Hydroplaning (or aquaplaning) is when a layer of water becomes trapped between your tires and the road, causing your car to lose traction and skid out of control.
Have you ever been driving on a wet road and suddenly felt your car start to slide? If so, you were experiencing hydroplaning. Hydroplaning is a dangerous phenomenon that can occur when a car travels over a wet surface at high speeds, which can cause the driver to lose control.
In this article, we will discuss what hydroplaning is, the dangers of it, and how to prevent it from happening.
What is hydroplaning?
Hydroplaning is the name given to when vehicles slide uncontrollably over a wet surface. It is a dangerous phenomenon that is more likely to occur when a car travels over a wet surface at high speeds. It is sometimes also known as aquaplaning.
Hydroplaning occurs when a car’s tires lose contact due to the tires not being able to evacuate the water from between the tire and the road fast enough.
This means that the tires will no longer be in contact with the road and will start to ride on top of the water. This can happen any time when the road is wet. However the faster the car is going, the more likely it is to hydroplane.
How does hydroplaning happen?
There are a number of reasons why hydroplaning can occur. These include:
- Wet weather conditions: hydroplaning is more likely to occur during heavy rain or when there has been a sudden downpour of rain.
- Poor road conditions: hydroplaning can also be caused by puddles or standing water on the road, as well as leaves or other debris that can block the drains and cause water to build up on the road.
- Worn tires: tires that are bald or have little tread are more likely to cause hydroplaning as they are not able to grip the road as well and evacuate water from between the tire and the road.
- Driving too fast: If a car is going too fast in wet conditions, it is more likely that the tires will not be able to evacuate enough water to keep the tire tread in contact with the road. If this happens, the the tire will start to ride on top of the water, causing the car to hydroplane.
Hydroplaning can happen at speeds as low as 35 mph, so it’s important to be aware of the conditions that can lead to it.
The danger of hydroplaning
When a car starts to hydroplane, the driver may feel like they are losing control of the vehicle. Hydroplaning can be very dangerous because with the tires no longer providing any traction to the vehicle, it can very easily cause the car to spin out or crash.
Hydroplaning is extremely dangerous and as you are unable to control the vehicle, can often lead to accidents.
If you are hydroplaning, you will not be able to steer or brake effectively. This is because the tires will not be in contact with the road surface and will not provide the traction required to safely control the vehicle.
How can you prevent hydroplaning from happening?
There are a few things you can do to prevent hydroplaning.
First, make sure your tires are properly inflated. Properly inflated tires will ensure that your tires are not under or over inflated, which can impact how well your tires make contact with the road. This will have a direct effect on how well your tires are able to channel water away from between your tire and the surface of the road.
Check out our guides on how to check your tire pressure and inflate your tires.
Second, avoid driving in water that is deeper than your tire tread. This will help to prevent your tires from riding along on top of the water and losing contact with the road.
Third, drive slower when it is raining. Excessive speed is one of the main reasons why hydroplaning can occur. By driving slower, you will give your tires more time to channel water away and maintain contact with the road.
Fourth, make sure your tires have enough tread. Worn out tires are more likely to cause hydroplaning as a tire with a smooth surface is more likely to trap water between the tire surface and the road. Without the tread, they are not able to grip the road as well and evacuate water from between the tire and the road.
You can check your tire tread depth by doing the penny test. Take a look at our guide on how to do the penny test.
Finally, avoid driving in heavy rain or on wet roads. If you can, wait until the rain has subsided or the road has had time to dry before driving.
To prevent it from happening again in the future, we would recommend checking the overall condition of your tires and potentially looking into fitting your vehicle with a set of all season tires which are usually better at dealing with wet weather conditions.
What should you do if you start to hydroplane?
If you start to hydroplane, there are a few things you should do.
Avoid Sudden Braking
First, do not brake suddenly. This is the first and instinctive reaction of most people when they come across this situation. However, braking suddenly or in a harsh manner is likely to cause the car to spin out of control.
This is because cars rely on the traction provided by the tires between the rubber and the road to brake and steer the car. When you are hydroplaning, you have lost this traction and contact.
As a result, braking suddenly will stop the vehicles wheels turning but it will continue to slide on the water. Instead of braking, you should instead do the following.
Ease off the Gas pedal
Second, ease your foot off the gas pedal. This will help to reduce the speed of the vehicle and give you more time to react. It is important to remain calm and not to make any sudden movements of the pedals or the steering wheel. If your vehicle has a stick shift, keep the car in gear and gradually begin to slow down the vehicle.
Smooth Steering Inputs
Third, steer in the direction you want to go. This may seem counterintuitive but it is important to remember that the car will want to continue in a straight line. By steering in the direction you want to go, you can help to prevent the car from spinning out of control.
If you find that the vehicle is beginning to slide sideways or that the rear of the car is beginning to drift and swing out to the left or right, always steer into the skid/in the same direction of the skid. This will help to bring the car back under control.
Allow tires to regain traction
Finally, do not panic and wait for your tires to reconnect with the road. Panicking will make it harder for you to think clearly and make the right decisions. If you can remain calm, you will be able to better assess the situation and take the necessary actions to bring the car back under control.
As your vehicle begins to slows down, it will give the tires a chance to regain contact with the road. When your tires make contact with the road again, you will be able to brake and steer as normal.
Hydroplaning can be a dangerous phenomenon that can occur when driving in wet conditions. By following some simple tips, you can help prevent it from happening. If you do start to hydroplane, remain calm and take the necessary steps to safely stop your car.
We hope you enjoyed this article and found it informative. If you have any questions then please leave a comment below or get in touch via email or through social media and we will read and respond to every comment, email or question. Thanks for reading!