Blog Car Care Advice 6 Safety Tips for Driving in Floods (+ Risks & FAQs)
Car Care Advice

6 Safety Tips for Driving in Floods (+ Risks & FAQs)

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Residing in a high flood risk area?
Driving in flood conditions can be extremely dangerous and challenging.

It can not only endanger your life but also cause severe damage to your vehicle, resulting in expensive repairs.

But worry not!
In this article, we’ll give you 6 safety tips to keep in mind when driving in floods. We’ll also cover 8 risks of driving in floods and get you answers to insightful FAQs

This Article Contains 

Let’s get started.

6 Safety Tips To Keep in Mind When Driving in Floods

Natural calamities like heavy rain, floods, or flash floods can occur anytime and anywhere, even with predictions from the National Weather Service.

The first thing to consider when faced with a water-logged road is whether the water is traversable. Only enter water that is less than 6 inches deep and doesn’t come midway up your tires — including puddles.  

But if you can’t avoid crossing a flooded area, these safety tips will help you minimize the risks of flood dangers and reach your destination safely:

1. Don’t Overtake Other Vehicles

It’s safer to drive single file behind other cars than to pass by and splash water on others on a flooded street. Most of the time, the vehicle in front of you can move water out of your path, giving you more traction. 

Furthermore, when there’s heavy rain and visibility is low, the drivers’ stress levels are already high. Racing past other vehicles will only further add to their frustration. 

Tip: Drive in the center of the road, where it’s usually the highest point.

2. Stay in First Gear and Keep the Car Running 

Even when you think the water level is low enough, you should always drive through a flood in first gear to avoid making a bow wave and splashing water on others. Driving in anything higher than a second gear can cause your vehicle to stall

If you’re driving an automatic car, keep your speed low enough to stay in first gear.

Maintaining a steady vehicle speed is better than accelerating too quickly, as it prevents water from infiltrating important parts of the vehicle. Driving at high speed, in a mere half-inch of flowing water, can cause passenger cars to lose control as water can enter the vehicle’s exhaust or air intake system. 

3. Rev the Engine 

While driving through flood water, constantly revving your engine helps prevent water from entering it. 

If you drive a manual vehicle, slipping the clutch and revving the engine helps keep the exhaust clear. 
But, if you drive an automatic vehicle, you can keep your foot on the gas and use the brake pedal to regulate speed.

4. Don’t Stop Your Vehicle 

Don’t stop your vehicle in the middle of a flooded road, especially if the flood water level is over 6 inches — otherwise, the flowing water can flood your engine.

If your vehicle becomes submerged in deep water, don’t restart your engine immediately. Doing this may strain its connecting rods, causing them to break. 

5. Turn On the Hazard Lights and Turn Off the Air Conditioner 

Turning on the headlights and hazard lights in severe weather conditions improves visibility, allowing you to look out for road closures while making your presence known to other drivers. The lights can protect you from flood dangers and determine the water level on a flooded roadway. 

You should also turn off your air conditioning system because water can damage the fan in the engine compartment.

6. Have Your Car Examined As Soon As Possible

Once you’re out of the flooded area, continue to drive your vehicle at a lower speed. 

Your first stop after driving through flood water should be at a professional mechanic to check for any signs of internal damage to your engine compartment and electrical components. 

In case your vehicle experiences severe flood damage, you can also consult your car insurance provider to check if your car insurance policy covers such damages.  

Now, let’s look at some risks associated with driving in floods. 

8 Risks of Driving in Floods 

Driving in floodwater exposes you to many dangers, which can be life-threatening and cause damage to your vehicle. 

Here are nine risks you should be aware of:

1. Drowning 

Floods and flash floods can cause low visibility, making it difficult for drivers to gauge the road’s water level. 

If you’re driving through flood water, there’s a risk of your vehicle being submerged or being swept away by the fast flowing streams.

2. Injuries and Infections 

A vehicle driving through severe weather conditions like a flash flood can encounter debris or obstacles like rocks, branches, tree roots, mud, etc. Fast moving water may also contain sharp objects, such as glass or metal, that can cause injuries.

