As a country of extreme weather conditions and inadequate road infrastructure, India can offer some truly brutal driving conditions in the rainy season. At Team-BHP, safety is an absolute first. We do hope that the following tips & guidelines help you toward safer motoring in the rains.
• Be twice as considerate to two-wheelers! Not only are they completely exposed to the rains, but neither do they have the same braking / grip levels as your car. Don't tail bikes either. They are prone to slips / falls and we don't want you to run over them.
• Likewise for pedestrians. In rainy conditions, pedestrians are extremely hard to spot. Also, please don’t splash water on pedestrians.
• Plan the journey such that you reach your destination within daylight hours.
• When possible, stay off the roads during heavy rains. If you are on the road and visibility gets worse, park someplace safe, get a cup of coffee and wait for the rains to simmer down.
• Don’t park anywhere on the road, or close to where other cars would pass you. Poor visibility could result in someone banging into your car. The ideal place to park would be one that’s off a street and at a level higher than the road. If you are parking only for a short time, switch your parking lights on.
• For overnight parking, choose a clean area and one that's away from rodents. Corner / isolated spots are best avoided. During the rains, rats take shelter under the hood and chew on wires.
Preparing your car for the monsoons
• Ensure that your car is in healthy condition; the tyres, brakes and wipers, especially, must be in top shape. It’s a good idea to get a set of new wiper blades at the start of each monsoon season.
• Your tyres must have at least 2 - 3 mm of tread left, and should be inflated to the manufacturer recommended levels. Driving on tires that are over or under-inflated can prove to be dangerous, even on dry tarmac.
• Check the focus of your headlight beams and correct if necessary.
• Ensure that your foot pedals are not slippery. It would be a good idea to get new plastic / rubber mats too.
• Drain hole rubber plugs are found missing on many a car. Check if yours are in place. Missing plugs lead to wet floors, even in conditions of mild rain.
• Have the windshield washer fluid topped up at all times, and clean all glasses thoroughly. Try using a newspaper to clean your windscreens. If you have dark sunfilm, that’s going to create a problem at night.
• If your car is kitted with a cold air intake (or similar), consider replacing it with the stock version. Exposed CAI's can make your car vulnerable in the monsoons.
• Check the rubber beadings / weather strips on the doors; they should sit flush with the glass. If they appear loose, tighten or change them. The rubber beadings stop water from seeping inside the door panels, which could cause an errant central locking system, short circuit or rust.
• You never know when you may end up stuck on the road. Don't ever let your fuel tank go below the 1/2 level mark. Also, stock up with sufficient supplies of snacks and bottled water. Chocolates, packaged wafer chips and energy bars make for great snacks to store in your car.
• Keep a first-aid kit, torch and umbrella handy. Some members even recommend keeping a small hammer in the car. In the event of flood waters jamming your doors, the hammer could help in breaking the windows for escape.
• Rains can make for damp smelly interiors. Get an air-fresher for your car, the type that hooks onto the air-con vent. Some members have also suggested “mogre ka gajra” or “mogra flowers” for vibrant interiors . Packets of silica gel keep fungus in check.
• Carry a couple of cigarettes or a pouch of tobacco in your glovebox. If visibility becomes a problem due to heavy rainfall, rubbing tobacco on the windscreen works wonders.
• Some products like RainX, Abro Clearview anti-rain etc. are available in the market. However, we have only received mixed reviews and hence, cannot recommend them. Use them at your own discretion.
Safety on the Road:
• Remember that the first rains (or rains after a long dry spell) result in the slipperiest roads. Be overtly cautious in these driving conditions.
• Concrete roads are very slippery, far more than our good ol’ tar roads. Bridges and flyovers can also be extra slippery, so drive carefully over these areas.
• More than anything, go slower in the rains. It's that simple. Adopt a conservative driving style and plan for a longer travel time. For instance, brake earlier and with lesser force than you would in the dry. The taxi behind you is running on 3 year old wet drum brakes! If you would have squeezed into that small gap on a dry day, refrain from doing so in the rains. Steer and brake with a light touch. Prevent skids by driving slowly and carefully, especially on the curves. A gentle approach is the key here.
