Slip ‘N Slide in the backyard? Fun. Slipping and sliding all over the road when you’re driving your car in rainy weather? Terrifying. Let’s take a look at what’s happening when a vehicle is hydroplaning.
When a vehicle hydroplanes, the car tires experience a loss of traction with the road and skid over the surface of water. While most vehicles are equipped with traction control to help keep your car from veering off the road when this happens, it’s still a scary situation that you should try to avoid.
While it might seem like common sense to avoid driving through heavy rain or deep puddles of standing water if possible, even small amounts of wet pavement on the street from light rain can cause a vehicle to hydroplane. This type of traction loss can temporarily keep you from steering or braking. Prevent hydroplaning by reducing your speed if it’s raining or has recently rained. It doesn’t have to be pouring outside for hydroplaning to happen. Vehicle speed and road surface conditions are the major factors in hydroplaning. Make sure all your vehicle movements (including braking and accelerating) are gradual and careful in wet weather. We also recommend avoiding cruise control when the roads are wet– it can make a hydroplane a lot more dangerous. This is the best way to avoid skidding whether the roads are wet or not.
If It Happens to You
If you feel a loss of control and your vehicle starts to hydroplane, try not to panic. Keep your hands on the wheel and steer into the direction of the skid while applying gradual pressure to your brakes until you regain control. Slamming on the brake pedal will only make the skidding worse and could result in the loss of directional control. Avoid jerking the wheel dramatically in the opposite direction. Just keep steering and try to brake gently. Soon, you will feel your vehicle regain traction and stop sliding.
Don’t Tread Lightly
While hydroplaning is always a possibility on wet roads, you can lower your chances by making sure your tires have good tread. Tread is made up of the rubber parts of the tire that actually make contact with the ground. The tread design and the hollow grooves in tires work together to channel water away from the tire to reduce hydroplaning. As your tires get older, the rubber wears down and the tire tread depth gets more shallow. This can cause the tires to become less effective at preventing skids. You should measure your tire tread once in awhile and replace old tires when necessary. It’s also helpful to keep the right level of air pressure in your tires at all times.Knowing how to control emergency situations like hydroplaning is one of the most important aspects of defensive driving. The general rule of thumb is to slow down when you’re driving on wet surfaces, you’re at the highest risk of hydroplaning when you’re accelerating. Make sure to check out the rest of our safe driving videos for more defensive driving tips to keep you in control on the road!