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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. 

Are you ready for summer flash floods?

In planning for heavy downpours of rain following the mini heat waves, police forces across the country are warning weather appdrivers to prepare in advance and steer clear of certain roads that are susceptible to flooding. Smart phones, sat navs and in car technology means we have the most up to date information to plan around adverse weather forecasts. One of these data centres is a, standard weather app integrated into most Smartphones…

BUT the climate is so fickle at the moment that we cannot always predict for certain what weather we are going to be driving in. The Environment Agency has already put out 32 flood alerts in the UK this summer and surface water flooding has caused much localised travel disruption.

 

If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail…

We’ve put together some top tips to make sure that you are fully prepared for driving in wet weather so that you don’t end up stranded… in a very big puddle!car flood

 

  • Slow down as it takes longer for you to stop in the wet weather and if possible avoid using your brakes altogether as they can cause you to aquaplane across the water. Take   your foot off the accelerator earlier than usual to gradually slow down. You will be able to tell if your steering is unresponsive which means that the water is preventing your tyres from gripping the road.
  • As far as you can try and keep to middle and overtaking lanes of motorways and dual-carriageways as water is naturally drawn to the hard shoulder/inside lane because of the way the roads are built.
  • The stopping distance in these conditions needs to be vastly increased. The official following distance is a 3 second rule (or 2 car rule) – make sure you increase this to at least 5 seconds (or 4 cars). It’s better to be safe than sorry!
  • Turn on your lights when your visibility is limited, whether it is a heavy storm, light rain, fog, or even overcast Aquaplaningconditions. It’s not just about what you can see, but about others being able to see you!
  • It may seem like an obvious one – but as we have been lapping up the sun lately, it is likely that many people haven’t recently checked whether their windscreen wipers are up to scratch. With the warnings now in place, it is important that you replace old or brittle wiper blades to make sure you have good visibility in heavy rain swept weather.
  • NEVER drive through water if you can’t see the ground at the bottom of it. And IF driving through large puddles of uncertain depth then GO SLOW. If you go fast it can cause expensive damage as the air intake on many cars is low down at the front, therefore water can become sucked into the engine and cause driveability problems and you might need to take your car to an independent garage to get it checked out! As you go slowly make sure you use a low gear and higher revs to make sure you don’t cut out or damage the catalytic convertor. Once you come out of the flooded area it is important that you test your brakes as they will be saturated with water.
  • Avoid following large vehicles! The splash and spray from lorries and vans can obscure your vision on the road, so keep a wide distance from them and make sure your windscreen wipers are constantly active.
  • Pull over if it gets too bad. No matter how much you need to get somewhere, being late yet ALIVE is always the more sensible option. Heavy rain can put strain on your wiper blades, and cause a sheet of water to flow over your screen restricting your vision. Find a safe spot to pull over and wait for the worst part of the storm to stop, which shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

Did you know…?
Your car will float in just two feet of standing water

If you want your vehicle wet weather proofing, you can get a ‘Trust My Garage’ member to carry out a service where they will check all the essential parts of your car to drive you through these weather warnings safely. OR in the unfortunate event of the rain damaging your car in some way, they will provide you with a loyal and affordable repair service. CLICK HERE to find your nearest one.