The monsoon is upon us. While rain cools the summer temperatures, it can wreak havoc for your car. You have no control over how much or when it rains, but taking care of your car in the monsoons is in your hands. Modern cars are made up of thousands of components and any part can fail.

Water, humidity and moisture spell can spell trouble for the car’s electrical system and metal ware. A breakdown at best could mean a little discomfort, at worst can create a potentially hazardous situation. While a breakdown is far from welcome at any time of the year, the consequences of a minor fault can get magnified during monsoon. A complete check-up and servicing at the onset of the monsoon season is highly advisable. Here’s a list of the most important things that will help keep your car in good condition.

Tyre condition

Tyres are the only point of contact with the road, hence, it’s important to make sure that the tyres are in good conditions. Tyre tread helps in clearing water away from the road so that they have a better contact with the road. Therefore, the depth of the tread should be good enough or else they might skid on slippery surfaces. The minimum depth is 2.5mm of tread, but replace the tyres if they are old and worn out. Don’t forget to check the spare tyre as well. Check the tyre pressure regularly and inflate it to the pressure as recommended by the manufacturer. Get the wheels balanced and aligned before the onset of monsoon. Drive at sedate speeds and slow down while crossing puddles. If you hit a puddle at speed, it can cause your car to aquaplane, skidding out of control. Regular checks will ensure better driving comfort and prolong tyre life.

Check the tyre pressure regularly and inflate it to the pressure as recommended by the manufacturer.

Wiper and washer condition

The windscreen wiper blades are important components of your car that should be in good condition. Ideally, one should replace the wiper blades every year before the monsoons begin. Ensure that the rubber is not hard and does not have cracks as it will result in scratching the windscreen. Also check that the wiper is working properly at different speeds. Make sure the windshield washer bottle is filled up. If you want, you can add a mild detergent, which will keep the glass clean and oil free. Check if the spray from the nozzles directly hit the windscreen.

Check the brakes

Check the conditions of the brakes. Brake callipers are a crucial part of the car. You should regularly clean to keep them dirt free. Brakes should not be too tight or spongy. It’s a good idea to get the brakes serviced before the start of the monsoon season. If necessary, get the drums, discs and pads replaced so that they perform at their optimum best.

It’s a good idea to get the brakes serviced before the start of the monsoon season.

Check the lights

During a heavy downpour, visibility goes down not only for you, but also for driver behind you. Check the car’s headlights and taillights. Make sure that these are working properly. Carry spare bulbs and fuses if possible. It’s advisable to keep the parking light on while driving. Don’t use the hazard flashers unless needed as this confuses other drivers forcing them to think that your car might have stalled. Use hazard lights only in an emergency or if you have to stop on the road for any reason.

Check the air conditioner

AC prevents the windshield and window glasses from fogging up. Ensure that the AC is in good working condition. Turn on the air-conditioner and set it on fresh-air mode if the interiors mist up. Set the HVAC control to direct the air flow to the windshield. This will help to demist the front windshield and windows. If the car is equipped with a rear defogger, it’s advisable to switch it on. Also use old newspapers to clean the front and rear windshields from the inside, as constant moisture can leave smudges on the glass, which can be irritating and at night cause the light from incoming cars refract, resulting in loss of visibility.

Turn on the air-conditioner and set it on fresh-air mode if the interiors mist up.

Check the electricals

If you see any loose or weak electrical connections, patch them to avoid any kind of short circuit. Make sure the external wires are insulated. Ensure that the car’s electrical system is in good working condition, including the alternator, starter motor, fuses, relays and junction boxes. Carry some extra fuses for emergency. Battery terminals should be well-greased to prevent moisture deposit. Acid and salt deposited on the bare battery terminals will weaken the current flow from the battery to the rest of the electrical components. Also, check the condition of the battery and top-up if needed.

Battery terminals should be well-greased to prevent moisture deposit.

Get a car perfume

Foul or any kind of strong smell in the car can cause headache and nausea. Always keep a pleasant-smelling perfume in your car. Also check the carpets and mats for bad odour. You can even consider adding an extra perfume on an AC vent to keep foul smells at bay. It might be a good idea to get a germ-free treatment done before the start of the monsoon.

You can even consider adding an extra perfume on an AC vent to keep foul smells at bay.

Cabin care

During this period it’s normal for people to enter the car’s cabin with drenched clothes and wet shoes. This leads to moisture build up inside the cabin, which leaves a foul musty smell in the passenger compartment. The dirty rubber mats turn into breeding grounds for fungus.

Also, the wet soles of shoes become prone to slipping off the pedals, which can be dangerous. A layer of newspaper in the footwell of the car can be helpful to absorb the moisture from the soles of your shoes and the mats. It will also prevent dirt from your shoes getting transferred on to the carpets or mats.

Remember to keep your car covered if parked in the open and keep it well ventilated while driving. Using a good car freshener or perfume will help to mask any musty odours. Set your vehicle’s air-conditioner to the fresh air, recirculate mode to flush the moisture out from the cabin. This will also prevent misting of the windshield when you first get in the car after it’s parked in the rain.

Protect the car

Protect the car’s body from rain by using a good wax polish. This will protect the paint and improve beading of water molecules. Grease the door locks and components under the car such as gear linkage, propeller shaft, etc. To prevent rusting of the exposed underbody, get an anti-rust treatment done. If the rubber lining of the doors come loose, replace them to prevent seepage of water inside. Also fill in all the scratches before the monsoon starts otherwise, it may act as crevice for the rain water to seep through that might lead to rusting of the body.

