Extreme weather conditions can happen when you’d least expect it, so here’s how to be prepared in the event of torrential rains.
Ideally, you should try to avoid driving in heavy rains. Know your local weather broadcast channel (pre-program it to your radio now), always listen to the forecast and pay attention to thunderstorm warnings issued by the National Weather Service before you head out on the road. But if it’s unavoidable, here are some tips for driving in heavy rain.
The first thing you should do is slow down. This will give you more control and more time to react. You will need both, because when it’s raining heavily, the road becomes more slippery, and visibility is limited.
THE START OF THE STORM CAN BE DANGEROUS
When the rain first starts, moisture mixes with the oil on the road and makes everything slippery and dangerous. Heavy rains will eventually wash the oil away—but that’s when you have to worry about hydroplaning, which is when your car loses contact with the road and almost feels as though it’s floating.
HYDROPLANING? TAKE YOUR FOOT OFF THE GAS.
If you find yourself hydroplaning, keep calm, take your foot off the gas and steer in a safe direction. Avoid hydroplaning by slowing down, turning off cruise control and avoiding sudden braking and turns.
You’re more likely to hydroplane on non-grooved asphalt roads than ribbed concrete —particularly if there are tire ruts worn into the asphalt. Also avoid any areas on the road where deeper water collects.
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DRIVE THROUGH DEEP PUDDLES
Puddles can hide potholes, so try to drive around them, being mindful of vehicles in adjacent lanes.
Do not drive in areas that are flooded or have moving water. Deep water can wreak havoc on your electrical system and engine. As little as a foot of water can float some vehicles, and two feet of rushing water can sweep vehicles away, including SUVs and pick-ups.
TURN ON YOUR HEADLIGHTS
With heavy rain comes dark skies, so turn on your headlights. But don’t use your high beams, because the extra light can refract against the droplets and could distract drivers.
FLIP ON DEFROSTERS AND SET AC OR HEAT TO FRESH AIR
Flip on your defrosters to reduce fog, and set your air conditioner or heater on the fresh-air setting instead of recirculate.
KEEP YOUR DISTANCE
The spray from trucks or large vehicles can also obscure your vision, so keep your distance or try to pass them if you find a safe opportunity.
HEAD FOR HIGHER GROUND
Look for higher paths to drive on. And if it gets too harsh out there, don’t risk it: Find a safe place on higher ground—away from tall, isolated trees and poles in case there’s lightning—and pull over to wait for the rain to pass.
You can help prep your vehicle by making sure your headlamps, wiper blades, brakes and tires are always properly maintained.