Science tells us that there’s been about the same amount of water on the earth forever – that it doesn’t stay in the same place or form but is constantly redistributed by volcanic emissions, cosmic radiation and the wind and sun as part of “the water cycle”. However, science obviously doesn’t reside in Sydney – where the universe’s water supply has gathered recently, in the form of rain.
In a perfect world, rainy days would find us with our feet up at home in front of the TV, nursing a cuppa. However, reality being what it is – you probably have to leave the house. So in this water-logged blog we’ll discuss how you can stay safe and sane in the rain.
The fundamental thing to realise is that fair and foul-weather driving should be approached differently – wet weather demands you drive much slower. Taking a few other precautions and using wet-weather driving techniques will keep you from ending up soaked on the side of the road, waiting for one of our helpful roadside patrolmen to save the day.
Exercise extreme caution if a deluge has followed a long dry spell
During a dry spell, engine oil and grease collect on the road. When new rainfall hits, the surface becomes very slick. Continued rainfall will eventually wash away the oil, but the first few hours are the most slippery so bear that in mind.
Allow for more travel time
Traffic will be moving slower. Your normal route might be flooded or jammed, so don’t blow a fuse if it is – everyone’s in the same car-shaped boat.
Turn your headlights on…
even in light rain. Not only will your lights help you see the road, but they’ll help other drivers see you.
Drive in the tracks of a car ahead of you
Following another car’s tracks on wet roads can reduce the amount of water between the road and your car tyres. Also keep a keen eye on their brake lights so you can quickly anticipate their actions.
Brake earlier and easier than normal
This increases the stopping distance between you and the car in front of you and lets the driver behind you know that you’re slowing down. Be extra clear when using turn signals, so that other drivers can read your intentions easily.
Keep an eagle eye out for pedestrians and cyclists
Visibility is lower for everyone plus raindrops deaden sound, so the usual visual and audio cues for measuring car distances become obscured. Pedestrians are also impatient to get out of the rain so may make rash crossing decisions.
Defog your windscreen
Rain will cause your windscreen to fog up quickly. Switch on both front and back defrosters/heaters and make sure the air conditioning is also turned on.
Avoid large puddles (if possible)
Water splashing up into your car’s engine compartment may damage its internal electrical systems or a pothole under the water could damage a rim or knock your suspension out of alignment. If you can’t gauge the depth, try to avoid it. After you are across the puddle, tap on your brake pedal lightly to dry off some of the water on your rotors.
Give trucks and buses extra distance
Their over-sized tyres can splash enough water to block your vision completely. Avoid passing one, but if you must, do it as quickly as safety allows.
Traction and stability control are helpful on rain-soaked roads
Traction control helps you maintain grip by putting the brakes on the tyre(s) struggling for traction, while a stability control system monitors your steering input, intervening with the brakes and/or reducing engine power.
How to manage aquaplaning if it happens
Aquaplaning occurs when the water in front of your tyres accumulates faster than your car’s weight can push it away. The water pressure causes your car to rise up and slide on a thin layer of water between your tyres and the road. If you find yourself aquaplaning, don’t panic (though it’s scary!) Don’t brake or turn suddenly as you may skid. Ease your foot off the accelerator and if you must brake, do it gently with light pumping actions. If your car has anti-lock brakes, then brake normally. The car’s computer will automatically adjust the brakes.
How to recover from a skid
If you find yourself skidding, ease your foot off the accelerator, and steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. Be ready to turn the steering wheel repeatedly until the front of the vehicle is travelling in a straight line.
Don’t attempt to cross running water…
…unless you are in an SUV commercial. A metre of rain water can wash a car away. Fifteen centimetres can knock a person off his or her feet.
Keep your tyres inflated properly
Don’t put off replacing worn tyres. Slow down when roads are wet, and avoid puddles to avoid aquaplaning. If you have any doubts about the wet-weather performance of your car’s tyres, check it out with an NRMA mechanic.
Make sure that your wipers are in good nick and functioning correctly
If the blades are brittle or damaged, replace them before you’re caught in a deluge. Some wipers are better than others, so ask us for recommendations.
In very heavy rain, stop
When visibility is so poor that the edges of the road or other vehicles can’t be seen at a safe distance, pull over and wait for the rain to ease off. If you can’t stop at a rest area and the roadside is your only option, pull off as far as possible and wait it out. Keep your headlights on and turn on your hazard warning lights to alert other drivers. Be very careful to pick a safe spot to pullover as everyone’s visibility is dramatically reduced.