With the monsoon in full swing and most of our roads riddled with potholes, driving safely is not easy. So what should you do this rainy season?

Films might have made the monsoon seem romantic and sensuous with actresses dancing in the rains. But in reality, the rains don’t always make you dance. Along with the much-needed respite from the searing summer heat, the rains unfortunately also bring with them water-clogged streets, endless traffic and treacherous driving conditions. Here’s a comprehensive guide on taking care of your car and surviving the season without car repairs burning holes in your pockets.

The outside story

Before the monsoon sets in, check your car’s service schedule and make sure you haven’t missed any as this is will ensure that your car is in the best possible condition to handle the rains. Over time, rainwater collects on your car’s body and this can corrode the paint, which will eventually affect its resale value. In order to avoid this, it is good practice to have your car’s paintwork coated with a durable wax polish. Apart from giving your car a shiny look, the polish will create a smooth surface for the water to flow right off the car’s body.

While at the service centre, insist on making sure all the drain plugs provided in the body, under the seats and the floor mats are closed. In case one plug is missing, the interiors are bound to get spoiled during the slightest flooding of the road. It is also advisable to have the metal parts of your car like the bolts, nuts and spark-plug mounts sprayed with an anti-rust solution. The rubber linings of your car also tend to lose their elasticity. A simple, but effective trick to take care of these rubber linings is to apply a coat of petroleum jelly, which prevents water from accumulating.

Another important aspect to take care of is the car’s tyres. The biggest enemy when driving in wet conditions is Aquaplaning. It is basically a result of your car’s tyres moving quickly across a wet surface, so quickly that there isn’t sufficient time for the water to channel away from the centre of the tyre, which in turn marginally lifts the tyres off the road. In a split second you are in danger of losing control of the car. To avoid such a situation, check the tyre treads, which should ideally be at a minimum depth of 2mm, and also check the alignment of the wheels. When checking your car’s tyres, do not forget about the spare tyre. Check that the tyre pressure is correct and the treads too are fine. We would also advice you to use mud flaps, as they will help keep you car clean and also not spray muck at the vehicle behind you.

The inside job

Before the monsoon, it is a good practice to get the car’s air conditioning checked and if needed refill the gas in the compressor, as you will most certainly be driving with your windows up. With the windows down during a downpour, water will seep onto the seats and carpet – a damp carpet will develop fungus if not dried quickly. In case the interiors feel damp and smell musty, leave the doors and windows open for a while. If too much water has soaked in, use a hair dryer on the wet spots or take the vehicle to the dealership to be dried. Alternatively, you can use fabric mats instead of rubber as they absorb water and moisture better. Another effective method is to put old newspapers on top of the mats. They may look tacky, but they hold water very well. Driving in wet conditions causes the car to get muddy and leads to accumulation of muck under it. Make sure you pressure-wash the under-belly of your car every now and then to keep it clean. It’s also recommended you wash the radiator fins to avoid muck from settling in. Accumulated dirt can reduce the cooling efficiency of the radiator, leading to overheating of the engine.

One last thing to check, and the most important, before heading out are the windshield wipers. Visibility is affected during the rains, and old wipers which are hard or brittle will end up scratching the windshield. It is recommended that you change the wipers once a year. In case your car doesn’t have a factory-fitted defogger, keep a soft cloth or old newspapers at hand to clean the mist off the windshield.

Electric avenue

The rain can wreak havoc to your car’s electrical components and accessories if you aren’t careful. Make sure all the external wires are properly insulated and there aren’t any holes in places such as the headlight and tail-light assemblies, as water can seep in and lead to short-circuiting of the bulbs. It is also a good idea to carry a set of extra fuses and headlamp bulbs in case any of them breakdown on the way.

The rains also cause acid salts to deposit on the bare battery terminals, resulting in the weakening of energy flow. To avoid this, coat your car’s battery terminals with petroleum jelly as it will prevent anything from being deposited.

Driving in the rain

While safety should always be a priority, it should be even more of a concern in wet conditions. Avoid driving through heavy rains as visibility is limited. If you do have to drive, switch on the headlamps even during day time so that pedestrians and other cars are able to spot you better.

Drive slow — it takes longer to brake in wet conditions and we recommend keeping the car’s speed low. Make sure you have a good view of what’s in the distance — spot traffic lights and blockages and come off the throttle early. When you step on the brakes, make sure you do it gently as the chances of the wheels locking up are higher, especially in cars that are not equipped with ABS.

Drive in the middle of the road as much as possible; roads are made such that they allow the water to flow out towards the edges. So it’s most likely that there will be more water on the outer edges than in the middle. Try not driving through standing water. One can never be sure how deep it is and bottoming-out on a big crater filled with water can cause mechanical damage. If however you do have to drive through, put the car in a lower gear, preferably in first, and keep applying the throttle so that the water doesn’t enter the tail pipe. Also, try going through without stopping in one go.

Fogging up of the windshield is also quite common during the rains. Switch on the defogger and switch the air flow to fresh air. Use the rear defogger as well to aid visibility.

Checklist

Always keep an umbrella in your car, you never know, when you might have to step-out during a downpour. You’d rather get back into the car bone-dry and not soil the seats, than risk getting the interiors wet.

You can get wet even while entering or exiting your car. So keep a towel in the car. Keeping towels on the car’s seats is also a good idea to protect them from stains.

We would recommend you keep a hammer or a heavy object inside the car. In case you get stuck in a flooded road, it can be used to break open the windshield and leave the car.

In case your car breaks down on the way, a hazard warning triangle will ensure that your stopped vehicle can be noticed from long distances, especially when visibility is not at its best.

A first-aid kit is always a necessary item to have in the car — be it in the rainy season or summer. You never know when or where you can get a cut or a bruise. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Since you will be driving the car with the windows up most of the time, chances are your car might smell a bit damp and musty. To drive away the smell, use an air freshener.

An extra set of fuses and bulbs are also important in case water seeps in and short-circuits an electrical equipment. You don’t want to be left stranded in a downpour with no way to get the car going.

Before leaving on a long drive, it is a good idea to carry some emergency food items like biscuits and bottles of water in your car. During floods or a breakdown, you can get stuck at a place for hours with no food in sight.