A motorhome trip can be one of life’s great adventures. But in adverse weather conditions, those adventures could become somewhat hair-raising!
Floods are one of the most common, yet dangerous, risks that you may face on your journey, particularly if you love exploring off the beaten track. Knowing how to navigate a flooded area is a vital driving skill.
So how can you prepare for floods? How can you drive through standing water safely – and what should you do if you get stuck? And how can insurance for a motorhome help you get back on the road?
Read our guide about driving through floods on your motorhome trips.
What are the risks of driving through floods?
Heavy rain and floods can put you and your family at risk, as well as cause severe damage to your motorhome.
First of all, downpours and floods can cause havoc to your journey. Road closures, slow-moving traffic, congestion and other delays are all far more likely during very wet weather.
While those occurrences aren’t dangerous in themselves, they are very frustrating and tiring, which can lead to you or other motorists making driving mistakes.
Even worse is the risk that heavy rains and floods present to your personal safety. Downpours reduce visibility, as does spray from large and fast vehicles.
Wet roads can cause skidding, and many drivers do not slow down or increase their stopping distance, posing a danger to other road users.
If you drive through standing water, your tyres could lose traction on the road – known as aquaplaning – and cause you to skid and crash.
You could also hit a submerged object, burst a tyre, or get stuck in the flood. Motorhome insurance that includes breakdown cover will help you get back on the road, but your trip will be severely disrupted.
Modern vehicles are designed to keep out water, with excellent door seals. However, this makes them more buoyant, so at greater risk of being swept away in deep or fast-moving water, with you and your family inside!
You might think that this is unlikely for a larger vehicle such as a motorhome, but in fact it only takes a couple of feet of water. That’s a risk that’s simply not worth taking.
So how can you protect yourself, your family and your vehicle during flooding?
What are the potential risks of flood damage to your vehicle?
Even if you don’t crash or get swept away, there are still several ways in which a flood can cause damage to your motorhome. This could well be bad enough to derail or curtail your holiday.
The biggest risk is if your engine gets flooded. This is most likely in older vehicles, but still possible in more modern models.
It occurs when water gets sucked into the engine, causing it to lock up and then damage crucial components – known as ‘hydrolocking’. If this happens to your motorhome, you may well have to replace the engine.
Damage to the electrics of your motorhome is also common. Again, you’ll need to seek out a mechanic to put it right, which may not be easy in a remote area.
Any serious damage to your motorhome will force you to break your journey – especially upsetting if you’re on the holiday of a lifetime or far from home.
If water gets into your vehicle, it can also damage your fixtures, fittings and belongings. Plus, living conditions will be pretty unpleasant for a few days, casting a literal dampener on your holiday!
You’ll need to air your motorhome as best you can to avoid mould and mildew developing and damaging the fabric of your vehicle.
Longer term, your vehicle can develop rust and corrosion, requiring potentially expensive repairs and replacement of parts.
How can you prepare for driving your motorhome through floods?
The trick to getting your motorhome safely through floods lies in preparation.
Look out for weather forecasts and flood reports for the area, and take them seriously.
Consider delaying your journey or plotting an alternative route. These days, sat navs make that task far easier. They’ll even be updated with the latest information about road closures, helping you to avoid the worst of any flooding.
Before setting off on a wet weather journey, make sure your windscreen wiper blades are in good condition. You could upgrade to aero wipers, which are more efficient.
Fill up with fuel, as you’ll use more if you get stuck in traffic with your lights on and wipers and heaters on full blast.
Check your tyre pressure and tread, as this will affect the ability of your wheels to grip the road surface.
Finally, be prepared for the journey to take longer than usual. While you may well have an itinerary that you want to stick to, it’s always good to have a back-up in mind in case the weather has other ideas.
Motorhomes give you a good deal of freedom to just take a break when things don’t go to plan, which is far safer than driving while stressed or tired, or trying to make up the miles by going too fast.
Flood emergency kits
Another important part of preparing for a flood is to have a good emergency kit to hand in case of breakdown.
This should include vehicle essentials such as a spare tyre, a jack and tools to change the wheel. You’ll need items to help you alert other drivers, such as a warning triangle, a torch plus spare batteries, and a hi-vis jacket.
Carry a mobile phone, charger and power bank, too, so that you can call for help. Keep all motorhome insurance documentation handy, and ensure you know your provider’s 24-hour emergency helpline number.
If you take any essential medication, make sure that’s to hand along with a first aid kit. A bottle of water and emergency food supplies are also crucial.
And you can also buy lightweight emergency blankets and waterproof jackets that fold up very small.
