Forget about going to the Nurburgring to see the latest 500-horsepower Porsche 911 do hot laps. If you want true motorsport action, just go to Britain’s Rufford Ford. What kind of Ford is that? No, we’re not talking about the car company which makes the Mustang, but about a small body of water that likes to destroy engines, tear off body cladding and remove license plates.
Water fording capabilities are a big part of what makes a great off-roader, like a Range Rover or a pickup. It basically means crossing a river or another body of water with the vehicle partially submerged. Sounds pointless in the real world, right? Well, Rufford Ford is a noteworthy exception.
It’s been described as the number one flooding accident hotspot in the UK, and there are YouTubers who spend dozens of hours filming such events.
Located in Nottinghamshire, the Rufford Ford has become somewhat of a tourist destination. It’s pretty obvious that some people are intentionally driving through these waters to see if their vehicles will handle it, while others don’t know any better.
There are around 2,000 fords in Britain, bodies of water that the local authorities have considered to be shallow enough to not need a bridge crossing. The authorities in Rufford do place “Road Closed” signs whenever the water gets too deep, but this doesn’t seem to deter young daredevils, probably because YouTube videos of flooded cars get millions of views.
Normally, the water needs to be above six inches deep for the Rufford Ford to become hazardous, and YouTuber AdamC3046 claims it’s at about 15 inches (38cm) this weekend. Even as I’m writing this article, Google says the road is reaching peak rush hour traffic, meaning the kids are at it again.
Despite the risks, motorists with all kinds of vehicles are undeterred. And it’s not like they have no other choice; there’s a detour that avoids this section of road and takes only a few minutes extra.
First to face the ford is an old Mazda6 sedan, built around 2010. It crosses in both directions, so clearly the driver is trying to have fun in a cheap car he may not care about. The Mazda gets through easily but loses a section of underbody protection.
A MINI and Citroen back out, but somebody in a Peugeot 3008 crossover blasts through the water like it’s nothing. After that comes a Ford Mondeo, the European cousin of the Fusion. It pushes a wave of water that rides over the hood of the car, and that’s not a good sign. It’s important to note that just because the car is still going doesn’t mean the engine hasn’t been damaged.
What’s flooded in Rufford stays in Rufford
The main problem is sucking in water through the air intake. This is usually located in the upper grille of the car, and while there may be a little tray to stop the water, it’s meant to protect against rain droplets, not a wave. Get enough water into the engine and something called hydro locking occurs. Basically, it gets into the combustion chambers of the cylinders, but it cannot compress as air would.
The engine locks up immediately and this can cause a lot of damage, breaking the connecting rods of the pistons. Rod bearings, main bearings, head gaskets, and the block can all be damaged. If the engine isn’t opened, the water will usually create rust as well.
Knowing all that, crossing the word is still pretty safe in a real SUV designed for this stuff, like a full-sized Range Rover. Crossovers are a bit riskier, but with a regular compact car, you’re playing with fire.
One clear victim of the day is a Ford Transit. It probably wasn’t delivering anything on a Saturday, come Monday a boss will be screaming something along the lines of “you did what with the company van?!”
However, the highlight of this video is a blue Volkswagen Golf R32, which locks the engine almost immediately, even though it wasn’t going that fast. Onlookers believe they heard a rod snapping, which means the R32’s engine will need a rebuild. We’re talking about the famous 3.2-liter 6-cylinder, good for about 240 horsepower back when it was made 20 years ago.