Tips to help you drive during severe weather

Posted at 5:37 PM, Mar 13, 2015
and last updated 2018-07-20 13:26:28-04

Being in a car during a rainstorm will keep you dry and get you wherever you’re headed quicker than it would otherwise, obviously. But there are some setbacks to driving in rain, particularly when there’s high water.

Did you know it takes as little as 1 foot of water to make most vehicles "float”? Heck, 2 feet of rushing water can sweep away most vehicles – that includes SUVs and pick-ups.

With the forecast calling for more rain, standing water and flooding can be a major issue for drivers.

AAA offers these important wet-weather tips:

Don’t Drown Your Car - High Water Dangers

When eyeballing road conditions, the actual depth of standing water can be deceiving.

For that reason, motorists should never drive through standing water at any depth, according to AAA.

Should a motorist be on the road and come across standing water, their safest course of action is to simply turn the car around and avoid it altogether.

Officials with AAA say it doesn’t matter how familiar you are with a particular roadway because it’s not worth the risk of causing serious damage to your vehicle.

If a vehicle is driven through standing water, a driver risks flooding the engine, warping brake rotors, loss of power steering, or a short in the electrical components of the car, all of which can be costly to repair.

Repair costs for damage caused by driving through standing water can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, AAA says.

Get a Grip – AAA’s Guide to Wet Weather Techniques

Safe driving during heavy rain begins with good tire tread, firm brakes and streak-free wipers.

Wet weather driving techniques will help drivers deal with reduced visibility and traction, steering, braking and skid control.

Here are some more tips from AAA:

  • The best way to stop on a slippery surface if your vehicle doesn’t have antilock brakes is to use threshold braking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal to the “threshold” of locking your brakes.
  • Use your defroster to keep front and rear windshields clear. On a cold day, move the heat control to “hot” and let the engine warm up before you turn on the defrosters and blowers. This will prevent moisture from collecting on the inside of the glass. If the glass gets foggy, open a window slightly and turn the defroster fan to a higher speed. Use your air conditioner to reduce humidity.
  • Do not use cruise control -- it works great in dry conditions, but when used in wet conditions, the chance of losing control of the vehicle can increase.
  • If you feel the car begin to skid, keep looking and steering in the direction you want the car to go. Also avoid slamming on the brakes to maintain control; this will make your vehicle even more unbalanced and unstable.
  • When you drive on wet streets, mud and dirt splash on your headlights, reducing illumination by up to 90 percent. Stop periodically during a long trip to clean your headlights.
  • When visibility is so limited that you can’t see the edges of the road or other vehicles at a safe distance, it’s time to pull off and wait for the rain to ease up. It’s best to stop at a rest area or exit the freeway and go to a protected area. If the roadside is your only option, pull off the road as far as you can, preferably past the end of a guardrail. Vehicles parked at the side of the road are frequently struck by other drivers. Respect the limitations of reduced visibility and turn headlights off and emergency flashes on to alert other drivers.

What to Do If Your Vehicle Does Become Submerged

Before attempting to start a flood-damaged car, says AAA, call your mechanic or dealer and make an appointment to have them inspect all readily accessible mechanical and electrical components. They also need to check all systems that contain fluids, for water contamination.

You should also remember to drain floodwater from contaminated components and systems, flush with clean water or an appropriate solvent, and refill with new clean fluids of the proper type.

Don’t forget to inspect, clean, and dry electrical system components and connections.

Most importantly, never attempt to start a vehicle that’s underwater.

What about hail?

If you're caught driving during a hailstorm, pull over and park your car in a covered area, AAA recommends. If it's not possible to park in a covered area, pull over and use a blanket or clothing to cover your face and protect from possible flying glass.

Bonus: If you're indoors during a hail storm, close all window coverings and stay away from windows and skylight as much as possible.