Use fabric floor mats with rubber mats underneath

Wet footwear can dampen the carpet. Protect the carpet with rubber and fabric mats over them. Fabric mats absorb water easily and keeps the carpet dry. They also prevent mud from slipping on to the carpet. Rubber mats prevent the carpet from getting wet in case the fabric ones get soaked.

Rubber mats prevent the carpet from getting wet in case the fabric ones get soaked.

Remove the fabric and rubber mats and let them dry outside so that they do not stink. Also get them dry-cleaned periodically to prevent fungus build up, which can be harmful to the health of the occupants.

Visibility

Turning on the headlamps will not only help improve the visibility, they will also help other drivers spot you on the road. Keep a piece of soft, clean cloth or newspapers to wipe away the mist that might accumulate on the windshield. Newspaper is a good option because it soaks up the water particles without leaving any marks on the glass. In case your car doesn’t come with a defogger, an easy way of removing mist is to put on the air-conditioning in the ‘fresh air mode’ and move the slider so as to direct the flow of air towards the windscreen. If your vehicle is fitted with fog lamps ensure they are operational and the lenses are clean.

If your vehicle is fitted with fog lamps ensure they are operational and the lenses are clean.

Worn out rubber parts

Wipers are one of the most important pieces of safety equipment in rain. Clear vision through the windshield is of paramount importance. Ensure that your wiper assembly is in proper working condition and the blades are in good shape. Replace the wiper blades if they start to slip on the windshield. Top up the windshield washer reservoir with a mixture of water and wiper fluid that is used to clean road spray off the glass. You can also spray a bit of WD-40 on the windshield to improve its water-repelling properties. Ensure to check the rubber lining of the doors. If they are damaged or coming loose or getting out of shape, it’s advisable to replace them because water seepage through the lining can damage the window winding mechanism. Also, don’t forget to check the boot lid lining because any water entering the boot will stagnate at the bottom of the boot floor resulting in rusting.

Most people make the cardinal mistake of rushing through a stagnant pool of water.

Keep the tyres well maintained. If the tread has worn out, the most sensible thing to do is to change them. Bald tyres lead to drastic reduction in traction on wet surfaces. They will be also prone to aquaplaning. It happens when a thin film of water gets trapped between the road surface and tyre in the absence of grooves causing a sudden loss of grip that can send the car into an uncontrollable spin. Braking efficiency is greatly reduced as well. The minimum depth on the tyre tread should be 2-3mm.

Driving in stagnant water

Most people make the cardinal mistake of rushing through a stagnant pool of water. If you try to drive through a standing pool of water at high speed, it creates a bigger a splash increasing the chances of water entering the engine through the air intake. This can cause serious damage to the engine resulting in hefty repair bills.

The most sensible thing is to follow the path taken by the car ahead as it will give you an idea of what lies ahead. The ideal way of wading through is to put the car in first gear and accelerate gently maintaining a constant speed. Allowing the revs to drop will result in water entering the exhaust. Attempt to cross only if the water level is six inches below the air inlet and the tailpipe. After crossing the watery patch, rev the engine a bit so that any water that might have entered the tailpipe gets expelled by the exhaust gases. If you feel that water has entered the engine switch it off instantly.

Brakes too lose bite when brake pads and brake shoes get wet.

Brakes too lose bite when brake pads and brake shoes get wet. This happens because water acts as a lubricant reducing the amount of bite. To dry the brakes look for an empty patch of road and brake hard to expel any water that might be trapped between the disc and brake pads. If you feel that your car is aquaplaning, remember not to panic. Lift your foot off the throttle gently and press the brakes lightly.

Ensure you carry a warning triangle, a spare set of light bulbs, fuses, a tow rope and an umbrella. An umbrella might seem like an odd piece of kit, but it will be very handy in case you need to step out of the car to fix any problems.

The right way to drive in rain

Check speed: Slow down. As your speed decreases, the tyre footprint (the amount of tyre tread in contact with the road surface) increases, providing better traction. You also reduce the risk of aquaplaning should you run into water puddles on the road. It occurs when a film of water forms between the tread on the tyres and the road surface leading to loss of traction. So don’t try to out-drive the conditions.

As your speed decreases, the tyre footprint increases, providing better traction.

Keep a safe distance: Leave extra distance between your car and the vehicle in front. This will allow you extra time to respond to any situation.

Electronics: ABS is a safety system, which prevents wheels from locking while braking. This allows the driver to maintain control under emergency braking. It also allows the wheels to continue rolling giving lateral control.

Watch out for rainbows on the road: Throughout summer, roads are littered with oil, grime and other liquids. These become hazardous during rain. So beware of multi-coloured patches resembling rainbows on the road. Avoid changing lanes randomly as you can lose control.

ABS is a safety system, which prevents wheels from locking while braking.

Avoid driving in low visibility: Driving in rain can hinder visibility and the solution is to switch on hazard lights and pull over. If you have to trudge along, then follow the lights of the car in front.

Avoid flooded roads

If you are not sure about the depth of the standing pool of water, do not try to drive through it. Taking an alternate route would be a better choice. If you don’t have the option, then wait for bigger car to pass through so that you can gauge the wading depth. Flooding of the engine can result in stalling and permanent damage. In fact, your car can be swept away in deep gushing water.

Switch off the air-conditioner before entering the flooded area.

Keep the windows slightly open while crossing a flooded area. In case you are stuck, you can shout for help or force the window down.

If you are not sure about the depth of the standing pool of water, do not try to drive through it.

Drive in low gear and keep the revs high enough to ensure that the exhaust gases are pushed out of the tailpipe, preventing water from entering the exhaust system. Drive at low speed without creating a big splash. Don’t panic if the water level rises and continue driving through in a steady manner.

Once out of the flooded part, pump or tap the brake a few times to dry the drums and discs.