Advice For Driving in Heavy Rain and Floods

Driving in heavy rain and flooding can be hazardous, so here are some useful hints and tips to help you prepare for wet weather.

It is always advisable to consider before you set off whether your journey is essential or can it be delayed until after the rain has subsided?

Always plan your journey in advance, taking care to avoid areas which are prone to flooding, and factor in extra time to allow for slower speeds and potential congestion. It is also advisable to let relatives and friends know your intended route and expected time of arrival and if possible, travel with others.

Before you go:

  • Check that your windscreen wiper blades are fully functional. If both front and back blades are not up to scratch, you should get them replaced.
  • On an older vehicle, it might be advisable to upgrade to so-called ‘aero’ wipers, which are more effective at removing water from the windscreen, particularly at speed.
  • Try to fill up with fuel before you start your journey, as getting stuck in traffic will increase your fuel consumption. Remember, with the lights, heater and wipers switched on, your fuel economy will be reduced even further
  • Listen out for local news bulletins to keep up-to-date with road closures, flooding and forecasts and make sure your mobile phone is fully charged, just in case of an emergency.
  • Check that your tyres are of the recommended legal tyre tread depth so you can be sure that you have a safe amount of grip on the roads

How to drive in heavy rain: 

  • Firstly, slow down! Reduce your speed and leave more space between you and the vehicle in front as stopping distances in rain are increased.
  • Use dipped headlights so that other drivers can see you more easily and don’t use rear fog lights as they can mask your brake lights and dazzle drivers behind you.
  • Look out for large or fast-moving vehicles creating spray as this will reduce visibility. Also remember to keep your air conditioning on, as this will stop your windows from misting.
  • Listen out for local news bulletins to keep up-to-date with any road closures, flooding and forecasts. If you do break down in torrential rain keep the bonnet closed while waiting for help to arrive, this will avoid the electrical system getting soaked.
  • Driving too fast through standing water could lead to tyres losing contact with the road. If your steering suddenly feels light you could be aquaplaning, so to regain grip, ease off the accelerator, do not brake and allow your speed to reduce until you gain full control of the steering again.
  • Driving fast through deep water can cause serious and very expensive damage so keep your speed down. Also be considerate to other road users and try not to spray pedestrians or cyclists as you drive through water.
  • The Highway Code states that stopping distances will be at least double in wet weather, because your tyres will have less grip on the road, so reduce your speed and leave more space between you and the vehicle in front to account for greater stopping distance.

How to drive through water and floods:

Driving through large puddles incorrectly could cause serious damage to your car, costing a lot to repair, below are a few tips for driving through them.

  • Size up the water first, even if you have to stop your car and get out, as getting a bit wet is a lot better than being left stranded. If the water is muddy you might not be able to see the bottom and gauge its depth, so try and find a stick or an object to find the lowest point.
  • If you suspect the water is too deep, or you can’t be sure, always find an alternative route to your destination. Modern vehicles’ door seals are good and keep water out, but this can make a car buoyant, meaning it could begin to float if the water gets too deep leaving you stranded. Even in this instance the water will eventually find its way in.
  • If the puddle is shallow enough to drive through, try and look for any objects that may cause damage to your car’s wheels, tyres or suspension, potentially leaving you mid-puddle with a problem. This way you can pick a safe path across the water.
  • Once you are sure you can drive through the puddle, keep your vehicle in a low gear (second is generally adequate) and engine revs up. This will help you maintain momentum when you travel through the puddle, creating a bow wave so you don’t get bogged down.
  • Once you exit the other side, and especially if the puddle is on the deep side, try and pause for a moment if you can to let any excess water drain away and flow back to where it came from. If this is not possible just be aware that grip levels on the road ahead will be diminished, as fluid from the puddle is dropped along the tarmac by other cars.
  • It is always worthwhile gently brushing your brake pedal on exit, creating some friction and therefore heat to evaporate off any excess moisture. Some luxury vehicles can sense when you’ve navigated a puddle and automatically do this for you, keeping braking performance as effective as possible.
  • Shallow puddles are not the most difficult to overcome but it is still important to remember that on the other side of a puddle, grip levels could be lower. Try and adjust your speed to suit the water depth and take your time.

A few minutes of planning could save you plenty of time, money and repair bills. Remember never  attempt to drive through fast flowing water as you could easily get swept away.