DRIVING WITH CHEVROLET: SAFETY IN THE WET
BANGKOK, THAILAND – The rainy season is back. After a long, hot and more importantly – dry spell, the rainy season brings respite to most folks. However, it may also catch some drivers by surprise, especially since we are used to (and take for granted) the higher levels of grip and visibility in the dry. Also, we may have taken the conditions of our vehicles for granted and it may in fact be quite ill-prepared for the rainy season. Here are some tips to prepare – and keep – your vehicle in tip-top condition.
Wipers – Check if the wipers are in good condition. If it squeaks, judder while moving across the windscreen or if it leaves streaks of water on the windscreen, they should be changed. New wipers prevent scratches on the windscreen and improve visibility in the wet. It is recommended to change the wipers once a year.
Tires – Check that all tires – including the spare – have enough tread left. Tires that are worn and have shallow tread will cause instability, lack of grip and reduced braking performance. Worse, it also promotes aquaplaning (read sidebar on ‘Aquaplaning’). Proper inflation is also important – different vehicles have different inflation requirements. Check the owner’s manual for the proper inflation pressure of your vehicle.
Engine Oil – Ensure your engine oil is changed regularly and according to service intervals. Old or used engine oil may contain humidity which will result in the deterioration of the oil’s lubricating properties. It may be advisable to change the engine oil during the rainy season to remove humidity and prevent engine damage.
Brake fluid – While brake fluid change intervals are not as frequent as engine oil, it may be advisable to change it during the rainy season. Humidity may be trapped in old or used brake fluid and this will cause a drop in braking performance. It will also cause damage to braking components.
Rain repellent – Use windshield rain repellent to reduce water on the windshield. A good rain repellent will form a non-stick layer on the windshield to which water cannot ‘stick’. Water will just ‘bead’, and be blown away by wind on the windshield.
Paintwork care – After driving in the rain, it is advisable to clean the exterior of the vehicle to wash away grime that may accumulate on the paintwork and cause deterioration. Simply hose the vehicle down with clean water after driving in the rain. If this is not possible, have the vehicle properly cleaned once a week to keep the paintwork in good condition.
To help customers prepare their vehicles for proper operation during the rainy season, Chevrolet Sales Thailand has launched a nationwide campaign that offers special privileges for customers who service their vehicles during the rainy season. This promotion starts now and ends on July 31, 2016. The three-tiered promotion includes:
Tier One – Up to THB400 discount on parts for service bills above THB 5,000. Additionally, customers will receive four coupons (expires on October 31, 2016), each with a THB50 discount for:
- Wiper blade
- ACDelco chemical products
- Brake pads
- ACDelco battery
Tier Two – Tier-one offers plus a limited-edition sunshade of Chevrolet t-shirt worth 1 pcs THB280 for service bills above THB 6,500.
Tier Three – Tiers one and two offers plus a Euro-grade microfiber cloth 1 pcs worth THB300 for service bills above THB 8,000.
Safety Tips: How to drive in the wet
In addition to preparing the vehicle for the rainy season and taking advantage of Chevrolet’s promotion, proper driving techniques are also important to ensure a safe journey during the rainy season. Here are some driving tips from Chevrolet’s driving experts:
Headlights help you see and be seen, especially in low visibility conditions. Do not use the hazard lights unless your car is a stationary obstacle others have to avoid. Similarly, turn on the fog lamps if your vehicle is equipped with them.
Keep Speeds Manageable
Reduce speed in wet conditions. Make sure you can stop within the distance visible in front of you. Lower speeds also reduce chances of aquaplaning.
Driving Through Flooded Roads
Firstly, never drive through anything you cannot see or walk through, or is deeper than the center of your wheels. Large SUVs and trucks can operate in deeper water, but find out what is the fording depth specific to your vehicle.
Flood water hides what is underneath. So, if you have to drive through a flooded stretch, make sure the road is still underneath the water and not washed away. Also be wary of unfamiliar roads that may have dips too deep for fording. Alternatively, stop and observe if others can drive through it safely.
