How to assess if you can take on the flooded street in front of you

Surprises might be waiting underneath
by Drei Laurel | Aug 22, 2019
PHOTO: j_lloa/

Some time back, a Jeep Wrangler and its owner took social media by storm after making mincemeat out of a waist-deep flood in Valenzuela. The vehicle dove straight into the floodwater Leeroy Jenkins-style, emerging unscathed on the other end to the applause of onlookers.

It was an impressive feat, no doubt—but one we don’t recommend attempting unless you have the know-how and experience. One wrong move here and a driver can easily end up ruining his ride or putting himself in danger.

If you ever happen to come across a similar situation, there are a few important questions you should remember to ask yourself. Here’s how to assess if your car is capable of driving through flooded streets:

1) Am I familiar with the environment?

The danger of diving into a flooded street isn’t just in its depth—invisible dangers may be waiting underneath. These include deep gutters, open manholes, and concrete dividers, all of which can end up getting you and your ride stuck.


If you aren’t sure of what obstacle lay hidden underwater, it might be best to turn your car around and find another route.

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2) Can I accurately gauge the water level?

Never head into floodwater without knowing the extent of its depth. It may start out knee-deep, but might progress much higher as you move forward.

Look for visual cues, like pedestrians wading through the flood, stuck cars, or submerged obstacles like concrete barriers, lamp posts or trees. If necessary, step out and try to see further ahead if your ride can handle the depth. Also, there’s no shame in asking locals.

3) Height isn’t everything.

Do not assume that your vehicle can make it through simply because the flood is lower than expected. A car’s capability to tackle water doesn’t just depend on its height.


As our contributor editor Niky Tamayo puts it: “We used to have two same year model Nissan Sentras with different engines. One survived a hood-level flood just fine. The other, when it came time for it, drowned in headlight level water.”

This, he added, was because the two identical cars came equipped with different air intake systems. If you aren’t sure about where your air intake is, just forget about it.

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4) Do I know my car’s wading depth?

There’s a reason your car’s manufacturer states its product’s wading depth, and it isn’t just because of its air intake. The rated wading depth also takes into account components like your ride’s electricals, fluid reservoirs, and even door seals. Just like with your air intake, you should just back off if you’re unsure of your vehicle’s rated wading depth.


5) How heavy is my ride?

Or your car’s weight, rather. Remember: Smaller, lighter vehicles like hatchbacks and sedans have a tendency to float away depending on the depth of a flooded street and whether or not there’s a current.

This makes heavier rides, like pickup trucks and midsize SUVs, more suited to take on a body of water. Keep in mind though that even these types of vehicles will be swept away once the water level is high and strong enough and.

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6) Do I know what to do in case I do get stuck?

Obviously, the goal is to make it out to the other end of a flooded street without incident. But before you do take on the challenge, it’s important to know what to do in the event you fail. Here’s a previous story on what to do in case your car stalls in flood.


If you mess up, there comes a point where you need to stop thinking about your ride and start prioritizing your well-being and that of your passengers (if any). As we wrote before: “If you can’t recover the car, if the current is strong, or if the water is rising, simply evacuate yourself and your passengers to higher ground.”

7) Do I know what to check once I get out?

So you took on a flooded street and made it out. Congratulations! But you aren’t in the clear just yet. It's vital you check if anything is off with your vehicle afterward: Is there debris stuck in my radiator? Did floodwater get mixed in with my fluids? Are my electricals in proper working order? It’d be a shame if your car stalled after you made it out, right?

If you’re unsure of any of the above, you’ll probably want to think twice before taking on a flooded street. Any vehicle can stall, whether a legendary off-roader like the Land Rover Defender or a subcompact sedan, if an overconfident driver is behind the wheel.


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PHOTO: j_lloa/
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