Keep everything in something waterproof, such as a plastic container, and make sure that all occupants of your vehicle know where it’s stashed.
Tips for driving through floods
So what should you do if you encounter an unavoidable flood blocking your route?
It’s vital that you don’t rush into anything. While it’s tempting to just put your foot to the accelerator and hope for the best, that attitude could land you in serious trouble.
Instead, stop your vehicle – use your hazard lights if there’s nowhere to pull over – get out, and take a closer look at the water. You might need to find a stick to gauge the depth.
If it’s shallow enough to be safe for driving, check for submerged objects. Are there any stones, branches, or debris that could get stuck underneath your vehicle? Move them out of the way if possible, or plan a route around them.
If the water is fast-flowing, deep or you’re unsure, don’t take the risk. Turn around and find another route. You could even break your journey to give the flood waters a few hours to recede.
If you are confident you can make it safely through the water, go ahead. Drive through at a reasonable pace in a low gear – second is usually best – with the engine revs high.
This should give you momentum, and push the water away from your vehicle in a bow wave.
Be considerate of other road users. If you’re in a queue of traffic, leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front. If there are pedestrians or cyclists nearby, take care to avoid drenching them.
On exiting the puddle, be careful – the road surface will still be very wet, and your tyres’ grip will be reduced. If possible, pause for a moment to let the water drain away from your vehicle.
Pressing the brake pedal gently a few times will also help to rid your motorhome of excess water and keep braking efficiency as high as possible.
Some more modern vehicles can recognise when you’ve driven through water and will automatically do this for you.
What to do if you get stuck
If you drive into standing water and can’t drive out again, the most important thing is to get yourself and your family to safety, and make sure other drivers are aware of the risks.
Flood water can be contaminated, so take care when wading through it.
The second most important thing to remember is that if your engine’s cut out, you must not restart it until a mechanic has checked it over. You risk flooding the engine and damaging it beyond repair.
Likewise, don’t leave the bonnet open in the rain. If water gets in, it can cause havoc that can permanently damage your vehicle.
This is when you’ll be glad you included breakdown cover on your reliable motorhome insurance policy.
A mechanic can tow your vehicle to safety, clear your engine of flooded water, and carry out any repairs.
While you might not have scheduled this chapter into your holiday plans, you should hopefully be able to continue on your journey within a few hours or a day or two. Be thankful that everyone’s safe, and chalk it up to experience.
What to do about flooding at campsites
So you’ve made it through the winds, rains and standing water, and you’re safely pitched at your campsite. Danger over, right? Wrong!
Flooding can still damage your vehicle even when you’re parked up for the night. Although unlikely, it can even cause an emergency situation that puts you and your family at risk.
For a start, storms can rock a high-sided vehicle parked in an exposed location. It’s a good idea to use stabilisers to keep yours as steady as possible, and park facing the wind if possible to reduce resistance.
If your motorhome has any gaps round the windows and doors, or cracks in the bodywork, the rain is likely to find its way inside.
That can result in an unpleasant night, drenched belongings, and longer term damage to the fabric of your vehicle.
Flat areas such as fields can quickly become flooded in heavy rain, causing your motorhome to become bogged down in soggy ground.
You might need to wait until the ground dries out a bit before trying to move your vehicle, or use special grips or track mats to get started. Even planks of wood will give your wheels something to grip onto.
Worse still, if a nearby river bursts its banks, your motorhome could be lifted up by fast-flowing waters and rocked or even swept away by the current.
This can happen surprisingly quickly, so campsites which know their site is at risk should be monitoring the situation.
Check their bulletin boards for details of any weather or flood warnings, and follow staff instructions about where to pitch if heavy rain is expected.
Campsites are also likely to display emergency information such as their evacuation plan in the case of a disaster.
If you’ve read this in advance, and memorised the evacuation routes and assembly points, it will help you stay calm and get your family to safety if a serious flood occurs.
That’s far more important than protecting your vehicle – let insurance for motorhomes do that for you.
Get a quote from Motorhome Protect today
Flooding is a risk for motorhome owners, but with the right precautions, you can minimise the dangers and enjoy a safe and fabulous holiday.
At Motorhome Protect, we help you do just that. We’re specialists in arranging motorhome insurance for vehicles up to £150,000, so you can satisfy your wanderlust while knowing that help is at hand if things go wrong.
Benefits of the policies we arrange can include unlimited mileage and free cover for trips around the EU. Perfect if you’re after unforgettable adventures!
We can arrange discounts for members of clubs, and consideration of applicants with past claims and convictions.
Contact Motorhome Protect today, and start planning your next adventure!
Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.