Besides the daily challenges of driving, the monsoon brings with it the additional danger of reduced visibility. This is caused by heavy and, sometimes, unpredicted rainfall, leaving roads flooded in many places. With the monsoon season almost upon us, we take a look at some safe practices to follow when out on the road.
Ensure your car has sufficient tyre treads
Tyre treads play an important role in improving grip, particularly in the wet. The treads act as channels to disperse water and allow optimal contact between rubber and road. Worn or bald tyres, the latter have little to no groves, will not be able to displace water and will surf or slide. Ensure tread depth is above the minimum level — at least 2mm deep. Most tyres will have tread wear indicators — 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 is time to get a new set. Worn tyres are also more prone to punctures and in some situations could even burst, so ensure tyres are changed before or when the tread depth is at the minimum.
Brakes must be in top working condition
Having brakes that work properly is important in all driving conditions. During the monsoon, it becomes particularly important as the stopping distance of vehicles tend to increase in the wet, so having your brakes in tip-top shape is a big plus. Also, when driving during heavy rain or even through large puddles, make sure you dry the brakes by lightly tapping them intermittently. Nowadays, new cars come with ABS as standards which make braking in wet conditions much easier, and keep you safer.
Top up wiper fluid reservoir
It is essential that your wipers clean the windscreen effectively and not leave behind streaks — if they do, you might want to consider replacing the wiper blades. Streaks can hamper your vision and cause distracting headlight refractions. Also, top up on the wiper washer fluid to clean mud splatter and splashes from other vehicles on the road.
Using headlights and fog lamps when needed
During reduced visibility, it is best to drive with your headlights and fog lights on — if the car comes with them — as it makes you more visible. It is better to inspect all exterior lights before the monsoon sets in. While some people use their hazard lights in these conditions that is best avoidedas they are to be used only when the vehicle 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 has stopped.
Keep distance, speed in check
As mentioned earlier, braking distances increase on wet surfaces, so it is best to keep greater distance from the vehicle in front of you and keep your speed in check, during the rain. This not only gives you adequate room to brake, but also more time to react which can be a life saver. It will also provide you with a better view of the road ahead, especially with the increased potholes and debris.
In a worst-case scenario, it pays to know of ways to exit your car. For instance, many cars have an inner boot release mechanism that you can access through the folding rear seats, in the event of the car’s doors getting jammed. Another option is to break open a window, using a car hammer orthe metal sliders of the headrest or your feet. It also helps to have other handy implements like a seatbelt cutter and a torch.
Traversing waterlogged streets
Given that the monsoons can be unpredictable, there may be times that you find yourself requiring to travel through a waterlogged street. It is always best to find a way around it, however, if not possible keep these points in mind.
Before you start, it is best to assess the water depth. You can do this by eyeing other cars wading through the same. If need be, wait for a bit and observe others.
When you do start moving, stick to a lower gear, preferably the first, and keep the engine RPMs up to prevent 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.
Once through, do not forget to dry the brakes by gently dabbing the pedal while moving.
Top up the tank
Chances of getting stuck in a traffic jam during the monsoon are higher. Be prepared for long waits in your car and make sure you tank up before heading out, if your fuel gauge is starting to run into the final quarter. The last thing you need is to be stranded because you have run out of fuel. Also, stocking drinking water, snacks, a spare phone charger or power banks, a change of clothes, an umbrella, a towel and lots of music may not be a bad idea.