Now that you know how to drive in the rain, take some precautionary measures to ensure that your vehicle is ready to get you through a downpour.
- Stay on top of your car’s condition. You should check your brakes, tire pressures, tire tread depth and defroster operation regularly so that you’ll be ready to deal with a deluge when the time comes.
- Driver Aides. Most vehicles are available with anti-lock brakes these days, and safety features like traction control, stability control and all-wheel drive are becoming increasingly popular as well. Traction control and stability control can be very handy on rain-soaked roads. Traction control helps you maintain grip by applying pressure to the brakes on the wheel(s) that don’t have traction. Stability control monitors your steering input. It intervenes by braking and/or reducing engine power as needed to keep you on your intended path.
- Although several tire manufacturers design tires specifically for wet roads, a good set of all-season tires will do the job for most drivers. Trouble is, some tire models are better than others in the rain. If you aren’t happy with the wet-weather performance of your car’s original equipment tires, we suggest you check out the Tire Decision Guide at Tire Rack. It is helpful for identifying tires that fit your car and your driving habits. It also allows you to see how others rate the tire in a variety of categories, including wet-weather traction. An experienced tire store manager can also be a good source of recommendations.
- Make sure that your wipers are in good condition and functioning properly. Wiper blades with signs of damage or that are brittle should be replaced before you’re caught in a downpour. Some wipers are definitely better than others, so ask your retailer for recommendations.
- If there’s a chance of freezing rain, double your precautions. Carry snow chains, as well as a supply of salt, sand or kitty litter (the non-clumping kind). If you’re stuck and uselessly spinning your tires on a patch of ice, stop what you’re doing and place some of said material around the drive wheels to gain traction. Then give it another go, giving the car as little gas as possible. If your car has a manual transmission, it also helps to start out in second gear rather than first. If you live in a particularly harsh climate, consider keeping a small shovel in the trunk to remove excess ice and snow from around the tires in the event that you get stuck.
- Every car should have a good emergency kit — and not the $10 jobs you buy at the car wash. Sites like Brookstone, RightTrak and Emergency Preparedness Center offer pre-assembled kits that come in handy carrying cases. The contents of these kits vary, but when driving in rough weather, a tow rope is always a good idea — just in case.
In a perfect world, rainy days would find us hanging out at the local coffeehouse or holed up at home, petting the dog by the fire. Reality being what it is, you probably still have to dredge up enough moxie to go to work instead. Taking a few precautions and using wet-weather driving techniques will keep you from ending up sopping wet on the shoulder of the freeway, waiting for a tow truck. Or worse.