Tips for driving in the rain

By Daniel Alexander on 28 March 2017
Car driving in the rain

At some stage motorists of all levels will find themselves driving in the rain. The fundamental thing to realise is that wet-weather driving demands you drive much slower, however, there are also other expert NRMA Driver Training tips to help you avoid an accident when facing wet roads.

  • Exercise extreme caution if a deluge has followed a long dry spell
    During a dry spell, engine oil and grease collects on the road. When it rains, the surface becomes slippery. Continued rain 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
    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’s tyres. 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 you’re slowing down. Use you turn signals earlier, so that other drivers can read your intentions easily.
  • Keep an eagle eye out for pedestrians and cyclists
    Visibility is lower and rain deadens 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 can cause your windscreen to fog up. Switch on both front and back demisters/heaters and make sure the air conditioning is also turned on.
  • Avoid large puddles
    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
    Tyres from large vehicles 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 tyres 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 brake or turn suddenly as you may skid. Ease your foot off the accelerator and if you must brake, do it gently. If your car has anti-lock brakes (ABS), then brake normally. The car’s computer will automatically adjust the brakes. If your car doesn’t have anti-lock brakes then use light pumping actions.
  • 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 car to go. 
  • Don’t attempt to cross running water…
    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 prevent aquaplaning. If you have any doubts about the wet-weather performance of your car’s tyres, get an NRMA mechanic to assess them.
  • Make sure 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 The NRMA for recommendations. Wipers need replacing? Here are six easy steps to replace your windscreen wipers.
  • 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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