Winter Motoring Guide
02/01/2014 18:15 | By Sean Carson

Tips for driving in floods

With the UK set for a deluge, here's how to drive safely with floodwater around

Driving in floods tips (© Rex)

With flood warnings in force again across large swathes of Britain, you might be wondering how to prepare for driving on flooded and wet roads. Read on for MSN Cars' top tips to help you cope with getting about in severely damp weather in safety.

Don’t assume that just because you have a 4×4 you’re immune from the dangers of getting caught out, either. Off-roaders may have extra height and more traction than normal cars, but if they’re not driven in the right way, they’re unlikely to be that much more able.

Instead, you should take precautions and make sure you’re prepared. Read on, for our top tips on how to drive in floods…

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Winter driving tips

Driving in floods tips (© Rex)


Plan your journey

Just like driving in snow or ice, preparation is key. Check the weather forecast to see if rain is likely to affect your journey – the Met Office and Highways Agency are excellent sources of information to check conditions both in the sky and on the roads.

Sticking to main roads where possible will also reduce your risk of meeting a difficult or impossible to negotiate body of water.

Braking distances double when the road is wet

If you can’t avoid certain routes however, ensure your car is best prepared for the conditions – that means clean headlights and windows, and tyres correctly inflated and above the legal 1.6mm tread depth. We’d recommend even more in serious conditions.

Make sure you keep people abreast of your plans, with rough departure and arrival times. Keeping a charged mobile phone in your vehicle to contact people in an emergency is a good idea too.

Alter your driving style

Braking distances double when the road is wet, so adjust your driving style to suit the conditions. By slowing down and increasing following distances, you give yourself more time to properly assess the conditions and to react to an event.

In very wet conditions your vehicle can aquaplane – where a film of water stops the tyre contacting the road – leaving you with reduced control over the car. Lift off the accelerator slowly and don’t brake or steer violently to help regain control.

Sudden steering, throttle and brake inputs will unsettle the car, and with reduced grip in the wet, jerky actions will increase your risk of having an accident – make gentle movements with all the controls to keep the car as stable as possible.

Remember, floodwater is usually deepest nearer the kerb, so try and stay in the centre of the road, keeping engine revs reasonably high and speed low – that way you’ll have better control over the car. Don’t drive into any water without knowing how deep it is.

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How to drive in floods (© Rex)


What to do if you breakdown

If you do experience the worst-case scenario and your vehicle fails, stay with your car. Only abandon your vehicle if there’s no alternative.

Position your car out of harms way so it doesn’t obstruct traffic or risk causing an accident, if possible. Put your hazard lights on and erect a warning triangle in a sensible position if your vehicle carries one.

Let someone know where you are by calling for help – if you’re on a motorway, use the emergency telephones provided as it will help pinpoint your location.

Don’t put your bonnet up. Although it’s a recognised sign that you’ve broken down, wet electrics will mean you won’t be going anywhere fast.

Floodwaters can rise quickly, so make sure you’re properly prepared before setting out on any journey in rainy conditions. Drive sensibly and to the conditions and you should successfully reach your destination.


How to drive in floods (© Rex)

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29/01/2013 01:36
if you have to drive through deep water make sure there is plenty of space between you and car in front. keep car in second gear travelling approx 5-10mph. dont stop or slow down the whole time you are going through. the idea is the water doesnt have time to return up the exhaust as u are doing a constant speed. as soon as ur exhaust is blocked it will kill the engine and thats you stuck. good luck and if you can, stay at home or get a hotel for the night.
29/01/2013 00:53
unless there is absolutely no other option  DO NOT DRIVE THROUGH A DEEP FLOOD
29/01/2013 01:01
how does leaning out the window help get through?
29/01/2013 00:56
Step one is don't chose an old Austin 1100 with a crack in the distributor cap!
29/01/2013 06:34
Dont drive through flood water at all..if it looks deeper than a few inches its too deep and it will cause serious damage to your engine..put your car out of danger at the side of the road and then walk through the water to gauge the depth..only then will you know if its safe to continue through.

About air intakes.... if you know your car has a low level air intake, get radical and temporarily remove the inlet pipe  before the air filter if possible, to prevent damage. Old pug 306 and similar have the air filter a few inches above the road - silly. In this case, undo a clip anywhere before the air mass sensor, or before the turbo ...... ease the pipe off a little way, and use less than 1500 rpm.

Or get a Landy with a snorkel intake, good for about six foot or so......mind the crocs.

29/01/2013 02:01
Splash as many pedestrians as you can.

Does nobody else carry a boat on thier roof racks?

29/01/2013 12:08
along with adjusting air vents retro fitting bonnets adding snorkels you could add to front bumper underwater cctv equipment  to see whats under the water ... or you could save time turnaround find another route and save a fortune oh and also be safe !!!!!!
28/12/2013 15:53
Its simple really just don't go into deep water after all cars are not boats.
29/01/2013 03:10
if you have a saab 9-5 dont drive through as your anything as high as your knee, the filter is under the drivers side front bumper, your engine wont work after this, fit a cone filter and greater your chances :)
29/01/2013 10:53
First thing I do with any car is raise the air intake and retrofit a bonnet vent, instant safe passage through floods upto the headlights, just make sure you don't come off the accelerator when in water and make sure your door seals are good... in winter spray electrics with wd40 about once a month to seal them off from water getting to them, I've never had a problem!

29/12/2013 19:41
hey listen here's a point why don't they teach you how to do this in your test? well let me tell you the double standards agency (dsa) think it is not important but what is important is how to teach you how to pass your test and not how to drive now it all makes sense.....NOT!!. 
29/01/2013 13:21
My advice is take the new high speed train, should be operational by around  2020. Till then stay indoors when there is any sign of rain !
29/01/2013 16:33

Driving in conditions where spray is being thrown up "No dipped headlights"

White water rafting, "No lifejacket being worn"

Driving whilst not being in control of your vehicle "Standing up looking out off the driver's window"

wading in water barefoot "No wellie boots being worn" Not to mention the inconsiderate motorist doing his/.her best to blind the guy

Far better to stay at home and be educated by MSN.. 


30/12/2013 04:15
Really 1.6mm at least in wet conditions? That's the point you should change it. leaving it means it drops below this to 1.599999~

I would recommend 3mm at least on all 4 corners.

29/01/2013 18:40

1 Don't do it.

2 If you feel the need buy a boat.

29/01/2013 13:31
I have to use these skills all the time !!! (I live in Pakistan). 
30/12/2013 17:05

Think I'll stick with the 4x4 snorkel at the front and on the exhaust, so good for about 5-6 feet of water.

Best advice, find another route.

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