Driving in the Rain
Here are some helpful hints on preparing your car and planning ahead for wet road travel.
If at all possible, avoid driving until conditions improve.
Consider alternate transportation options. Keep bus, train and subway schedules for your routes at home and at work, in case you can't drive.
Listen to your radio for weather and traffic information.
Check your car emergency kit. Replace missing items.
Make sure your spare tire is in good condition and properly inflated; carry a jack and other tire-changing tools with you.
Make sure your vehicle is in good operating condition, particularly the tires and windshield wipers.
Allow more travel time. If you're already running late, call ahead. Never try to make up time on the road.
WHN Tip: Always let someone know your departure time, expected arrival time and route.
Consider an alternate route if your normal route has roads that collect water.
Monitor weather conditions and seek shelter immediately if the storm seems severe. Listen to radio for traffic and weather reports.
While seemingly obvious - drive carefully and defensively. Water on the road can severely change your car's responsiveness and your reaction time.
Always have your headlights on so you can clearly be seen as well as your windshield wipers on so you can clearly see others.
Leave extra space between your car and the other cars on the road for extra braking time.
WHN Staff Tip: Safe Driving Distance
SmartMotorist.com recommends following the "three-second rule." (NOTE: The distance changes at different speeds. In bad weather, double or triple the three-second rule for added safety.)
- First select a fixed object on the road ahead such as a sign, tree or overpass.
- When the vehicle ahead of you passes the object, slowly count "one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand."
- If you reach the object before completing the count, you're following too closely. Making sure there are three seconds between you and the car ahead gives you time and distance to respond to problems in the lane ahead of you.
Stay in the middle lane if possible to avoid slippery shoulders and ditches. This can also give you added comfort in gauging your surroundings.
Avoid standing water – it could be hiding potholes, unseen hazards or lead to hydroplaning.
Issues with hydroplaning? Your tire tread - or lack thereof - can play a big role. Properly treaded tires will help reduce hydroplaning as they "throw" water from under the tire much better than balding treads.
If hydroplaning, resist the temptation to immediately brake hard or turn the wheel - there's a good chance you'll lose control. Slow the car by easing off the gas pedal and wait until contact is reestablished with the road before attempting to lightly pump your brakes. If ABS (anti-lock), break normally in one steady motion.
After driving through a pool of water, tap on your brake pedal lightly to dry off your brakes (specifically the rotors). Why? Wet brakes do not react as quickly as dry brakes and what you may be accustomed to.
Keep an eye out for pedestrians. The combination of dark umbrellas, dark clothing and a lot of water on your windshield can make for a pedestrian that is very difficult to see. Pay extra attention.
Pay attention to your gauges, unusual noises and other sights and sounds coming from your car. If something seems unusual, be sure to have a professional check it out.
Use your best judgment. If you can't see road signs or cars in front of you, consider pulling over and wait out the heavy rainfall.
Have Time? Prep Your Car
Check the following items:
Recharge or replace weak batteries. If your battery is 4-5 years old, you may want to replace it. Have your whole charging system checked out by a professional.
Have your brakes checked by your mechanic.
- Exhaust System
Have the exhaust system fully checked for leaks.
Check fluid levels, battery posts, voltage regulator and alternator or generator.
WHN Tip: Change your oil and oil filter as needed — for most cars that's every 3,000 miles. Your owner's manual and dealer can give you specifics for your make/model.
- Heating and Cooling System
Check your radiator and hoses for cracks and leaks.
Make sure the radiator cap, water pump and thermostat work properly.
Anti-freeze should be changed at least every two years. Have it changed now if you didn't do it last year.
Test the functioning of the heater and defroster.
- Ignition System
Look for and replace damaged or worn out wires, caps or plugs.
Make sure all lights are functioning properly.
Check if the fuses are working properly. Keep extra fuses in your car just in case.
Traction is the key to good movement, turning and stopping on wet surfaces. The deeper the tread on your tires, the more water can be channeled out from under the tire and the more traction you'll have.
Check your owner's manual or door frame for the maximum pressure amount for your tires. Do not go above that pressure point.
Make sure to have the same tires on all four wheels. This will keep your car stable.
Check your spare tire regularly.
- Windshield Wipers and Washer
Make sure there is enough windshield washer fluid in the reservoir. Carry an extra jug in the vehicle.
Make sure wipers are in good condition (blades that streak should be replaced). Replace your windshield wipers at least once a year.
Safety12 Winter Driving Tips from Experts