exhaust pipe, and you shouldn’t go through moving water that’s higher than four inches. If you come across water that is this deep then you should turn around and find an alternative route – it might take you longer but do you really want to get stuck in a flood?

If you do drive through water then ensure you stick to the highest point of the road and you must reduce your speed – if you go too fast you’ll create a bow wave that will rise up to your engine and exhaust pipe.

Stick to first gear, keep the revs high by slipping your clutch (keeping the clutch partly engaged) and keep your foot on the accelerator pedal so that the engine is running at a constant speed- these are all necessary because they will help prevent water from entering the exhaust.

Once you’ve got through the water you should gently push your brakes to test them. If they’re not working you need to slow to a stop, pull over and call for assistance.

The important thing to remember is to stay calm. This is easier said than done but panicking won’t get you anywhere, and if anything, will put you at further risk as you’ll be more prone to making rash decisions.

1. Servicing

You should get your car serviced at a trusted independent garage to ensure it’s in good condition for driving in wet weather. As you can imagine you’re going to be heavily reliant on your tyres because of the water on the road, and whilst you can check their pressure and tread yourself it’s always safer to use an expert.

The last thing you want is to breakdown when the rain is lashing down and the winds are ripping trees from their roots – get your car serviced so problems can be detected at an early stage rather than when you’re stranded at the side of a flooded road.

 To find your local independent garage for a service ahead of a drive in wintry conditions, visit the Trust My Garage website and insert your postcode into our garage finder. 

About trustmygarage

TRUST MY GARAGE (TMG) is a scheme developed for independent garages by the Independent Garage Association (IGA) to recognise the high standards of independent garages throughout the UK.

Posted on January 10, 2014, in car maintenance, driving tips, People, real life driving, Trust My Garage, Tyre maintenance, vehicle repairs and servicing, winter driving and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. t’s a good idea to have your vehicle fully serviced before winter starts and have the anti-freeze tested. If you can’t have it serviced, then do your own checks. :
    Lights are clean and working
    Battery is fully charged
    Windscreen, wiper blades and other windows are clean and the washer bottle filled with screen wash
    Tyre condition, tread depth and pressure (of all the tyres, including the spare)
    Brakes are working well
    Fluids are kept topped up, especially windscreen wash (to the correct concentration to prevent it freezing), anti-freeze and oil

  2. Reduce your speed. The chances of skidding are much greater and your stopping distance will increase massively.

    Avoid harsh braking and acceleration, or sharp steering.
    Always reduce your speed smoothly and in plenty of time on slippery surfaces.
    Slow down in plenty of time before bends and corners.
    Braking on an icy or snow covered bend is extremely dangerous.

    Keep your vehicle well-ventilated. The car heater turned up full can quickly make you drowsy.
    In snow, stop frequently to clean the windows, wheel arches, lights and number plates.
    Visibility will probably be reduced, so use dipped headlights.
    During wintry weather, road surfaces are often wet and/or covered in frost and ice or snow.

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