Edmonton, AB,

Summer rain storms? Head for high ground

Summer in Alberta is a glorious thing. Maybe it’s payback for our long cold winters, but there’s nothing like our big blue skies pouring sunshine onto fields of shimmering canola. Unfortunately, when the thermometer spikes those same big skies can open up and drop an ocean of rain in a matter of minutes.

And while all that water can be good for your garden, it’s not so good for your vehicle. When city storm drains overflow and streets are flooded, the best place for your ride is on high ground.

Driving through standing water can damage your vehicle, so if you run into a puddle with more than six inches of water, you’re best to steer around it. Your engine is thirsty for oil and gas, but letting it drink the water can cause serious damage. Water can also damage your differential, brakes and other parts of the vehicle too, depending on how long it stays submerged.

If the vehicle stalls in water, don’t try to start the engine. Have the vehicle towed to a repair facility and let them know it’s been submerged so they can check the engine before starting the vehicle.

If the vehicle is still running smoothly, you’ll probably need to replace the air filter and you should inspect all the fluids to make sure there’s no water contamination. Park the vehicle somewhere sheltered and let it dry out.

If you must drive through a flooded stretch of road, test your brakes as soon as possible. Find a safe area like an empty parking lot, then test your brakes by stopping quickly and firmly at 50 km/hr. Make sure the vehicle stops in a straight line, without pulling to one side. The brake pedal should feel firm and secure, not spongy - that’s a sign of trouble. If you still feel a pulling to one side or a spongy brake pedal after the brakes are dry, take the vehicle in for repair immediately.

If water has seeped into the cabin, your first call should be to your insurance company. Sitting water can damage seats and floors, creating a risk for mould.

If you do get caught on the road during a heavy rain storm, follow these driving tips to get home safe and dry:

  • Turn off the cruise control. Avoid quick acceleration and braking.
  • Make sure your headlights and taillights are turned on, even during daylight.
  • Double the amount of room between you and the vehicle ahead to avoid spray that affects your sightlines.
  • Drive in the centre of the lane. If visibility is poor, follow the tracks of the vehicle in front of you.
  • Slow down for control – high speeds increase your risk of hydroplaning, where a layer of water builds up between your tires and the road, reducing traction and increasing braking distance.

Never attempt to drive through water that’s moving across the roadway – even what seems like a shallow flow can sweep a car off the road. If heavy rains make you feel unsafe, find a safe location to pull off the road and activate your hazard lights. Avoid parking next to trees or utility poles that could attract lightning, or steep slopes that could give away from flooding. Get to high ground and call AMA Roadside Assistance for a hand.