How to negotiate flooded roads

Updated: 

Autumn weather Oct 20th


Tackling a flooded road is becoming a common hazard for British motorists – but there are some vital rules you need to follow if you want to avoid that sinking feeling.

Research by the AA reveals that more than half of drivers will tackle flooded roads in their car, with a quarter confident to take on up to 30cm of moving water – that's more than enough to sweep a car away...

Driving on flooded roads is dangerous: You can't simply barrel in, hoping speed and good luck will guide you through. That's a sure fire way to land yourself with a massive repair bill and a call to the recovery services.

As the UK is battered by another devastating storm, and flood warnings are issued across the country, AOL Cars has some top tips to avoid getting stuck in a flood.

Forward planning

If you simply can't avoid the flooded road and your only option is tackling it, you first need to know how deep the water is. Park up and watch other motorists drive through the flooded area – if there's more than six inches of standing water, or four inches of running water, don't even try. Try and spot dips or potholes where it could be deeper.

Splash down

If you're going to go for it, stay in the middle of the road and drive slowly in first gear – at no more than walking pace. Revs need to stay high to avoid the engine sucking in water through the exhaust, so slip the clutch if you need too. But don't burn it out! Have an automatic gearbox? Try keeping revs high by depressing the accelerator while simultaneously brushing the brakes.

Bow rider

The key is to try and create a bow wave at the front of the car. Experts advise driving at around 4mph at first to create this, then to slow down to walking pace. This is said to create a depression in the water ahead, keeping the engine bay clear of the worst of the wet stuff. The technique is hard to perfect though, so don't rely on it.

Take your turn

Keep an eye out for have-a-go-heroes coming the other way in a 4x4 or lorry. They can tackle floods many cars can't and will cover your car with water as they pass. It's better to take turns to negotiate the flood instead.

Stuck fast

If you don't make it through and your car stops, the important thing is not to panic. Dress yourself in any warm clothes you have and try and wade to safety. Try to climb out of a window and leave the bonnet closed to avoid any more water getting in. Call for help.

Made it

If you do manage to get through the flood, dry your brakes off immediately by applying them gently. It's also worth checking radiators for leaves and detritus that may have been floating in the water. And if you've spotted a safe passage, be kind and point it out to other drivers.

SUV doesn't mean safety

Many modern motorists are lulled into a false sense of security with SUVs and 4x4s, thinking that the raised ride height and chunkier trim equates to an improved wading depth and off-road capabilities. The truth is, many SUVs are front wheel drive so won't offer any extra grip in wetter conditions than your standard hatchback. Even if you do own a four-wheel-drive machine, the chances are it is just as susceptible to flooding as anything else on the road so take extreme caution.