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How to drive safely in rain and floods

How to drive safely in rain and floods
PHOTO: CarBuyer

SINGAPORE - Singapore’s tropical climate sees lots of rain, and localised, heavy downpours. As a result, our roads can be prone to the occasional flood, especially during the monsoon season that comes around the end of the year. 

Should you encounter a flooded road along your journey, do stay calm, and follow these tips to help you get out of a wet situation.

Don’t rush

This is probably the most un-Singaporean of instincts, but really, the best thing to do is to stop and take a clear view of the situation ahead. If you’re in a queue and there’s flooding ahead, don’t add to the pressure by using the horn or pressurising the cars in front of you to move.

If you do want to keep the situation moving, stop by the road safely and offer assistance or try and figure out what’s happening ahead. But generally speaking, truly un-drivable floods are rare in Singapore – though that may change as the climate becomes more extreme due to global warming.

Gauge the water level

How safe it is to drive on a flooded road depends much on the vehicle you are driving. A full-fledged sports-utility vehicle like a Land Rover Defender will have much better clearance than say, a sports car.

A typical family car has a ground clearance of 120 to 140mm, which is not very high. Generally, it is safest not to drive through a flood. But if you have to, gauge the water depth by looking at road curbs. If the curbs are still visible, or just below the water level, it should be relatively safe to proceed.

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Keep the revs up

When driving on a submerged road, keep the revs up as you are approaching the water. In other words, keep a slow and steady pace. Do not lift your foot off or apply the brakes midway.

This is to minimise turbulence and backflow, which might cause water to enter via the air intake, which can seriously damage your engine. Water generally cannot enter the engine via the exhaust, especially if the engine is running. For EVs, most car manufacturers have tested the battery pack and motor for a certain level of waterproofing, so there is slightly less risk.

Do not speed

Do not drive too fast through the flood. You want to move steadily through the water without going too fast. Going too fast can cause the water to crest the hood, and enter the engine compartment and eventually, the engine, causing serious damage.

Driving too fast will also cause aquaplaning, which occurs when a layer of water builds up between your tyres and the surface of the road, which would result in you skidding and losing control of your car.

What to do after getting through the flood?

Now that you’ve successfully driven past the flood, keep an eye out for any scratches or cracks on your car. Indicators and lights are often prone to water damage and rust, and owners should replace the bulbs should there be any water damage.

If everything looks A-OK, it’s time to examine the interior. Keep an eye out for any damp patches on the upholstery and door panels. If there are damp patches, start to dry them up immediately. Procrastinating would only cause a damp musty smell lying around in your car. Should you not have the necessary tools to clean it up, you can always send your car to a professional to get it sorted for you.

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Next, check the condition of your transmission fluid and the engine oil. If the transmission fluid seems diluted, beige or milky, it means that there is water in it. Instead of driving it, we recommend your car be towed and checked for repairs. Check the air filters, and if it is damp, replace them.

Do note to also check the undercarriage of your car should there be any mud, dirt, grass or debris, which can cause undercarriage damage and need to be removed. As your brakes are still wet from the water-clogged area, apply intermittent braking to dry them out and rid them of moisture, which might affect their performance.

Last but not least, we recommend monitoring your car for any unfamiliar sounds or noises, and if possible, do get it checked by a professional as soon as you can. 

This article was first published in CarBuyer.

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