Finally, it is time to bid goodbye to the cruel summer months and welcome the monsoon with open arms. And while the thoughts of rain and cooler weather tickles the romantic in us, motorists must exercise extra caution while they are on the road. Driving during the monsoon can be very demanding and also get tricky at times. It requires motorists to be more focused and attentive while driving, especially when it pours heavily. Here are some handy tips to ensure that you stay safe during the monsoon and enjoy the rain. Read on to find out.
Maintain safe distance
The braking distance of a car increases significantly on a wet surface. To account for this change in driving conditions, you must ensure that you maintain a safe distance from the car ahead of you. Although, in heavy traffic conditions, you are rarely likely to go above 20-25 kmph - in spite of that, do maintain a larger gap between yourself and the car ahead of you, as opposed to what you would have in dry conditions. While driving on the highways, you need to be particularly careful. Maintain a gap of 25-30 metres between yourself and the car ahead of you and increase the gap according to road conditions and visibility.
Don't accelerate or brake suddenly
During the monsoon, it is especially important to be smooth with the car's controls. Don't offer any abrupt steering inputs. Ensure that you make a conscious effort to accelerate smoothly and gradually, begin braking early and anticipate turns and moves in advance as far as possible. Sudden inputs can cause your car to lose traction in tricky conditions, and spin out of control - a situation that can prove to be dangerous to you as well as to other road users.
If visibility starts to reduce rapidly, switch on your headlights
Firstly, you must ensure that all the lights are functioning perfectly. Once you have ensured that, it the time to switch them on once visibility starts to reduce. In addition to improving your visibility, the headlights will also ensure that oncoming traffic will notice you well in advance. Drive on low beam, especially in foggy conditions. In case the traffic on the highway is moving slowly due to heavy rains, and visibility has substaintilly dropped, then switch on your fog lamps to improve visibility. But remember not to drive with your hazard lights on. This is a common mistake which many motorists often make. Hazard lights should only be put on when the car has been pulled to the side and has been brought to a stationary state; not while it is being driven.
Halt, if necessary
If you are on the highway and it begins to rain very heavily and visibility reduces below your comfort level, then turn on all your lights, switch on the hazard lamps and park by the side of the road. Wait till the rain subsides, and visibility improves before you get going again. If it's raining harder than your wipers can manage to clear out, you won't be able to see much through the windscreen, so it is a prudent decision to just halt for a while.
Avoid puddles and potholes
Avoid puddles and parts of the road where water has accumulated. You never know what lies beneath. It could be an open manhole, or a killer pothole - both of which are capable to cause severe damage to your car and your pocket.
Sometimes let others lead and you follow
There are going to be certain times when it becomes absolutely impossible to avoid driving through standing or flowing water. In such cases, let someone else go before you, and carefully follow in their tracks. Be sure to shift down to a lower gear, the engine revved and keep the car in motion in case the water level is higher than your car's exhaust pipe.
Fog on the inside can be a terrible pain
Fogging inside the compartment must be tackled at once. If your car has an AC, the turn it on and direct the airflow towards the windscreen and change the ventilation setting to allow fresh air into the car. If your car has a defogger, switch it on as this would help your clear the fog. If your car does not have an AC, open the windows very slightly, and keep a soft cloth handy to keep cleaning the windscreen. Be careful though, as you don't want anything to distract you while you are driving.
In our country, where it rains for a few months every year, the rubber on the wiper blades tends to become hard. Ensure that you change the wiper blades at least once a year. This will ensure that you are well-prepared for the arrival of the rains. In addition to the wiper blades, ensure that the wiper arms are in good condition. The wiper arms ensure that the blades hug the windscreen well and are able to move rain water away quickly and efficiently. If the rubber on the wipers seems hard to touch or appears cracked, change the blades immediately. If the wipers are leaving some water on the windscreen, be sure to get the wiper arms checked or replaced. Keep your windscreen washer fluid topped up at all times, and use it liberally. Pour a few drops of shampoo as it helps clean the grime and dust.
Ensure that your tyres are in top shape to handle the monsoons. Bad roads and wet tarmac mean that your tyres are going to be working doubly hard. The treads on the tyre surface are responsible for diverting water away from the tyre, and thus ensuring that the rubber remains in contact with the tarmac. If the treads are not deep enough (or worse, absent altogether), they won't be able to move the water out of the tyres' way. This might lead to total loss of grip (called aquaplaning) - a situation that even the most talented drivers have a tough time coping with. If the depth of the tread on the tyre surface is less than 1.6 mm, then the tyre needs to be replaced. Ensure that all your tyres (including the spare tyre) comply with this simple requirement. If any of them does not, then get a new tyre before you head out in the wet.
Check the brakes
Last but by no means the least, get your brakes checked. The relative lack of grip in the monsoon means that your brakes have to work harder in comparison to what they would have to in the dry season. Ensure that the brakes are offering good response and that the car is stopping in a straight line. If you feel that the brake response is not confidence inspiring, then get the car checked. You might have to get the brake pads, brake linings or brake discs replaced. Be alert for consistent squeaking sounds when you apply the brakes as they could point at some trouble.
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