• Use your turn signals liberally. Strictly no sudden lane changing manouveurs either.
• Maintain a safe distance with the car ahead, one that's twice as longer than in the dry. Braking distances are severely affected on wet roads.
• Engine braking has certain advantages on slippery roads. That said, use engine braking in a smooth transitional manner, and in a combination with your regular brakes. Your brake lights will let the car behind know of your intentions to stop / slow down.
• Switch on your low beam headlights in the rains, whether night or day. Not only can it potentially improve your vision, headlamps will also let others see you better. Avoid using high beam in the rains as it can reflect light as well as blind oncoming traffic.
• Avoid driving on lane cuts or lane divide lines; your car will tramline much easier in the rains. Also, try to stay off the paint on the road (zebra crossings, lane markers etc.) as the painted surface is low on traction.
• The safest place to be is in the middle lane. Why? Crowned roads will have water settle on either side. Plus, you will notice puddle formation in the right lanes, while the left will always have people joining the road or exiting.
• Try to drive in the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you.
• Avoid puddles like a plague. Firstly, you never know how deep they are. Second, if you are at speed, they can make your car aquaplane in water, leading to an absolute loss of control. Drive around large puddles, you never know what’s lurking underneath.
• Never splash into a puddle as it could severely damage your car. For instance, water getting into your air intake could kill your engine.
• Blind spots! In the monsoons, trucks and other commercial vehicles have absolutely no rear view. Take extreme caution before overtaking them because, in all probability, they can't see you! Honk and flash your headlights liberally.
• If you experience heavy rains on the highway, follow a conservatively driven bus / truck with working stoplights. However, don’t follow it too closely else the spray from its huge tyres will impair your vision.
• Severely heavy downpour can restrict your visibility to only two car lengths' (or less). In these conditions, it is best to safely pull over and take a break. Heavy downpour doesn't normally last for too long.
• If you aren’t sure about the depth of the flood, do NOT drive through it. Taking an alternate route is best. If you just have to use that stretch, wait until another car / bus attempts to pass the flood, and gauge its depth. Never drive through a flood unless you know how deep it is and that your car can handle it.
• Switch off your air-con before entering the flooded area.
• Always keep your windows slightly open when traveling through a flooded area. If you get stuck, you can shout for help or even force the window down.
• When in a flooded area, choose the first gear, slip the clutch and keep the revs high enough to ensure that exhaust gases are pushed out of the tail pipe. Do NOT stop revving. The lower your car's speed, the better. If your car stalls, it is very difficult to start it again.
• If your car does stall, do not attempt to restart. This may lead to engine hydrolock. You first need to check if any water has entered the air intake or exhaust pipe.
• Once out of the water trap, pump / tap your brakes to dry the drums and discs off.
Windscreen / Window fogging:
• Remember the fundamentals : Window fogging occurs due to a temperature difference between the inside surface of your glass and the outside. For example, if you drive without the air-con and all your windows are shut, the cabin is warmer than the outside, resulting in the window fogging up from inside. On the other hand, if you run your air-con on full blast mode, the interiors of your car will be colder than the outside. Thus, your glasses will fog up from the outside.
• Keep the air-con on fresh air / ventilation mode.
• It is important to maintain the right temperature balance between the inner & exterior sides of glass. Don't turn your air-con to full blast. Keep it at a level which is just about comfortable.
• Use your rear windscreen demister liberally. It heats up little wires in your rear glass and gets rid of the mist / fog.
• When the windows fog from the inside, the best thing to do is to switch the aircon on. It will clear up the screens in a jiffy. The situation is a little tricker when the windows fog up from the outside. The ideal solution is to roll down the windows a little, and let the air flow more or less neutralize the temperature difference. Most modern cars come with the demist / defog mode as part of the standard HVAC system.
Drive safe! The rains are simply beautiful. Taking the necessary precautions will make your rainy drives a pleasure that you will look forward to!