3 Easy Tips for Driving Safely in the Monsoon Season!
Most Singaporeans love that end-of-the-year weather — it’s chilly, breezy, and we get to feel like we’re in another country for a couple of months.
But alas, the rain that comes with the monsoon season isn't fun at all. And especially not for your car! The only time water is your car’s best friend is when it’s going through a pampering car wash spa session. Monsoon rain; not so friendly for your car, both inside and out.
Wet roads and weather conditions naturally make driving more dangerous. People also tend to be more on edge, tense, and high strung when trying to manoeuvre amidst trying weather, and everybody just wants to get home quickly and out of the rain.
In other words, the monsoon season can bring with it a whole different set of challenges for drivers. In this quick guide, we aim to help you cope with these rainy weather conditions, with safety as the priority.
To make it easy to remember (and execute!) we’ve created a simple acronym on how best to deal with monsoon weather: MUD.
M — Maintenance
U — Upkeep
D — Drive safely
So read on to find out how keeping “M-U-D” in mind can keep you and your family safe this monsoon season.
Before the monsoon season actually hits, it’s a good idea to make sure that your car is properly maintained to ensure safety and optimal vehicle performance.
The challenging weather conditions, characterised by heavy rains, slippery roads, and poor visibility, place unique demands on your car that you otherwise don’t have to deal with for the rest of the year.
In particular, you should pay special attention to these four areas of your car:
Tyres are the first line of defence against wet and slippery roads, and need regular inspection to ensure proper tread depth and inflation. Worn-out tyres can compromise traction, which can increase your chances of hydroplaning (skidding on water), and turn a minor skid into a way more serious accident.
Incessant rain can mean reduced sight and foggy driving conditions, so make sure your wipers are functional for clear visibility. If your wiper blades are worn, it’s definitely time to replace them promptly. The prevailing wisdom suggests that windscreen wipers should actually be replaced every 6 to 12 months.
Visibility isn’t just about being able to see other cars, but also that other road users can see you coming. Regularly checking, cleaning and maintaining your headlights, taillights and turn signals can reduce the risk of potential car accidents.
Wet roads increase stopping distances, meaning it can take you longer to stop as compared to normal. Wet weather driving requires responsive braking systems, so ensure that your braking systems are in tip-top shape with regular maintenance checks and topped up with enough brake fluid.
Are your windshield wipers working properly to give you good visibility despite heavy rain?
Maintenance of your car’s internal systems isn’t the only area to focus on when it comes to dealing with wet, wet, wet weather. Here we break down the necessary upkeep of your car into three broad categories:
It’s always a great feeling to be able to run to your car in the rain, knowing that you’ll be well sheltered soon. But entering your car all soaking and wet, means you’re merely transferring all that water into the interior of your car. Here are two tips on how to keep the inside of your car nice and dry despite the rain:
- Invest in good mud mats that will trap whatever water, mud and debris that you bring in and prevent them from seeping into the carpeting of your car.
- Consider getting waterproof car seat covers just for this period of heavy rains. Upholstery getting wet can lead to damp, growth of mould and mildew, and unpleasant odours.
A car is clearly waterproof and made to withstand rainy weather. But prolonged exposure to water, especially rainwater, can accelerate the corrosion of metal components on a car’s exterior. Accumulated rust can further compromise the structural integrity of various parts, leading to safety hazards and potentially costly repairs. It’s simply better to keep your car out of the rain as much as possible.
- You might not be able to stop the heavens from pouring, but you can certainly choose where under the heavens you choose to park your vehicle. Wherever possible, park your car in a covered or sheltered area like a multi-storey car park. When parked in an open-air car park, such as in your own estate, consider getting a car cover so that your car is less exposed to heavy rain.
- Rain is simply nature’s gift of a free car wash, right? Wrong! Rainwater can contain contaminants such as acidic deposits, pollutants and minerals that can gradually erode the paintwork, diminish the shine, or leave rain spots on your car’s exterior. If you take pride in the overall appearance and aesthetics of your car, then you should be washing your car even more during the monsoon season, making sure to hose down any rainwater and clean your vehicle with a soft sponge to keep it clean.
- Waxing your car can create a protective barrier against rain contaminants. The wax also helps to fill up small scratches you may have on your car’s exterior, preventing rust from forming and building up. Generally, you should wax your car every 2-3 months. However, during the monsoon season you may want to increase the frequency to once a month.
You should be washing your car more often during the monsoon season, instead of less.
