It is never a good idea to purposely drive on flooded roadways. If you encounter flood waters ahead, turn around – do not proceed. However, unpredictable weather can put you in a dangerous situation fast. If you find yourself driving through water, we have some tips for you.
Why is it a bad idea to drive through water?
When water rushes over a street, it can hide dips, debris, and roads that have been washed away entirely. Yeah, it’s not the road you know.
Six inches of water is ample to hit the bottom of most passenger cars, flooding the exhaust and leaving you immobile.
If you cannot walk through water (especially moving water), do not attempt to drive across it. You aren’t in a survival movie.
One foot of water can cause most cars to float. Your deep tread is not a replacement for gecko-like grip.
Tips for how to drive through standing water
The water is shallowest at the center of the road. Drive down the center.
Take turns with other cars, creating a single lane instead of splashing water onto passing vehicles.
Only 15cm (a little over one-half inch) of water at any speed can cause you to lose control—badly.
Never try and cross water that rises above the center of your wheels (lowered cars, lower). That includes puddles.
Drive SLOWLY. Enter at 1-2mph. Drive at 3-4mph to avoid engine flooding.
Drive in low gear to protect the car. If in an automatic, keep the speed low enough to stay in first or second gear. Keep your foot on the gas, but use the brake to regulate speed.
Dry your brakes after moving through water by braking lightly while driving very slowly.
Driving through moving water or floods
Does your SUV make you big enough to cross streams? No. Two feet of water can sweep most vehicles away. Stay out of moving water.
If your wheels lose grip while driving through water (we told you not to go there), open the door of the car and let water in. You may be starting to float. The extra water adds weight. If there is a passenger, have them do this so you can take advantage of the (hopefully) restored moment of traction.
If your car floods
If your car floods, do not try and restart the engine. It can cause severe damage. If that damage sets in, you may have to strip the engine. Before the engine is restarted, the plugs and injectors must be removed.
If you can safely exit the vehicle and head toward higher ground, do it.
By the numbers: quick tips on how to drive across water
- Never enter water you cannot cross on foot or water 6 inches or midway up your tires. Avoid fast moving water.
- Enter at 1-2 mph.
- Cross at 3-4 mph.
- Drive in the center of the road, the highest point.
- Let cars cross the road one-by-one.
- Dry brakes with slow, light taps after exiting water.