Safety reminders when driving in the rain
It’s the rainy season once again, so here are some tips to keep in mind when driving in the rain to ensure you get to your destination safely, in time and with the least amount of stress possible. The key ideas here are visibility, the ability to see as well as be seen, and control, the ability to be in perfect control despite the poor road conditions and the increment weather.
1.) Drive carefully and surely. Notice that I didn’t say slowly as driving slowly means you are driving at a pace slower than the prevailing traffic conditions. You should do your best to keep up with the prevailing traffic speed at all times. If traffic is moving slower, you match their pace and, likewise, if traffic is speeding up, drive at the same pace. Driving below the average traffic speed may cause people behind you to get impatient and force them to drive rashly, which may make them end up in an accident.
Also, avoid overtaking unnecessarily. You might fail to see standing water, which might cause hydro-planing (your tires stop gripping the road and you lose steering, brake and throttle control), or a huge pothole submerged in floodwater, or vehicles parked on the side of the road.
2.) Turn your headlights and fog lamps/auxiliary lamps on BUT do not turn on your hazard/emergency lights. If visibility is poor, turn on your vehicle’s lights. This not only allows you to see ahead better, but it increases your own vehicle’s visibility so that other motorists can see you. Do not turn on your hazard lights, though. The lights being on denotes that you are stationary, and other motorists might collide with you if they can’t see you well enough.
3.) Slow down when you see standing water. You don’t want to hydro-plane and lose control should you pass through a deep puddle. You also don’t want the water splashing underneath your car and get your engine and electricals wet—they might short circuit and cause the vehicle to stall.
You also don’t want your brakes suddenly doused with water as they will lose their stopping power—a sudden drop in temperature caused by the flood or rainwater cools the brakes below their effective operating temperature.
4.) Check your windshield and wipers. Wipers are a cheap fix, refills cost a few hundred pesos so it’s a worthwhile investment. If yours are still fine but are showing some age and drying up, dab them with silicon spray (A can is available for under P200 at most hardware and auto supply stores) to liven up the rubber, and pat them dry before use.
You can also use the silicon spray on the rubber door seals and window seals to liven them up and prevent them from drying up, which can cause water to leak into your cabin.
Also, make it a habit to wipe your windshields and windows dry whenever you drive home after a downpour to prevent acid rain/water marks from building up and staining your glass.
Mother’s Polishes and Waxes sells a Water Spot and Stain Remover from its California Gold lineup, a do-it-yourself kind of product. And if it’s something heavier, you can opt to bring it to the local Mother’s distributor, HART International, at 322 Santolan Road, Barangay Little Baguio, San Juan, and, as HART International’s big boss Renault Tanyou says, let them do the job. Log on to www.hartintl.com or www.www.mothers.com
5.) Check your headlights. Aside from the windshield stain, your headlights might be fogged up or darkened over time, or scratched up outside. If the scratch is not too deep, Mother’s headlight restoration kit is recommended to effectively clear up all the light scratches and swirl marks from most plastic lens headlights, common on practically all modern cars. If the insides are darkened due to age and use, some detailing shops can clean them with nothing more than a stick, polishing cream and fiber washcloths.
Incidentally, while your headlights are out, check for the bulb condition and replace them with rainbow/gold/yellow-colored bulbs which offer greater contrast and, therefore, visibility and vision in fog and during increment weather.
According to Tommy Teng of DTM Motorsports, just make sure you wire the new bulbs up properly, and if you’re getting more powerful bulbs, upgrade to a Bosch ceramic socket (most cars have H4-type bulbs, the most common bulb type) and install an original Bosch relay and thicker wires to handle the extra load. Have your headlights aligned properly so that they are pointing in the right direction and won’t obscure the vision of other motorists.
Be wary of fake parts and undersized wires, though. Your headlights might blow up, short circuit or experience a bunch of electrical problems if you use subpar wires, relays and other electrical components. Check out DTM Motortsports at MANCOR Corporate Center, 32nd Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.
