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Hydroplaning: Why it Occurs and How You Can Avoid it

  • Cars Explained
  • Xavier Sabastian
  • 5 minutes

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When water gets in front of your tires faster than the weight of your car can push it out of the way, this is known as hydroplaning. Water pressure can lift your car, causing it to slide on a thin layer of water. When this happens, you lose contact with the road in less than a second and effectively become a water skier! What exactly is it? What kind of a problem is it? Understanding the problem and the circumstances that led to it can help you avoid the problems it presents.

What is hydroplaning?

If you’ve ever felt your car skid while driving on a wet road, you’ve probably experienced hydroplaning, even if you didn’t completely lose control of your car or it only lasted a second. This condition, also known as aquaplaning, occurs when a tire’s grip on the road is compromised due to water buildup. The combination of water pressure and wheel rotation forces more water under the tire, causing the tire to lose traction on the road. As a result, you are unable to steer or brake.


How does hydroplaning happen?

When you lose control of your car, you may experience feelings of helplessness. It’s a terrifying experience, especially if the car is moving fast. Even if you’re traveling at less than 50 km/h or the road is only slightly wet, hydroplaning can still happen. The first 10 minutes of light rain are the most dangerous for hydroplaning. Roads are frequently contaminated with oil residue, and when the oil combines with rainwater, the likelihood of a hydroplaning accident increases.

Hydroplaning is a very dangerous happening. Drivers should do everything possible to avoid it, whether the roads are just a little damp from a recent shower or have been inundated with torrential rain.

What is hydroplaning?

Tips to avoid hydroplaning

Under the right conditions, hydroplaning can occur at any speed, but some sources define higher speeds as more than 40 mph. The lighter the car, the more likely it is to hydroplane. Avoiding hydroplaning is simple if you understand how it occurs. Keep a few things in mind to reduce the chances of your car sliding and to lose control while driving in the rain or on a wet road.

1. Drive at reasonable speeds:

Many road safety experts agree that speeds above 50 km/h increase the likelihood of hydroplaning. Reduce your speed as soon as you notice raindrops on your windshield. Overtaking other cars on the road should be avoided because such high-speed jumps put you at risk of hydroplaning. It would be best if you avoided abrupt accelerations at all costs.

2. Check the condition of your tires regularly:

The more worn the tire, the greater the possibility of hydroplaning. Replace bald tires, which can be dangerous on wet roads. When you get your oil changed, have your tires rotated and balanced. Before you leave, make sure they are properly inflated. There are tires designed to prevent hydroplaning, especially useful during wet weather.

How to avoid hydroplaning?

3. Disable cruise control:

If your car has cruise control, never use it when there is a downpour. If you start hydroplaning while the function is activated, it will take longer to regain control of your car.

4. Stay away from puddles:

If possible, avoid any road areas where it is obvious that water has accumulated. It takes a thin layer of water to cause the car to hydroplane.

5. Avoid abrupt braking:

When it’s raining, don’t slam on the brakes. This is a surefire way to send your car into a skid, and you will most likely lose control. Similarly, avoid sharp turns. If you must brake, do so with caution.

What should you do if you’re already aquaplaning?

Even if you are extremely cautious, hydroplaning can occur at times. If your car begins to skid on a wet surface, there are steps you can take to regain control.

  • Take your foot off the accelerator. Again, applying the brakes suddenly when you’re already sliding is a bad idea, and the best you can do is take your foot off the gas.
  • Turn the steering wheel in the hydroplane’s direction. Have you seen the animated film Cars? Do you remember when Doc was teaching Lightning McQueen to turn his front wheels in the opposite direction of the turn? 
  • Skidding is similar to drifting, and you can avoid losing control of your car by turning your wheels in the direction of the hydroplane.
  • Don’t freak out. Please wait for the tires to regain their grip on the road.
  • After successfully recovering from a hydroplaning incident, you may need to park your car in a safe location for a few moments to allow your nerves to calm down.   

So there you have it, the hydroplaning fundamentals that you must understand to drive safely on wet roads. Take precautions and stay safe out there!

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