Driving in the rain: A refresher course

Trip Check
Posted at 11:56 AM, Sep 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-15 14:56:00-04


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SAN DIEGO - Rain storms can make our roads very dangerous.
Most of the year it’s dry in Southern California. As a result, our roads build up a layer of oil that is deposited from cars – yours and everyone else’s – as they travel the roads. This turns the road into an oil slick when the first rains come. Even a light sprinkle can cause this effect. After a few showers, the oil is washed off the roads and this problem lessens.
When it rains, drivers should reduce speeds and remain cautious as hydroplaning can become an issue. Hydroplaning in a car is similar to the action of planing in a boat. A layer of water between the rubber tires of a vehicle and the road surface reduces the friction between the surface and the tires. At speeds of 55 mph or more, the rubber of the tire is no longer in total contact with the road – the rain water is now between the rubber of the tire and pavement of the road.
Even though it is a very thin layer of water between, you now have a lot less control of the vehicle. Make a quick turn and you can spin out. Or follow too closely behind another car and if the person in front of you suddenly hits the brakes, you’ll slam on yours but chances are you will be rear ending that vehicle in front of you. Hydroplaning rarely occurs below 55 mph but can happen at speeds as low as 35 mph.
Here are some tips to make sure your vehicle is prepared for inclement weather:
  1. Having good tires is a no-brainer: there should be no less than 40 percent of the tread left for good, safe tires. The rule of thumb was to stick a penny head down into the tread; if Lincoln’s head is showing you should look into a new set of tires
  2. Having good wiper blades is also important – in California, blades dry out from the heat and get brittle and cracked
  3. Make sure your windshield wipers work
  4. Check your heater and defroster – windows can fog up
  5. Periodically check all your lights – headlights (both low and high beam), brake lights, turn signals, side lights and backup lights
  6. Get a brake inspection – especially if the ABS light is on
When it rains, don’t be in a hurry to get to your destination. Always plan for extra time to get to where you are going – even if you are the safest driver out there, there is always someone not as cautious as they should have been, which means there may be an accident or two in the direction you’re heading.
The short of it is: don’t be in a hurry and keep your vehicle in good health. Or if you’re one of the lucky ones, just stay at home and cozy up with a good movie on those rare rainy days in San Diego.
Tips courtesy of Military Auto Center