As we make our way out of the winter season, we’re definitely celebrating the gradual disappearance of the snow. With the warming of spring, however, comes plenty of rain to wash that snow away. So, there may not be much ice left to look out for, but rainy weather can cause dangerous driving conditions as well. It’s important to practice defensive driving and be aware of how to handle and prevent surprises like hydroplaning. The happiness and safety of our customers is our number one concern at Saint Croix Auto, so with the coming of spring showers, here are ten tips from us to you on driving in heavy rain.
1. Slow Down
Rule number one may seem obvious, but it’s extremely important to slow down in heavy rain, as much as it is on icy roads. The faster you are moving, the easier it is and the less water it takes to hydroplane. In the event of hydroplaning, the last thing you should do is slam your brakes, so you’re not going to want to be already traveling at high speeds.
2. Try to avoid big ruts and potholes
Firstly, when potholes are filled with water, it’s hard to tell their depth. If you can’t avoid a pothole, slow down as much and as gradually as possible (without slamming your brakes) before getting to the pothole. Be sure to release your brakes before hitting the pothole. Deep potholes filled with water can damage and flood an engine, even from just the excessive splash of the tires.
3. Keep your distance from the vehicle ahead of you
You may have been taught something like the “three second rule” in driver’s education or by a guide at some point. This rule instructs you to choose a fixed marker, say a fire hydrant, for example, and when the vehicle ahead of you passes it, you should be able to count: “one, one thousand, two, one thousand, three, one thousand” before you pass the marker after them. It is also suggested that in very poor driving conditions, you continue counting: “four, one thousand, five, one thousand, six, one thousand.” This is a sure way to help make sure that in the event of an emergency, you have enough room to brake and avoid an accident with the vehicle in front of you.
4. Make sure your tires are in good condition
It’s always important to keep up with checking on your tires. Always remember to check your tire pressure every month, and inflate as per your manufacturer’s recommendations. While you’re down there, you should give your tires a thorough inspection for any cracks, foreign matter, or unequal ware. An unevenly-worn or under-inflated tire will increase fuel consumption and will not channel water away properly.
5. Turn off cruise control
Number five is a big one. One of your very first thoughts when heading out on a rainy day should be to never turn on cruise control, no matter how much or little it is raining. Hydroplaning is when your vehicle essentially surfs on the water built up on the road, causing you to lose traction and control of your vehicle temporarily. Your initial reaction to hydroplaning is most likely (and correctly) to remove your foot from the gas pedal. Cruise control is designed to keep your vehicle locked and moving at a consistent speed. When it feels the resistance and the slowing of the wheels while hydroplaning, it is going to accelerate suddenly, attempting to regain that speed, which is the last thing you want at that moment.
6. Lower the risk of hydroplaning
By following tip number five, you’ve already started number six, but there is more you can do to lower your risk. On any roads, especially those most heavily traveled, there are going to be ruts in the average wheel tracks of the lanes. Here, you will see water buildup on the roads. You’ll want to avoid these ruts as much as possible. This may mean being a bit off-center in your lane.
7. Be careful when stopping
This tip applies especially when driving in the city. Intersections and stop signs are common places for the gathering of leaked vehicle fluids which can become extremely slippery in combination with the weather. It is important to begin breaking sooner and more gently than you may do otherwise.
8. Make sure you are visible to other travelers
Your daytime running lights are not enough in heavy rain. Depending on certain vehicle makes and models, some vehicles’ tail lights do not turn on at the same time. It is important to make sure both your headlights and tail lights are on, even in daylight, to make sure vehicles ahead and behind you are able to see you through the rain.
9. Make sure your windshield wipers are in good shape
You’ll want to also make sure your wipers are in good condition and making contact with your windshield in all the necessary places. They should ideally be replaced yearly, as their rubber will dry out and leave unneeded streaks on your windshield, obstructing your view. Top off your wiper fluid in case of dirty puddles or spray from the vehicle ahead of you. (Bonus tip: avoid using your wipers to defrost your windows as soon as you start your vehicle in the cold. The ice and debris on your windshield can damage and deteriorate the rubber on your wipers. Also, if you reach freezing temperatures or have oncoming freezing rain, stand your wipers up to avoid them getting frozen down. Trying to activate your wipers when they’re frozen runs the risk of breaking the mechanism that runs them.)
10. If visibility and conditions get too poor, pull over and stop
Finally, if the rain starts falling too hard and obstructing visibility to the point that it is simply too dangerous to drive, you need to find a safe place on the side of the road to pull over and wait until it is lighter. You may have somewhere you really need to be, but it is not worth your or your loved ones’ safety, we promise.