Aug 272013


We, the tax payers of the Philippines, respectfully request your esteemed agency to stop naming typhoons after innocent citizens like Ondoy, Pedring and Maring, and ask that you name them after politicians who have unexplained wealth instead. It makes more sense, don’t you think? Because aside from the fact that their misappropriated development funds caused most of the unnecessary flooding, they actually have a lot more in common than you may think––like how they both seem to start out with a lot of hot air before eventually taking everything you own.

So let’s start with renaming Maring to typhoon Napoles, shall we?

With that out of the way, not a storm goes by without my inbox getting flooded with questions like, what is the best way to drive through a flood? What do I do if my car stalls in a flood? Why wasn’t I informed? So I decided to consolidate them here for you in a simple, easy-to-share article that you can always refer to.

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What height of flood water is still considered passable?

Well that depends entirely on your vehicle. Currently, the Chevrolet Trailblazer, Colorado and Ford Ranger have the best-in-class wading capabilities with 800 mm.  Most “soft-roaders” like CRVs, Tucson, Sorento, etc. are only good for 400-500mm, while cars are even less.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid going through anything that has reached your headlights or that completely covers your tires, because aside from risking water entering your engine, you lose traction and risk floating into other vehicles or barriers. Also, do not try and negotiate any water crossing where you cannot see the exit; the worst thing you can do when crossing a flood is to stop and reverse. Before proceeding, think of it like saying “I do.”

Another thing to remember is that because water increases in pressure and resistance depending on volume, a waist-high flooded alleyway is a completely different thing to a waist-high flood on a four-lane highway. Crossing wide floods, like, say, on the SLEX,  requires a lot more power and torque and should only be done if you are absolutely certain you can make it to the other side.

What is the best technique to drive through a flood?

Once you’ve established the approximate depth of a flood, based on either watching other vehicles crossing, street signs or seeing people wade through, the most important things to remember are to maintain momentum and never, ever attempt to barrel through unless you have Moses in the front seat next to you. You should also never change gears in midstream to avoid water damaging your clutch.

Keep a steady pace of anywhere from 1,800-2,000 rpm and always time your crossing to make sure there’s nobody, especially a bus or truck, coming the other way that can drown you in a wave.

DO NOT turn your hazard lights on unless you have stalled; keeping them on while you are driving is not only annoying, it is dangerous because there is nothing to distinguish you from the guy who has actually stalled in the center lane who now needs to warn drivers of the hazard. 

Is it true that I just need to avoid water getting into my tailpipe?

No. That is the least of your worries. Obviously you do not want water going into your exhaust, but the psi generated from your exhaust is far greater than the pressure trying to force its way in. The one to worry about is the air intake, the distributor cap and the Electronic Control Unit (ECU), which controls the fuel injection system, ignition timing, and the idle speed control system.

The worse thing that can happen is when the air intake sucks in water because once it enters the cylinders, the piston tries to compress it, and boom! Water doesn’t compress.

What should I keep in my car?

My wife always keep an emergency bag in the car that contains a flash light, a bicycle light that flashes red (just in case you leave your car in a flood and it gets dark, you can warn people by leaving it flashing on the back window or visor to avoid other cars hitting it) a towel, bottled water, crackers or other dried food, a spoon, a can opener as well as alcohol and Betadine in case we need to wade through flood waters. I call her a Swiss Army Wife.

What happens if I stall in the middle of crossing a flood?

DO NOT try to restart it. Do not even turn the ignition switch to on.  Disconnect the battery. Call a tow truck. If it has been submerged for more than 10 minutes and there’s a chance that the transmission fluid has been contaminated, make sure that the vehicle is towed with the drive wheels OFF the ground.

Do not abandon your vehicle if it is blocking anyone’s driveway or the only path for emergency vehicles. Ask for help in pushing it to the side once the water subsides. Better yet, carry a tow rope. I always keep one in my car because not only can you help people who have stalled, you can use it to save yourself if you get stuck.

Have your car taken straight to the dealer. Have them quote you before having work done and report any dealer that marks up the price to take advantage of the situation. Although it rarely happens, it is appalling that some dealers still shamelessly take advantage of a natural disaster, especially when companies like Toyota and Chevrolet and Volvo went out of their way to offer a 40% discount on engine ECUs, a 20% discount on selected flood-affected parts and a 20% discount on labor right after typhoon Napoles.

And lastly, just like corrupt politicians, crossing a flood should be avoided as much as possible. Only attempt to if you absolutely, positively need to get to the other side. If it seems too risky, there’s no shame in backing off and just waiting for it to subside. Always remember, when in doubt, stay out

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