driving through floods

Driving through Floods

Many areas have had a lot of flooding in the last two weeks and with more heavy rain on the way I realised many motorists do not have a clue when it comes to driving through floods.

A few of the things I saw was people driving blindly into floods without knowing how deep they were, drivers going into flowing water and their cars getting pushed sideways, and people driving to fast through flood water with no concern for other people.

Avoid Floods when you can

When coming across a flood the best option if possible is to turn round and find a route that is not flooded. If there is just a dark cloud over the area you are that is causing flooding but you can see lighter skies the chances are it will pass soon and flood water dries up quick in the Philippines, so your best choice would be to park up for an hour and wait for the flood to subside. Or you could choose to drive round the cloud, often you find that a couple of kilometres away it is not raining.

It takes just one egg cup of water to get into your engine to destroy it, so it is well worth trying to avoid floods.

Modern Cars in Floods

Modern cars are better suited in extreme wet weather, but they still remain vulnerable to water. Both the electrical system and the engine are particularly susceptible to water damage. The electric systems are better sealed in modern cars than they used to be, but the how weather in the Philippines can quickly breakdown the seals.

Diesel engines are better in floods than petrol (gasoline) engines, but with so many electrical systems on modern diesel cars floods can still do a lot of damage.

Flowing water is always a danger

No matter what you drive there is also the risk of fast flowing water pushing your car of the road, or on a motorbike it can push your wheels from under you, leaving you laying in the flood. 

Flowing water is more likely to get into your electrics as it will spray up when it hits parts of your car

You should definitely avoid driving through moving water of more than 4 inches deep as that is enough to push your vehicle and no more than six inches of standing water.

Gauging the depth of a flood

The best way to gauge the depth before driving through floods is to stop and watch other drivers go through, there is always some idiot that will just drive straight into it without judging the depth of the flood. Another way is to get out and walk into the flood, however if it is fast-moving water this could be dangerous as it can wash you off your feet.

Polluted Flood Water

Something always to bear in mind is flood water in the Philippines is often very polluted with sewage and if it gets in your car will leave your carpets stinking, worse still it carries diseases that could make you or your family very ill.

Polluted and dirty water will also do more damage to your engine and electrics if it gets in them. 

Driving through Floods

If you do drive through a flood try to remember the highest point of the road and drive along it, normally this will be the middle of the road but with poorly built roads in the Philippines it is not always the case.

Drive slowly and in first gear, keep the revs high to stop water going up your exhaust pipe, if you drive a manual slip the clutch to keep the revs high.

Going slow also avoids water spraying up onto your electrics, one of the biggest mistakes is people speeding up as they exit the flood and ending up with water in their electrics because of it.

Speed in Floods

Some manufacturers of large 4x4s advice their drivers to enter the water as about 1-3 kmph and ten speed up to about 6kmph to create a bow wave which will create a depression in the engine bay. However there are a few things to bear in mind when using this technique. Firstly if your bow wave causes damage to property or floods someone else’s car you could end up with a large claim for the damage you caused. Also if you have a beam axle it will cause water to spray all over your engine.

Danger of Aquaplaning 

Even when there is very shallow water avoid going fast as you could lose control because your car aquaplanes. Aquaplaning happens when the force of hitting water at speed lifts your wheels of the road, it only needs to lift your front wheels a fraction and you can lose control of your car. I have made a car aquaplane on as little as a quarter of an inch of water. Aquaplaning in a car is bad enough on a motorbike you will be lucky to stay on the bike.

Manhole covers

A major problem when driving through floods at night or if the flood water is dirty is manhole covers they do tend to lift when it floods do to water pressure. So drive slow and try your best to look through the water for open manholes, or follow the car in front of you keeping your wheels on the same line as the car in front. In a car a wheel falling into a manhole will not only stop you it will do major damage to your car. On a motorbike going into a manhole is likely to send you flying over the handlebars.

Have consideration for people and property

It is also inconsiderate to soak pedestrians or buildings. I have seen windows of houses broken by the force of water spraying up because some idiot drove to fast through standing water, the wave you create can also do a lot of damage. As already mentioned the wave from you driving fast through a flood could also damage people’s vehicles, with more and more people having CCTV and dash cams you might find they have evidence to put a case against you and you ending up with a huge bill for the damage you caused.

After driving driving through floods

After driving through a flood test your brakes, if they feel unresponsive dry them by applying the brakes gently while driving, the friction will cause heat that will dry your brakes. Also stop and check your radiator has not been blocked by leaves or garbage that was in the flood water and check no plastic is on your engine or exhaust as it could catch fire or the fumes from hot plastic could end up inside your car.

What to do if your car stops while driving through floods

If your car stops while driving through floods leave the bonnet (hood) closed to avoid more water getting in the engine compartment, get out and wade to dry land. One good thing in the Philippines is you will always find people willing to help you. If it is standing water get them to push it back to dry land this is safer than trying to push it through the flood where it could get deeper.

If you are in the middle of nowhere and there is no help you could try putting your car in first gear or reverse and using the starting motor to pull it out of the flood, however most starting motors are not up to these and even if they manage it you are likely to damage the starting motor.

Drying out electrics

Once you get your car to dry land if you feel the problem is just water on the electrics you can set about trying to dry the electrics one of the best ways to do this is spraying them with WD40 which displaces the water. The old way was taking leads etc. off and drying them with a cloth, it can be done this way but the success rate compared to WD40 is very low and it can also take a long time, if your cloth gets wet it can do more harm than good.

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