Well, it’s fall, and in many parts of the country that means that weather extremes are likely to start picking up. Storms, high winds, hail, heavy rain and flooding…and every time, there’s someone who tries to drive through high water only to get swept away. If they’re lucky, they can get out and be rescued by emergency crews. 

 
There are SO many reasons to not drive through high water: auto repair in Raleigh, NC
 
  • You can’t see the road, so you really don’t know what you’re getting into and can easily drive straight into a ditch
  • Especially around bridges, high water can wash away the ground underneath the pavement, meaning your vehicle can easily drop right through the road
  • Six inches of water is up to the floor pan of most cars
  • In about 8-12 inches of water, it’s easy for many vehicles to lose traction and steering control and begin to float
  • Water that’s actually flowing can wash even a heavy vehicle like a fire truck downstream before a driver can even react. 18-24 inches of water can easily wash a pickup truck or SUV away. After all, it’s the equivalent of a couple of Olympic-size pools full of water flowing across that road every second. 
 
Sometimes, though, there’s no alternative – you have to get where you’re going, and there are no other routes you can take that aren’t covered with water. If you have to drive through high water, slow down – don’t think that you’ll be better off somehow if you drive through it at 30 mph. Creating a huge splash is also just inconsiderate to other drivers and any pedestrians unfortunate enough to be out in the rain. 
 
It does not take very deep water at all to cause hydroplaning, with your tires losing contact with the road completely. If other vehicles are driving through the water, watch them; it’ll give you an idea of how deep the water is and if there are any hazards hidden beneath the surface. Be watchful of debris or downed power lines in the area that you’re trying to make your way through. And of course, this is also all much more treacherous at night. 
 
So, You Went Ahead and Drove Through It…
 
Against all advice and your better judgment, you went ahead and drove through water a foot deep. Here’s a brief list of the things that can happen:
 
  • Your catalytic converter can crack. The catalytic converter is designed to operate at extremely high temperatures; when it comes in contact with cold water, the rapid contraction of the metal can be enough to physically crack the housing or the internal structures.
  • Water can make it into your wheel bearings. The bearings’ seals can allow water into the bearings, resulting in rust and pitting.
  • Water can infiltrate your automatic transmission. Transmissions are designed with a vent that allows pressure to escape. If the transmission ingests water through the vent, it will compromise the transmission fluid. The water-soluble glue that holds the clutches together can fail, rust can attach itself to bearings and other surfaces and you can soon be looking at a complete transmission rebuild.
  • Water can short the starter and make it into the universal joints and differential. 
  • Water can make it into your interior. If you’re unlucky enough for water to make it into your vehicle’s carpeting, chances are it will smell like a moldy bait shop for the rest of the time you own the vehicle…and it’s likely to cause no end of electrical problems. 
  • Water can wreck the engine. This is when the game’s up, folks. All it can take is about a coffee cup full of water into the engine’s air intake and the engine will “hydrolock.” Hydrolock is what occurs when water makes its way to the combustion chambers. The pistons can compress the normal fuel/air mixture, but they can’t compress liquid, so what happens is the pistons come up in their stroke and mechanical failure occurs. Bent connecting rods, broken crankshafts, failed head gaskets and fractured blocks and heads are not uncommon, and at this point your engine is essentially scrap metal. With the high compression of diesel engines, they’re even more susceptible to hydrolock. This is why it’s so important to not drive through standing water fast enough to create a wave, which can easily be sucked into the air intake. 
 
Again, we can’t emphasize this enough – do not drive through water at all if you can keep from it, or at least water that’s so deep that you can’t see the ditches and the lines on the road. If you’ve driven through standing water and suspect you might have some electrical or mechanical problems as a result, make an appointment with Black’s Tire & Auto Services soon so that we can have a look!