Keeping your car safe during storms

by First Coast News , Jun 12, 2013

When hurricanes or tropical storms hit, it is highly recommended that you don't brave the storm on the roads. Sometimes, there is no option and knowing proper safety for you and your vehicle could save irreparable damage, your pocketbook and own well being.

Heavy rain creates standing water, which should be avoided when driving because the water can quickly get too heavy or too deep. Associated dangers are: risk of the road collapsing, deep water (more than a foot) carrying your car off the road and dysfunction of normal operations such as the engine stalling out or a brake malfunction.

According to Adam Pattock, co-owner and store manager of Tuffy Auto Service Center on Beach Boulevard, "Most automobiles driving in deep water will cause the air intake in the engine to suck up water instead of air and the first stage would be the mass air flow sensor going out. The second stage would be the engine hydro locking, causing an immobile vehicle and permanent damage to the engine."

Depending on the vehicle, the limit of water it can withstand varies. Pattock explains, "The car will only run if water is below the air intake under the hood and the exhaust tail pipe in the back."

Pattock also recommends regularly checking the windshield wipers, as well as tires and brakes to prevent hydroplaning, or sliding across a wet road. Tires must have enough tread to assure good traction on wet ground. Wet brakes must be dry to function properly and pumping them gently several times can do this.

Other automobile concerns associated with hazardous storms and high winds include the interior of the car such as carpet, seats and electrical functions. Harm to you and your vehicle could also come from items floating downstream or an underwater fallen power line.

Tips for driving in bad weather:

  • Reduce normal speed and allow extra braking distance for easy stopping
  • Keep headlights on
  • Avoid distractions and stay aware of all other vehicles around you
  • High winds cause inevitable swerving, so avoid driving near heavy vehicles such as buses and trucks that could knock you off the road
  • Keep a disaster kit in the trunk
  • If your engine stalls out and your car is trapped in a flood, crawl out the window before water continues to rise. Do not attempt to restart the vehicle.

If you are a victim of automobile damage due to extreme weather conditions, it is important to file a claim with your insurance company right away. According to the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, it is state law for each policyholder to pay an additional 1.3 percent of their premium for coverage of property damages and casualties resulting from hurricanes

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