In case of a collision, these objects can cause severe puncture wounds or head injuries to drivers and passengers.

Apart from debris, flood water may contain contaminants such as human or livestock waste and sewage. If the contaminated flooded water comes in contact with your wounds, it can cause infections. 

3. Car Accidents 

Flood waters can impair visibility, making it difficult for drivers to see other vehicles, road closures, or barriers, raising the likelihood of accidents. 

4. Engine Damage 

Driving in flood water can damage your engine and cause ‘hydro-locking’ or stalling. 

Hydro-locking occurs when water enters the engine through the air intake system and causes your pistons to freeze. The damage caused to your vehicle by hydro-locking is irreversible and results in costly repairs.

5. Transmission Damage

While transmission systems are water-resistant, they can’t withstand flash flooding. Driving through floods can cause water to flow into your transmission and into the vent systems. 

It destroys the linings, and the lubrication starts to deteriorate, which results in transmission failure. Flood water can also cause the gears in your car’s transmission to slip.

6. Brake and Rotor Damage

A vehicle’s brake pads and rotors can reach temperatures as high as 392oF in normal driving conditions. But, in moving water, applying the brakes will require more friction, which can cause your brake pads and rotors to heat. 

Driving your vehicle through the rising water can cause your rotors to warp due to overheating, which may result in unpleasant sounds and vibrations when you press the brake pedal. 

7. Suspension Issues

The suspension joints of most modern cars are greased at the time of manufacturing.

However, driving through deep water can remove the lubricant, resulting in early rusting, and can cause the suspension joints of your car to fail after a year or more. When that happens, you can ask your mechanic to re-grease them.

8. Electrical Issues

When you’re driving through a flood or standing water, the electrical components of your vehicle can be compromised. Water and electricals don’t get along. If flood water enters your vehicle, it can damage your car’s engine control unit, air conditioning system, etc.

Exposure to flash flooding can also corrode your car’s battery terminals, making it difficult for you to start your vehicle.

Now, let’s dive into some flood-related FAQs.

3 FAQs on Driving in Floods 

Here are some additional things you should be mindful of while driving in water-logged roads:

1. Why Should I Avoid Speeding While Driving Through a Flooded Road?

Driving at high speed on slick, wet roads can cause ‘aquaplaning,’ a condition where your tires lose contact with the road, making you lose control of the steering wheel. If this happens, hold the wheel lightly and pull your foot off the accelerator to slow down your vehicle and allow your tires to regain traction.

Driving at high speed on wet roads can also cause fast moving water to enter your engine’s air intake system, making it more vulnerable to water damage. 

2. What Depth of Water Can a Car Drive Through?

It’s relatively safe to drive in waters that appear to be less than 6 inches deep or water that doesn’t come halfway up your tires.

Driving through standing water that is deeper than 4 inches is only recommended if you’re driving a pickup truck or a car with significantly higher ground clearance than regular passenger cars. 

In 12 inches of rising water, an average car can be swept off the flooded roadway — including a heavy pickup truck or SUV.

3. How Can I Anticipate an Upcoming Flash Flood?

While floods can appear out of nowhere, if you live in a high-flood-risk area, you should routinely monitor the latest news on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency works with the National Weather Service to predict flood risk and deliver a flood warning to civilians.

Wrapping Up 

If you reside in a flood-prone area, it’s recommended that you check the flood warning alerts before stepping out and avoid driving through flowing streams of water. 

When you encounter a flooded street, take an alternative route or move to higher ground. However, if you have no choice but to drive through it, you can follow the tips above to navigate across flood waters safely. 

Once you’re out of the flooded water, you should take your vehicle to a professional mechanic so that they can inspect it for any severe water damage. 

Or, you could just contact AutoNation Mobile Service

AutoNation Mobile Service is a mobile car repair and maintenance solution that offers you easy and convenient online booking and a 12-month | 12,000-mile service warranty for all repairs.

Get in touch with us for easy car repair and replacement services right in your driveway!