Motoring News

Here comes the rain: Take some tips on crossing a flood

PRETORIA, South Africa – Thunderstorms and flash floods can create chaos for drivers, whether out in the wild or being met with flooding from blocked freeway drains and gravel roads becoming a slippery morass.

Johannesburg’s first rains of the season (yes, the blocked drains scenario) and Cape Town’s recent downpours almost always produced flooded roads, sometimes just deep enough to wet tyres but hidden beneath the surface can be water at perhaps 600mm deep or – worse – as much as 850mm.

TAKE IT SLOW: Better to cross flowing water slowly and safely rather than, er, making a splash. Image: Ford

Depending on which Ford Ranger you drive, a Ranger will probably be able to handle the situation thanks, the automaker says, to smart design, clever engineering, and exhaustive testing in markets around the world.


”Great wading capability,” Ford SA says, ”starts with great design and our engineering team has packaged all the important parts required to keep the engine and electrical systems up and out of any water.

WATCH FOR HIDDEN HOLES: What looks like a safe crossing could have a deep section. Take it… Image: Ford

”The air intake, alternator, and electrical components have been positioned as high as possible in the engine bay.

Ford says the bakkies’ front has been engineered for wading.

”Hitting floodwater at 25km/h,” Ford says, ”can severely damage a vehicle not designed for wading. The Rangers’ front design disperses the force of the water to maintain traction to its tyres.

”Also, when wading, the nose creates a bow wave to push water away from the engine’s air intake.”


Never encountered floodwater in a vehicle and with no other way to go? Well, even Ford admits that though Ranger bakkies have been designed to wade there are certain things to keep in mind to keep you yours safe.

1. Check your surroundings and the water depth

THIS, FORD SAYS, is the most important part of wading. If you can, get down from your vehicle and inspect the area to be crossed and mentally answer four question: Can you tell the depth of the water? Any obstacles on your route? Can you see a suitable exit? Is the water flowing – and in which direction?

A Ranger’s wheels can decide the water depth: the surface tell you depth of the floodwater. For 4×4 Rangers, the depth should not reach the top of the arch above your front tyres; standard rear-wheel Ranger owners should stay shy if the water looks like it will submerge the whole front tyres.

If there are obstacles or if you cannot see a suitable exit, don’t cross. ”You should keep to a single direction to avoid hitting a kerb; seeing the exit point or where the flooding is less deep, is important because the depth could increase as you progress.”

2. Set up your vehicle

SOME RANGER units have all-wheel drive that’s easy to engage: shift into neutral (N) then, use the electric shift-on-the-fly switch to engage four-low (4L). This will activate all-wheel drive and the low-range gearbox will turn all four wheels, keep the vehicle at a lower speed, but stay in the optimum power band.

3. Slow and steady

THIS IS NOT a race. ”Move through the water slowly to create a small wave in front of your vehicle,” Ford says, ”Your main objective is to maintain that bow wave to prevent the water flowing over the bonnet.”

SAFE CROSSING? It might look like it but a light foot and keeping as straight as possible is advised. Image: Ford SA

If water begins to wash over you’re driving too fast. Engine damage can occur if water enters the air filter.

4. Let the Ranger do the work

KEEP A LIGHT FOOT on the accelerator when wading. This also goes for exiting the flooded area: don’t suddenly accelerate out. Let the Ranger’s capabilities pull you out of the water.

”It’s tempting.” Ford says, ”to want to get across as quickly as possible and burst out of the water on the other side but you risk bumping into one or more submerged objects and that could mean trouble!”

5. Check your vehicle

ENSURE YOUR SAFETY as you continue your journey. To help, make these simple tests to make sure that important systems have not been affected by the water. Also…

CHECK the brakes – give them time dry
CHECK that the horn works
CHECK that the headlights and brake lights are working
CHECK that the power steering is working and requires no additional effort to turn

Once home, give your vehicle a thorough wash. Perhaps get your local Ford dealer to inspect your vehicle

Ford added: “The first rains can often be even more hazardous than wet weather in the middle of a rainy season because it lifts oil and debris collected during. Keep a greater following distance, avoid water that has pooled on the road and brake earlier and cautiously.”

Finally, use a few spare moments now to check your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s wading specifications or check your local Ford dealer’s website for a specification sheet should you anticipate seriously wet weather of going off-road.”

BACK ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Take it slowly for a while to get the vehicle dry off. Check the brakes…? Image: Ford

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