Here’s What You Need to Know to Prepare Your Car for Hurricane Season

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Driving through flooded roads can damage your car and endanger your safety. Michael Dwyer/AP

Hurricane season starts June 1.

If you live near the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, where hurricanes and tropical storms tend to blow through, hopefully you’re prepared with the right home insurance, a well-stocked emergency kit and a plan for your family in case a storm should get serious.

But have you also thought about what you need to do to prepare your car before a hurricane hits?

Cars can be costly to replace or repair in the aftermath of a hurricane. Here are some tips you’ll want to keep in mind.

Before the Storm

In advance of any inclement weather, you’ll want to make sure your car is in good working condition. That way, in case you need to evacuate, you can leave without a problem, said Roszell Gadson, a spokesman for State Farm insurance company.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security advises car owners to have a mechanic check the following before anticipated natural disasters:

  • Antifreeze levels.
  • Battery and ignition system.
  • Brakes.
  • Exhaust system.
  • Fuel and air filters.
  • Heater and defroster.
  • Lights and flashing hazard lights.
  • Oil.
  • Thermostat.
  • Windshield-wiper equipment and washer fluid level.

The auto club AAA recommends keeping your gas tank full prior to the onset of stormy weather. If you get in the habit of keeping your tank nearly full during hurricane season, you won’t end up stuck in ridiculously long gas station lines the day before a storm.

Just as you should have an emergency kit at home, you should also carry one in your car. Some important items to include are:

  • A paper map with evacuation routes highlighted in case the GPS signal goes down.
  • A phone charger — perhaps an emergency charger that works without electricity.
  • A first-aid kit.
  • Water and nonperishable food or snacks.
  • A blanket.
  • A flashlight with extra batteries.

Your car should also be equipped with emergency supplies, including a spare tire, jumper cables, a windshield scraper and a hazard triangle or road flares.

What to Know When Evacuating

If your emergency plan includes evacuating, getting on the road well ahead of the storm can save you from being stuck in crazy traffic or bad weather. But if you are driving in rainy, windy conditions, you should take a few precautions.

“It’s important that drivers heed official warnings and avoid driving on wet and flooded roads if able,” AAA spokesman Matt Nasworthy said in a news release. “If you see rising water, don’t drive through it.”

He also said to avoid driving in standing water. If your car stalls in standing water, do not try to restart it. Leave the flooded car and seek higher ground as soon as possible.

AAA recommends drivers heed the following advice when driving through rainy, windy weather:

  • Turn your headlights on in the rain, but avoid using high beams.
  • Reduce your speed.
  • Increase the amount of space between your car and the vehicle in front of you.
  • Avoid using cruise control.
  • Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel in windy conditions.
  • Treat traffic signal blackouts like intersections with a four-way stop sign.

AAA also suggests drivers pull off the road as far as they can, turn on their emergency flashers and wait for the rain to ease up if the downpour is so bad that you can’t see the edges of the road or other cars at a safe distance.

Protecting Cars in a Hurricane’s Path

For those who plan to stay home, you’ll want to make sure to have your car parked in as safe a location as possible.

“This might include higher ground that is less likely to be subject to flooding,” said Gadson of State Farm.

If you have a garage, that may be an ideal spot to leave your car. If you have to leave your car outdoors, Gadson said, be sure to secure outdoor furniture or other items that could get picked up by high winds and damage your vehicle.

He also advises drivers to review their auto insurance policies with their insurance agent prior to inclement weather. In addition, drivers should take photos of their property before a storm hits and make sure they keep important papers — like the car title and insurance documents — in a safe place.

Last year, an estimated 700,000 to 900,000 vehicles were damaged in flood waters after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Gadson said State Farm encourages its customers to maintain comprehensive coverage, which includes loss or damage caused by severe weather.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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