Essential tips for driving through floods

The monsoon has arrived and with it comes the threat of floods, especially in cities like Mumbai where the infrastructure can barely handle the torrential rain. Potholes, drains packed with waste and a general lack of quality in road construction means that water logging is quite common. Here are five tips you should follow when driving through flooded areas. Driving through flooded roads may damage a vehicle’s engine, warp the brake rotors, cause loss of power steering, and also short circuit electrical components. Even if the flood water does not rise above your bumper, it is possible for water to be sucked into a vehicle’s engine. After driving through a flood, your brakes will be wet and might lose their grip if you brake at high speeds. Always remember to pump your brake pedal a few times after passing through a flood. Doing so will allow the brake pads to dry itself by coming into contact with the rotors/drums.

Avoid standing pools of water
In general, avoid driving through flooded areas when possible. While some SUVs come with a company-claimed water wading depth, most cars are not meant be driven through more than half-a-foot of water. Check Google Maps, talk to people on the road, follow traffic updates on social media or radio, and be alert while driving, to stay away from flooded roads and find alternate routes. Pay attention to other road users (cars, bikes, trucks and pedestrians) to gauge how deep the water is before attempting to wade through.

Keep on moving
If a flooding situation does arise, do your best to keep moving through the water and don’t stop. Do not accelerate suddenly or brake too hard, just keep a steady momentum. If the car stops in standing water, there is a chance that water may creep into vital parts like the intake and exhaust. When moving through water, use a lower gear (first, second or third, depending on the speed) and keep the engine revs on the higher side. Wading through water puts additional strain on the engine and using the third gear, instead of the first, could lead to the car stalling.

Do not restart the engine if stalled in water
In case the car has stalled in a water-logged area, don’t try and restart it immediately. There are multiple reasons – starting with the water putting more pressure on the engine’s connecting rods, which could lead to them breaking. In addition, if water has entered the engine through the intake or exhaust, it could cause serious engine damage and burn a rather large hole in your pocket when it comes to repairs. If you suspect water has entered the engine, immediately switch off the car to avoid any further damage. Push the car to an area that is not flooded and then call emergency services for help.

Don’t panic if you get stuck inside
When a car is stuck in water, the force that standing water exerts on the doors is much higher than you might think. This could prevent the doors from opening. In such a scenario, the first thing to do is to keep calm and not panic. Then, attempt to open the doors by pushing it with both legs. In case this does not work, use a heavy, blunt object (anything from a tyre iron to the headrests) to break one of the windows. However, don’t try and break the windscreen as it is usually far more difficult break than the door windows. Remember that it is always safer to ditch a water-logged car and walk to reach dry ground than attempt it in a submerged car.

Pump the brakes once clear of water
After you’ve successfully cleared a body of water, pumping the brakes will help push out any water that may have accumulated in the area. Water in the brakes naturally hinders proper brake usage. This issue is more prevalent on cars with drum brakes, and considering most models on sale in India have rear drums, this action is recommended. Keep these pointers in mind while driving this monsoon and stay safe.