Follow by Email

Friday, June 28, 2013

How to Drive in Rain

Greetings Jeep Lovers!
Here in beautiful New England...well, let me restate that. Yes New England is beautiful, but I have to say, we've had more than our share of rainy, gray, wet days this summer. Thunderstorms for weeks straight, all through late May and most of June! This is not normal and I think we need to discuss it openly to stay safe. You see, it's true that rain means green grass, pretty flowers and mud - lots and lots of mud. So it's great for mud-boggers like us, but at the same time, rain (and it's cousin, fog) can be hazardous and really does require following a few tips to navigate.

First off, slow the heck down! Have you ever seen a car whiz by you on the highway, flying through the rain like it somehow provides more traction than tar on a sunny day? They're crazy! The truth is, hydroplaning is easier than you think - especially here in New England where the roads are sometimes less than 100% flat and even. Riding along at normal speeds can sometimes land you smack dab in the middle of a pretty deep puddle, which both affects your handling as well as shoots water all over oncoming traffic or sidewalk pedestrians. If you find yourself having to slow down, don't slam on those brakes - just ease off the gas. If doing so finds you tailgating the bumper of the car in front of you, you haven't been following the 3-second rule. Why not err on the side of caution and leave a 5-second buffer between you and the car in front? Everyone wants to go to the party - no one wants to stay and clean up, remember?

Speaking of tough weather; remember those snow blades that served you well all winter long? Well, it turns out the reason those work so well in the winter is because they are softer rubber. That means as soon as the temp warms up out there, you have to replace them with something more suitable. Check out the wiper section, because if a storm blows up constant, steady rainfall is not likely. You'll be driving through downpours that shift to mist and vice-versa. Your wipers need to be up to the task, especially if you take a bucketful to the windshield by that "ace driver" on the other side of the street who's going too fast and hits a puddle.

We Jeep owners love our tires, so I'm barely going to touch on how important it is not to be riding around on baldies - that's just silly. And you'll pay the price both in stopping power as well as get-up-and-go - you're just as likely to sit-and-spin. Baldies don't provide channels for the rain to kindly remove itself from under your traction space - not fun. If worst comes to worst and you're in a skid, ease off that gas, try to downshift and turn in the direction of the skid. And don't try to ford an impromptu river if you can't see the ground under it - you could completely lose traction. Even going through large, deep puddles can seriously affect braking power, so gently ride those brakes a bit afterward, to try to dry them off using the heat and friction.

Just a few more tips and I'll leave you to chase after sunnier days and summer road trips...Use your defrost to keep windows clear. If you've already defrosted and still can't see through them, it may be time to wash them. Turn on those lights we love so much. Fog-lights in particular are practically a safety requirement in New England; they can truly be lifesaving at times when the roof rack spots will just blind you in the fog. Last but not least, don't be afraid to pull over and have a snack, text a friend or read a book if things get too heavy. It's New England, folks...if you don't like the weather wait five minutes. Chances are that extreme downpour isn't a permanent fixture of the landscape. Enjoy the peace while it lasts, you'll probably save time and car damage by riding it out on the side of the road and picking up where you left off after.

Again, this is targeted towards the young and inexperienced (or anyone from the west coast who's not used to actual weather), so feel free to share the info with your kids or whoever you feel would benefit from it. Hopefully it will be a hot, sunny summer from here on, but just in case, until next time, stay safe out there!
- J.M. for Lahti's