Before attempting to drive through any water the first step is to ascertain how deep it is and what the surface of the riverbed is made of. It is wise to carry Wellington boots with you for this purpose. However when the water is deeper than your boots, it is always better to walk through and get wet than attempt to drive through blind. A wet body is sorted in minutes. A change of clothes and footwear and a towel and the job is done. An engine that has hydraulic seizure or a flooded ECU is however not a five minute job, even if you had the tools and the skills to fix them!!
So before attempting to cross any water check the following.
If you are crossing rivers or streams how strong is the current? Is the bottom muddy or stony and how much grip is likely to be obtained? What is access and egress like and will the entire group vehicle be able to negotiate them?
Have you got sufficient recovery equipment to be able to do a mid water recovery from either bank if someone experiences difficulties?
Not all the vehicles will be well prepared. Yours may be and have a snorkel and wading plugs fitted, but has everybody else got the same?
If all the above criteria have been met and you are going to go for it then the techniques you need to empty in order to cross with minimum risk of any incident are:
Fit a thick polythene bag or similar over the front grille to help keep bow waves out but remember to remove it afterwards to avoid overheating. Close all the windows, doors and vents.
Remove any valuable items, such as handbags, cameras etc from the floor.
Attach your recovery strops/ropes before entering the water. Often you will not be able to see to do this in four feet of water and it is difficult to attach a rope safely under these conditions.
Remove wallets and valuables from your person and store them high and dry somewhere safe. If you have to personally enter the water through breakdown, you don’t want to tend up with a soggy wallet or a broken watch for example.
Engage low box and the centre diff lock where applicable.
Enter the water slowly and gradually accelerate to form a bow wave in front of your vehicle. This will help prevent the ingress of massive amounts of water into the engine bay. The bow wave is most effective at about 8mph
The photograph opposite clearly shows a bow wave in action, keeping mass amounts of water from entering the engine bay via the grille.
Once you have formed a bow wave, maintain a constant speed and follow it.
If you are crossing moving water try to cross at an angle facing slightly upstream. This will provide a smaller surface area and lessen the force of the water on the side of the vehicle helping to prevent the current taking the vehicle downstream.
DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO ATTEMPT A CROSSING OF FAST FLOWING WATER! THERE IS A SEVERE RISK OF THE VEHICLE AND IT’S OCCUPANTS BEING SWEPT AWAY BY THE CURRENT.
Dry your brakes out before continuing on your journey
Water, the off road drivers magnate!! Everybody enjoys driving through water, making waves, splashing about, it’s an itch every of road driver needs to scratch. It’s fun, impressive and challenging.
But beware!! It is probably the most potentially dangerous of all the off road driving activities. Unseen obstacles combined with an unknown depth of water and most vehicles abject hate of water in their electrical and mechanical parts make driving through water a real hazard. Mistakes made whilst driving through water are often costly to repair and notoriously difficult to rectify.
However having said that, there are safe limits to which you can put your vehicle through water. This will depend on many factors and the following is not an exhaustive list.
Most vehicles will be able to wade safely in a depth of water that is equal to the top of the vehicle wheel rims, if you are unsure about the vehicles capability check the manufacturer specifications regarding the maximum recommended wading depth.
Have you taken steps to waterproof the vehicle? Fitting wading plugs where necessary will help to stop the ingress of water into mechanical parts. Waterproofing the vehicle electrics are essential if you hope to cross water and survive without incident. Will the carpets get wet? Is the ECU (if fitted) on the floor? Are there any oil leaks from the engine or transmission or axles? Remember if oil can escape, then water can gain entry. This is not a good idea!!