Top monsoon survival tips while on the road
19th Jul 2017 8:00 am
We bring you a definitive guide to driving better in the rains.
The pitter-patter of rainfall and the cool winds make the monsoon season particularly enjoyable. But on the road, torrential downpours coupled with our bad roads and weak infrastructure make driving and motoring difficult. How should you be driving in these challenging conditions? What should you do?
And how can you be safer on the road? Here's a lowdown on surviving the monsoon.
1. Don't tyre them out
Cars running on ‘bald’, or worn out tyres are a common sight. Needless to say, driving with such tyres is highly unadvised for many reasons. Worn-out tyres offer little grip on slippery surfaces such as a rain-soaked road. Tyre grooves are designed to disperse water and allow the contact of rubber and road. But with no grooves, a tyre will simply not be able to displace water and will surf or slide. Make sure the tread depth is above the minimum level. As a rough guide, tread depth (distance from tyre surface to groove base) should be at least 2mm deep. Most tyres will have tread wear indicators – these are small cross ribs set in the main longitudinal grooves, about 1.5 to 2mm in height. Once the tyre surface is level with these ribs, it's time to get a new set.
Worn tyres are also likely to develop punctures, or even worse, burst. So, ensure that the tread depth is above the minimum, and there are no cracks or signs of excessive wear.
2. Brake it down
Wet roads also mean longer stopping distances, so make sure your brakes are in tip-top shape. When driving during heavy rains or just after driving through large puddles, make sure you dry the brakes by lightly tapping them intermittently. If you are buying a new car, make sure you opt for ABS and ESP if available, as they keep you safer in the rains.
3. Distance is your friend
In addition to lower speed, a little extra space from the vehicle ahead is also prudent. It gives you more time to react under poor visibility, and that sometimes is the difference between life and death. It will also provide you with a better view of the road ahead, handy with the increased potholes and debris.
4. Clean wipe
Wipers grant you a clear vision, and a neat streak-free windshield is what you want in the monsoons. Streaks can hamper your daytime vision and also cause distracting headlight refractions. So, make sure your blades are wiping clean. Also, top-up on the wiper washer fluid to clean mud splashes and sprays from the cars passing by.
5. See and be seen
A common sight in heavy downpours is the hazard lights or ‘blinkers’ flashing away. This is seemingly a good idea to improve one's visibility. Hazard lights are, however, to be used only when a car is stationary in a dangerous or vulnerable spot. By using these lights in the rains, a slow-moving car could be mistaken for one that’s stopped. So, in cases of a heavy downpour, simply switch on your headlights and fog lights if your car has them. This will ensure you are seen on the road.
6. Escape plan
It pays to know all the escapes in your car. For instance, many cars have an inner boot release mechanism that you can access through the folding rear seats, in the event the car's doors get jammed. In case you need to break open a window, use the car hammer. It also helps to have other handy bits like a seatbelt cutter and a torch. A certified fire extinguisher is also a handy tool for fires and also to break glass in emergencies. If nothing else, use your feet to try and break open the far side window.
7. Driving through floods
Sometimes, passing through low-lying areas is unavoidable, and that during rains, can often mean crossing flooded areas. Here are some pointers if you just have to wade through water.
Assess the depth of the water by watching the water level and observing other cars passing through. If need be, wait for a bit and observe some more.
Cross the area slowly and steadily, preferably in first gear.
Keep the revs high and steady. This will prevent the water from entering the exhaust, which can
cause engine damage.
If you suspect water has entered the exhaust, do not try to start the car. It will only cause more engine damage.
Once through, don’t forget to dry the brakes by gently dabbing the pedal while moving.
8. Fuel up
Traffic jams are inevitable in the monsoons. Be prepared for long waits in your car, and so make sure you’re tanked up before heading out. The last thing you need is finding that you're stranded because you're out of fuel. Also, keep some water and snacks handy, lots of music and a spare phone charger.