If you have to go, aim for the ‘crown’ of the road, or near it, as the water is at its shallowest here. Use a low gear with high engine revs – first gear for manual or ‘L’ or ‘1’ for automatic transmission. Keep a constant speed; do not take your foot off the accelerator. A decelerating engine may induct water through the exhaust pipe and damage the catalytic converter. You also do not want the air filter in front to ingest water into the engine so drive very slowly. In both cases, damage will be severe and repairs costly.
Ease into the water at no more than 3 km/h, and increase to 6km/h in the water. This will create a bow wave in front of the vehicle and a depression in water level around the engine bay, reducing the chance of water induction via the air filter and also damage to electrical and electronic components. Speeds higher than this will just push water into the engine bay through the front grille.
Proceed one vehicle at a time so you will not be forced to stop in the middle if the vehicle in front stalls. Also ensure no vehicles are coming the other way, as the wake it creates may drown your vehicle, especially if it is moving at unreasonable speeds.
Once out of the water, apply the brakes gently to dry them. ‘Ride’ the brake with your left foot if you are familiar with this technique. Release when you feel the braking performance is back to normal. Also stop to inspect and ensure nothing such as plastic bags or other debris is stuck in the grille or radiator fins behind it.
Keep this note in mind the next time you drive in the wet – 15cm of water will reach the bottom of some passenger cars; most passenger cars will start to float in 30cm of water; 60cm of flowing water can sweep most vehicles – even SUVs – away. It is not the speed of the flow, but the force and volume, so do not take risks.
Turn off air-conditioner
If driving in deep-water is unavoidable, first turn off the air-conditioning and roll down the windows. Driving with the air-con on could shut down the engine, because the electronic fan will start spinning and flush water into the engine. If the engine does not shut down, the electronic fan could attract debris floating in the water that could break the fan, and that could eventually cause the engine to overheat.
Be smooth and avoid sudden or abrupt braking or steering actions that may unsettle the vehicle. Brake before you enter a curve. Accelerate gently.
Maintain a proper distance from the vehicle in front to avoid spray which reduces vision. This is important especially if you are behind large vehicles. If possible, drive in the tire tracks left behind by the vehicle in front as these tracks are ‘less flooded’ than other parts of the road.
Exercise extreme caution if it rains after a long dry spell, especially if it is just a drizzle and not an outright downpour. During dry periods, oily deposits (from exhausts, leaks and so on) build up on the road surface. A slight drizzle will bring the oily deposits to the surface (oil is lighter than water), creating a slippery sheen that is extremely hazardous. In extreme cases it will be like skating on ice. It takes a while before this is washed away and only if the rain is heavy enough.
All You Need to Know About Aquaplaning
Aquaplaning occurs when the tread in the tires are no longer channeling water away between it and the road surface. As a result, the tire or tires start to ‘float’ on a thin sheet of water and from this point on, the tire (and the vehicle) is merely skidding along.
Aquaplaning happens when:
- Tires are worn and the treads are too shallow to channel water away effectively.
- The vehicle is going too fast for the tire treads to channel water away from the road effectively.
- Too much water on the road, overwhelming the capacity of the tire treads.
How to know if you are aquaplaning and what you can do:
- Your steering suddenly feels light and the vehicle does not respond to steering inputs.
- You notice your engine revolution (RPM) rising and dropping suddenly, without any increase in road speed. This is normally accompanied by a feeling of the vehicle ‘twitching’ (as the tires momentarily lose grip, before regaining it). This is a sign that your tires are beginning to aquaplane.
- Reduce speed. Ease off the accelerator but do not take your foot off completely. Wait for the vehicle to slow down enough and allow the tires to regain grip.
- Do not brake.
- Do not use cruise control.
- If your vehicle starts to skid, keep steering in the direction you want the vehicle to travel. Adjust steering according to the vehicle’s attitude, until you are travelling straight again. Do not brake, do not decelerate and keep a constant (and light) pressure on the accelerator.
- Smooth action is the key.