I've often been told that driving through puddles (anything from a small one to 3-4cm deep) can be bad for my car, and I shouldn't drive through them.

I know about aquaplaning, but is there any other damage driving through puddles can do?

I mean in general, so I could also be doing at high speeds, so there is quite a big splash...

EDIT: Does it have any effect on the brakes as well?

  • 2
    If we're only talking a few centimeters, I can't imagine anything bad happening. The biggest worry with modern cars is sucking water through the air intake, which can cause hydrolock. See this post for some details on hydrolocking. Still, I would like to think the manufacturer took splashes from small puddles into account when they designed the intake. Oct 15, 2015 at 18:45

8 Answers 8


Your car may have plastic guards underneath to stop water from spraying up on sensitive components, but everything under the hood is typically waterproof to some degree. That said, the only "damage" I have ever seen is the spray of water loosening or tearing off plastic guards that are not properly fastened or half-way ripped off already.

The basic short answer is, it shouldn't break anything that isn't somewhat broken already. Cracked light housings could get wet, etc.

If the water is deep enough that there is a huge rush of water over the front of the car or the engine bay, you could suck some water into the intake, but then again, the intake/air filter housing is made to deal with this as well.

Added: The heat from the brake system should dry them very quickly. There will be a momentary loss of a little braking power, but shouldn't be very noticeable. Most of the splash will be directed away from the wheels, so the brakes might not even get wet.

I personally love to hit puddles at high speed to see the big spray. My wife hates it.

Edit based on comments...

For safety, don't speed on residential streets and never hit a big puddle unless you've driven over the same spot in dry weather. Chances for hydroplaning are great, so go over puddles in a straight line and avoid steering or braking input until the puddle is crossed.
Large waves of water can "hydrolock" the car if water is sucked into the engine, which is bad. The intake is made for splashes, not waterfalls.

  • My street was somewhat flooded one day a few years ago. So, as I am wont to do, I was weaving back and forth splashing water. A little ways down the street, I see a car in my rear-view mirror following my every move and splashing up the water. As I pulled up to the light, he pulls up next to me and we shared a laugh before parting ways. I never saw that young man again, but sometimes I like to think back to the moment we shared, that connection to humanity, and think to myself, "Boy, I sure do like splashing water up onto the sidewalk every now and then." Oct 15, 2015 at 18:57
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    I strongly dispute that intake filter housings are made to deal with water waves. Our car engine was destroyed while driving through a few inches of standing water when a passing car caused a wave, which was drawn into the air intake and then into the cylinders. Unless the air intake is high enough to avoid the water, I see little else that is done to prevent water being drawn in.
    – simpleuser
    Oct 15, 2015 at 20:48
  • @user1663987 I will admit there is a limit to the amount of water that can be splashed in, but the airbox is designed to handle splashes. Since an oncoming car caused a large wave to hit you, I understand that happening. It would be hard to splash that much water into your own hood, however.
    – JPhi1618
    Oct 15, 2015 at 20:55
  • Obviously I drive slowly on residential roads. I just do it on the wide roads around here, which are often empty
    – George
    Oct 15, 2015 at 21:54
  • @George I was talking more about other answers and comments, not you. I said "swerve" and "speed" myself.
    – JPhi1618
    Oct 16, 2015 at 13:33

I had a buddy years ago who liked to do the same thing. Our big plans were cut short one evening when he hit a good sized puddle and managed to knock his muffler completely off. It was surely loose before, but it would have been nice to repair it some other time.

It certainly won't help anything.

If you splash pedestrians, you won't win any friends, particularly if they know who you are or where you park.

If spotted by the police, there's a good chance you'd get pulled over for erratic driving if only to get a lecture.

Another consideration is that you're only expecting a shallow puddle. Depending on where you live, what appear to be springtime puddles often conceal cavernous potholes which won't do your tires, rims or suspension a bit of good.

  • 1
    All good points. I always look for pedestrians before swerving into the puddles. I would feel so bad if I soaked someone.
    – JPhi1618
    Oct 15, 2015 at 20:57
  • There's the question of control as well. Driving through a puddle at a constant speed is probably a lot safer than any sort of swerving into one. A friend from high school was killed doing a swerve around a friend's car at relatively low speeds. It was enough to briefly lose control and spin into a tree.
    – bobstro
    Oct 15, 2015 at 21:25
  • 1
    Should have added a disclaimer... "Professional puddle driver on a known course - do not attempt at home." Sorry to hear it - I'm in no way suggesting you should drive beyond you or your car's ability.
    – JPhi1618
    Oct 15, 2015 at 21:29

Wet brake pads don't stop as well\quickly as dry ones. I remember this as more of a issue with drums vs discs, but I still always hit the brakes lightly after a puddle to help them dry.

Also if you have any tire problems already (say a weak spot on the side wall), the shock from the bump may be enough to make the weak spot into a blow out.

But hey....big splashes are fun.


If you have just been doing some heavy braking, making the discs very hot. Cooling them very quickly by driving through water could warp the discs.


One downside is that you can't seen how deep a puddle is, or if there is a big hole in it. You could cause some suspension damage by hitting a big pothole hidden under (inside?) a puddle.


Drove my truck (Dodge Dakota) through a large puddle on my street last week, about 18" - 24" deep. Then I stopped to fill up on gas the day after. Surprise! the tank would not take gas. After two days at the garage, they found out that a gas tank vent hose and the charcoal filter were full of water. $500.00 Don't do it!!!!! (drive through puddles)

  • 18'' -24'' puddle is waaaaay above the puddles that you typically find on roads
    – Nilabja
    Nov 7, 2017 at 4:47

I hit this puddle at 60+ MPH. I have the intake above the roof now, as well as some plastic sleds screwed underneath, but I didn't at first.

Initally the distributor got wet which caused some misfiring until I took it off and dried it out; now I've coated it with silicone.

No permanent damage has resulted; though I know what this looks like when it's dry so I can verify there aren't any rocks or potholes in it. Those are more likely to do damage to your car than the water will.

Mazda in Puddle

  • When I drive at 60 MPH in a similar water level on tarmac, car slows down to 5 MPH and later picks up. RPM drops from 5500 to less than 1000. How do you explain this sudden loss of power? Sep 13, 2017 at 22:39

Puddles may hide potholes

This is my main concern when I drive over a puddle. You will never know before you hit a puddle if it has a huge hole. I bent a rim like that doing 50Km/h

You may hydroplane

In this case you can predict by the speed you are doing. Mind that the deeper is the puddle the lower the hydroplaning speed.

Other than that, there is little damage that you may expect to ever happen to you car.

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