Driving through wet and muddy roads means kicking up water, mud and debris onto the undercarriage. In areas prone to flooding or ponding, your car may even be partially submerged in water for quite some time. All this exposure can introduce contaminants and accelerate rusting.
- Regular washing of the undercarriage of your car with a high-pressure hose can help to remove any contaminants. You can also take your car to a professional car wash that offers an undercarriage wash, especially if you’ve just driven through a flooded area.
- Consider applying an undercoating or rust inhibitor to the undercarriage. These products create a protective layer that helps shield metal surfaces from moisture and corrosive elements.
- Ensure that the drainage channels are clear of debris so that water can run off quickly; inspect that any rubber seals and gaskets around undercarriage components are well sealed and not deteriorated; and promptly address any scratches to prevent exposed metal from rusting.
Clearly, driving during the monsoon season is different from driving through good weather. Not only do you need to have more patience, caution and alertness, but you also need to practise safe driving skills more than ever.
1. Dry Off
Having some towels on hand in your car allows you to dry yourself off quickly before you start driving. Feeling dry and comfortable can make a difference in mindset when you’re behind the wheel and improve your ability to drive safely, because you won’t feel like you have to rush to go home in order to dry off and feel better.
2. Defog Windscreen
Dealing with foggy windscreens is the bane of every driver’s life during the rainy season. The best way to beat this is:
Step 1: Turn on the engine
Step 2: Turn the ventilation to defrost setting
Step 3: Activate the rear window defogger (and front window if available)
Step 4: Set the air temperature to warm
Step 5: Tilt the vents to direct the airflow to the windshield and windows
Step 6: Crack open a window slightly to help with air circulation
Step 7: Do not turn on recirculation mode in the car
Step 8: Turn up the fan speed gradually to help the process
Step 9: Be patient. Defogging will take a few minutes.
Hit that defog button and wait it out until your windscreen is completely defogged.
3. Turn On Headlights
Even if it isn’t nighttime, turning on your headlights helps to illuminate the road ahead of you when the sun is firmly hidden away by dark grey clouds. Having your lights on will also alert others on the road to the presence of your vehicle.
Having said that, keep it just to your headlights and resist the urge to turn on your high beams whilst driving. This can be very disorientating for other motorists, which can also risk creating accidents.
4. Slow Down
Heavy rain + wet roads = hazardous conditions for driving! This is especially the time that you should reduce your speed limit, so that you buy yourself a little more reaction time to navigate through poor visibility and unexpected hazards. “Caution” is not just what you see on the yellow signs on wet floors; it should also be your personal motto when driving during the monsoon season.
5. Maintain a Safe Distance
Riding bumper to bumper in rainy weather is just testing your luck way too much! The Singapore Highway Code actually gives a guideline for following distances: One car length for every 16 km/h of your speed.
Obviously you can’t be working the maths out on your phone while driving, but a good gauge is that if you’re travelling at 70-80 km/h, there should be enough space to fit about 5 cars in between you and the car in front of you.
And that’s just in regular weather. If you’re dealing with wet road conditions and limited visibility, give double as much leeway than you usually do.
6. Brake Appropriately
Learning how to brake effectively when making an emergency stop to avoid getting into an accident is crucial depending on what kind of car you drive.
If you’re driving a car that’s equipped with ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), simply maintain firm continuous pressure on the brake pedal. The ABS will automatically module the brake pressure to prevent wheel lock-up and allow you to steer even while braking.
In contrast, if your car is not equipped with ABS, you’ll need to apply steady and firm pressure on the brake pedal just before wheel lock-up, then release slightly, and repeat. This technique is called threshold braking, and helps to prevent skidding and to maintain some steering control, but only for cars without ABS.
7. Make Sure You’re Well Covered
Yes, we’re not just talking about a rain cover here. Driving in hazardous conditions like monsoon weather means that car accidents can happen, even if we’re doing our best to drive safely, so make sure that your car insurance is in order.
Not only that, but it might be high time to check if your current car insurance policy covers you for any flood damage sustained.
According to the Centre for Climate Research Singapore, we have been experiencing more intense rainfall in recent years, and the likelihood of flash floods becoming more commonplace with climate change also increases. (Source: The Straits Times)
Being inconvenienced and late when caught in an unexpected flash flood is one thing; having your car steeped in high levels of water for an extended period of time is another.
Make sure that your car is well protected with the right type of comprehensive car insurance, so that you can enjoy the cool weather during the monsoon season without having to worry about anything else. (Source: Motorist.sg — A Guide to Driving Through a Flood)