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Chelsea tractors can't handle the rain

Posted by Bob on Thursday 6th February 2014

Whoops!Or at least their drivers can't...

The more perceptive of you all may have noticed we've had a bit of rain lately in these fair Isles of ours. Or more accurately, many parts of the UK have had their wettest December and January in over a century. Whilst no actual storm has been particularly big or intense, it's been the regularity of them that has caused much of the flooding that we've been seeing broadcast on the news nationwide. Of course, with any extreme or disruptive weather, there are bound to be roads closed or otherwise rendered impassible, which means ruined travel plans and stranded drivers. This is nothing new, and the ever-present AA (Automobile Association) is always at hand to provide rescue. However, in a recent report released by the company, which details some 7,000 vehicles rescued from floods since the beginning of January, a 'disproportionate' number these have been Chelsea tractors (or SUVs to move from the vernacular). Is the lure of driving through that puddle too much for some?

Since just before Christmas, the AA have rescued around 7,000 flood-stricken vehicles from torrent-filled roads, and many of these vehicles are of the supposed 'off road' variety. SUV owners have been feeling gung-ho about their car's abilities, and perhaps taking too much from the many adverts depicting hazardous weather conditions being overcome by a big expensive four-by-four, have attempted to ford every stream. Whilst your Qashqai might be able to navigate treacherous puddles with ease, when it comes to flood water, the comparisons to a chocolate teapot start to be made.

The director of cars for the AA (how about that for a job title!), David Bruce, has stated that rescue crews found that many four-by-four drivers have been trying to traverse deep flood waters, trusting that their offroad capabilities will get them through. In the vast majority of cases, it doesn't, and subjects their vehicle to serious damage. Flood water can really do a number on your car; becoming immersed can wreck the vehicle's electrics, and water can easily be sucked up by the air intakes into the engine, which will really mess things up. In fact, the AA have said that of the flooded vehicles they've rescued since December, 70% of them have been written off by the companies insuring them.

The general advice from the AA is to not attempt to drive through any flood waters. In an emergency, still do not attempt to traverse anything over 4 inches (around 10 cm) deep. This advice is for all vehicle types, including four-by-fours. Jaguar Land Rover have also released advice for those travelling on flooded roads. They recommend to start off travelling at no more than 2 mph, and slowly ramp it up to 4 mph. This creates a bow-like wave which means the water is slightly lower, and less likely to get into the air intakes. This is still all a moot point, as you shouldn't be attempting to cross such depths of water anyway.

The We Value It guide to traversing flooded roads

Splishy splashy1) Firstly, you should only attempt driving through water if you accurately know how deep it is. It may start off shallow and then suddenly deepen. If in doubt, don't attempt to ford.

2) Keep a steady path, and drive slowly. If there is any oncoming traffic, allow them to pass before you attempt to cross. Once you've reached the other side of the water, you should test your brakes as soon as you can, to check they still work properly.

3) If the flood water is fast moving, such as near the approach of a bridge, don't attempt to cross.

4) Watch your speed when driving through standing water. If you go too fast you can easily lose grip with your tyres (aquaplane) which means you won't be able to steer effectively. If you find yourself aquaplaning, take your foot off the accelerator whilst keeping a loose but firm hold on the steering wheel until your tyres have a chance to take grip.

5) It is illegal to drive fast through standing water. If you're caught, you'll be fined and get up to nine points on your license, as well as the scorn of your fellow road users and me.

6) Driving fast through standing water can also cause heavy damage to your vehicle. It increases the likelihood that water will be sucked in through your air intake into your engine, causing expensive damage.

7) When driving slowly through standing water, keep the engine going. This helps to keep your exhaust free from water, otherwise you could stall.

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