Tips for driving in the rain


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.

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30 thoughts on “Tips for driving in the rain

  1. I just hope I am not the only one who read this page. Good advice I find is ignored by a lot of drivers. I thought I knew it all – well I learned a thing or two.

    • I read it too, and found this very useful. I had to drive yesterday, but not in the thunder storm thank Heaven. But, it was scary how many other drives drove crazy and so fast. One, jumped infront of me, to gain not even 100 mts. mad!

  2. Good blog – another tip is to have some good CDs or podcasts to listen to in traffic to brighten your mood!

  3. Not to be putting in product placement, but I find that having Rain-X applied to my window actually increases visibility 10 fold. Definitely worth the $13.

  4. Thanks guys :D Very useful information indeed.. Alot of black ice on the road in Canberra so tips on horrible weather conditions are always nice.. :)

  5. In heavy rain – such as when your in a torrential downpour in daylight on a motgorway, it is appropriate to switch on your cars rear fog light. Germany allows its use when visibility is 50m or less, and GB 100m or less, in AUS under ARR we say ‘under hazardous weather conditions causing reduced visbility’, not when it is merely misty or a light shower. (Useful also during heavy fog (naturally), in dust-storms, when driving in bushfire smoke, or on gravel roads and dust masks vision). I’d not buy a car without a rear fog in principle, but like many, grrr @those who mis-use them.

    • Better still, it should be compulsory to drive with your headlights on at all times as it is in many European countries, when you start your engine your lights come on, and off, when you stops it. I drive with my lights on at all time to make sure oncoming traffic can see me in good time especially if they are driving towards the sun. The first car you notice in a convoy if oncoming traffic will be the one with the headlights on. Finally a plea to all the drivers out there use your blinkers every time when merging or changing lanes, the life it saves might just be yours.

  6. a very good advice, but please allow me as ex Austrian driving school instructor to ad a little:
    brakes – look ahead and use motor brake if possible
    puddles – think about if only one site of the car goes trough a puddle it will act as a brake and you could spin
    aquaplaning – very important the profile of your tyres, Austrian tyre factory made some test and at 70 km/h a bold tyre stands still, all control is lost.
    skid – always know if you drive a front wheel or a classic rear wheel drive, if it is skidding or a corner there is a big difference, with real wheel drive, besides getting your foot of the pedal and steer opposite direction there is not much else you can do – but with front wheel drive if you are not to fast you can drive out this spinning with putting your foot on the pedal and and steer in the right direction, it get’s you out.

    • incorrect, with the modern car when you lose traction, the traction control switches the cruise control off.

  7. Very good advice for driving in wet foul weather conditions. However how many drivers know that driving with cruise control on in wet weather is suicide. It is a pity that this common practice was not identified and listed as deadly? So many drivers really do not know their cars and how to use the technology to drive safer.

  8. Thank you for all that great info!
    I was surprised to read about rain & cruise control. Very Interesting & happy driving.

  9. Thank you for all that great info!
    I was surprised to read about rain & cruise control. Very Interesting & happy driving.

  10. All windows fog up during cold wet weather and vision is HIGHLY reduced….I always turn on rear window heater demister and also turn on air conditioner in the MAX heat mode….fan speed to medium….adjust hot air/de-humidified air to
    front windscreen…it will clear off fog in seconds. Also, most cars have air vent outlets on both sides of your dashboard…thus as this hot/de-humidified air constantly clears the front windscreen….it ALSO clears both front side windows…thus allowing you to clearly see your side mirrors….thus now no need to often wipe the fog/condensation off these two side windows to check if it is safe to change lanes….the air conditioned hot air now gives you clear vision…front and both sides of your vehicle……of course your rear window is also keeping your vision clear. I feel this should be taught at ALL driving schools and be noted in the R.M.S. learner drivers handbook….as driving under these conditions is VERY dangerous !!!!! I would also like to advise all drivers to buy a pair of 2″ (50mm) round convex mirrors…less than $3 at your local “El Cheapo” shop….and stick them to your side mirrors…to the top outside part of your mirrors…this will give you FAR better all-round vision for lane-changing PLUS you can now actually see your rear wheels/gutter/toys/children…..I feel this simple and very cheap item should be mandatory on all vehicles…new AND old.

  11. Concentration is more necessary in wet weather, to concentrate while driving, don’t listen to music or other things as you need the extra concentration to drive responsibly. Also, always give more distance between the vehicle ahead of you. Don’t tailgate.

  12. all good advice – apart from the braking after a puddle to “dry your brakes”
    I don’t like this advice because as the following car you are in the puddle when the car in front brake lights come on ( them drying their brakes) and you have to react and brake in the middle of puddle and chance or increase your chance of an aqua plane. I would say not to brake or touch brakes at any point they are not really needed in the wet.

  13. Correct advise. How stupid that I think all the tips on this, I believe all drivers should know and use when upon bad weather.So logic and yet so hard for thousands of drivers to act on the simple thinking of well it’s bad weather and mmmm maybe I should be more cautious and slow down a little. Ahh, they usually the people that live in a glass house and throw stones. Great Advise to all

  14. “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”

    Steering the car in the direction you want the front of the car to go can cause the car to go into a spin. Which you certainly don’t want to do. Instead it is recommended to turn your steering wheel in the direction the car is skidding. That will help tyres to get the grip and you re-gain control.

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