6.) Check your car battery. Most batteries fail during the rainy season, according to FCL Hagios, a popular battery retail chain in the Ortigas-Pasig area, I shop I frequent myself, located at Ortigas Home Depot along Julia Vargas Street, just outside the Valle Verde area. This is because your car’s electrical system is subjected to full load, with the headlights, wipers, air-conditioning and audio system at full blast. That, plus lousy remedial wiring work on a lot of older cars, means the wiring can moisten, thereby loosing contact or getting a short circuit completely, and draining your battery or even starting a small electrical fire.
As a general rule, if your battery is approaching two years or older, have it checked and replaced if necessary. It’s a simple item that needs to be looked out, otherwise it can leave you with problems. FCL Hagios can do a simple battery test; they will attach a battery tester to your battery and check the voltage, ampere rating and charging capacity/capability. No more guesswork involved.
7.) Check your tires. Your tires are the only things that connect you (and your car) to the road. Make sure that your tires are in perfectly good condition, i.e., perfectly round with no small bumps (“bukol”) on the sidewall (a sign that the steel belts holding the tires’ carcass are in questionable condition), filled with air (according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, at the least) and aligned perfectly (as per your car manufacturer’s recommendations).
Christopher Chilip, head of Armstrong Enterprises Co., exclusive distributor of TOYO and Dunlop tires in the country, said: “You really don’t want to experience having a problem with tires. The thought of changing your tire or getting into an accident during a storm or heavy downpour is something we want to avoid. Check your tire tread depth. A tire with more tread will have better antihydroplane performance, worn down tire treads will not be able to effectively evacuate the water underneath your tires when it’s raining, which can lead to loss of control. Balancing, aligning and rotating your tire will improve the tire life and ensure your safety on the road.”
As an added tip, Beeboy Bargas, Top Gear Philippine’s associate Off-Road editor and high-performance off-road driving instructor at Land Craft Adventures Inc., said that you have to inflate your tires until they are perfectly round, which might be a few pounds per square inch higher than the recommended setting. This is to help the tires absorb the shock caused by hitting a pothole or road debris submerged in floodwater.
A proper four-wheel alignment will give better control even in adverse weather conditions, greater stability and better fuel economy as the reduced rolling resistance translates to less effort for the engine. Your tires will last longer, too. Check out Armstrong Enterprises for tire upgrades at MJC Bldg., 347 Ortigas Avenue, Greenhills East, Mandaluyong City.
8.) Check your brakes. After driving in the rain, check your brakes. A can of brake cleaner spray, which costs under P500, is helpful: Once the brakes have cooled down, douse them with the brake cleaner. This helps prevent crud and dirt buildup by dislodging the small particles away from your brake assembly. Otherwise the dirt can cause a slimy layer of film between the brake pad and disc, hampering braking performance, not to mention the cause of that gawdawful squeaking noises when you apply your brakes.
Wuerth, a leading OEM chemicals, oils and cleaning equipment supplier for the automotive industry, makes an excellent brake cleaner. Check out www.wuerth.com.ph or your local hardware or automotive supply store. If the brake pads or discs are worn out, replace them with OEM or other reputable replacement brands. For enthusiasts, this might be a good opportunity to upgrade to higher-performance brake pads and discs such as DIXCEL, distributed by Emperor Motorsports. These brake pads have a higher operating temperature capacity and offer greater coefficient of friction and more precise braking feel, costing as much as OEM brake pads. Check out Emperor Motorsports at 181 Katipunan Avenue, 1109, Quezon City for DIXCEL high-performance brake pads and discs.
The rainy season signals the halfway mark of the year 2013 so it’s a great idea to get your vehicle booked for servicing at the dealership, or at your favorite independent specialty repair shop for a more thorough inspection of your car. Always remember that driving is not just a right but is also a responsibility. Make sure your car is always in its safest, best and most efficient condition. Doing so makes motoring much safer, more enjoyable and more convenient.
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