Pick-up trucks are not invincible in floods, here are 10 tips for driving through water

Arif · Jan 16, 2021 03:30 PM

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About 50,000 people across 6 states in Malaysia are affected by the recent floods. In times like this, pick-up trucks can be very helpful for transporting people, food, and rescuing stuck vehicles. If you’re a pick-up truck owner yourself, you might even feel called to lend a helping hand.

But before you brave the flood with your trusty 4x4, you might want to read this first. There are a lot of precautions that needs to be taken, and even the best of 4x4 trucks can become helpless if driven recklessly.

So, what are the precautions?

1. Do not drive alone

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Driving alone in the flood is dangerous. And by driving alone, we mean just one vehicle. It is best to have another truck with you to winch you out in case you get stuck and likewise. 
If you are unable to get another truck to convoy with, at least have another person in the truck with you.

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Our YDPA driving through flood. Do not attempt without backup.

Yes, we have seen our YDPA driving a Hilux in the flood before. However, he was only able to do that confidently with the presence of good backup. You need backup too.

2. Do not drive through strong currents

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Only Moses can drive through this. Photo

Mother nature doesn’t care how bad-ass your truck is. Strong currents will sweep it away, and there’s not much you can do when that happens. Plus, your truck is not a boat. Always assess the water you are about to cross.

3. Check the water depth

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All cars have a rated wading depth. A Toyota Hilux has a wading depth of 700mm. Find out your car’s wading depth and check the height of the water you are about to cross.

The best way to check is by walking through the water with a stick. Only cross with the truck if the water levels allow.

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The human body is more all-terrain than a 4x4 truck, albeit a lot slower. Photo

4. Check for invisible dangers

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If you’re unfamiliar with an area, you need to check the location of the drains, open manholes, or potholes. Poorly built roads are also easily damaged in the event of a flood (new holes could form due to the loose ground). There could also big rocks in the murky waters.

Pot holes might be hidden under the water

If you’re familiar with the area, still check. You never know what changes could have been caused by the flood. You could get stuck in a big hole or damage the car by hitting a big rock.

Again, the best way to check is by getting out of the car and using your own two feet and a stick.

It’s better to have soggy pants than a helplessly stuck car.

5. Turn off the Air Conditioning

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The air conditioning system has a fan. When in water, the fan will create unnecessary splashes. It  also becomes a propeller and could get pulled through the radiator and cause damage. Turn it off.

6. Drive slowly to create a bow wave

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Drive at a steady pace to create a bow wave

Do not dive into the flood water and create a massive splash. When you do that, water will reach everywhere and potentially damage important parts. Watch how recklessley the Ford Transit dives into the flood and suffers the consequence immediately in this video.

When driving through water, go slowly so the water levels around the car are lower. This is called creating a bow wave. Stay in a low gear and just keep a steady pace. Do not overtake the bow wave. 

7. If stuck, do not turn off the engine

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In case you get stuck, but the engine is still running, do not turn it off. Keep the engine running and get backup to winch you out. Or else, water will get sucked in through the tailpipe.

8.  If the engine stalls in water, do not start it

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In the unfortunate event that your car gets stalled while crossing through flood, do not try to start it. You might just draw more water into the engine. Get backup to winch you out first. Attempt to start the engine later.

9. Always test your brakes after driving through water

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If you’ve successfully crossed the water, congratulations. Stop the car to let all the water out, test the brakes, and continue driving. Press the brakes gently to dry the rotors.

10. Check underneath the car and other parts too

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As a preventive measure, always check the condition of the undercarriage. Rocks and boulders could cause serious damage. Lift the truck and check your differentials, transfer case, and gearbox. You never know if water has contaminated the fluids.

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This is what happens when water enters the differential. Not a good sight. Photo

Also check your fan and other electronics as a preventive measure.

Summary

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Pick-up trucks are meant for heavy-duty use. In tough times like this, a reliable truck is useful for helping others and yourself. Exercise caution when crossing floods with your pick-up truck and continue to be of service to those in need.

Arif

Writer

Previously an engineer in an automotive manufacturing company and a highway concessionaire. A part-time research student on biofuels and diesel engines. Obsessed with vehicle electrification and the future of transportation.

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