What Is Hydroplaning? Your Complete Guide
March 4th, 2020 by Fix Auto USA
Hydroplaning may occurs when a car travels across a wet, slippery surface. In this instance, you can lose control of your car and put yourself at risk of an accident or collision.
What Causes Hydroplaning?
Hydroplaning happens due to water pressure in the front of a car’s wheel. If the amount of water that a car tire encounters exceeds the treads it can displace, the water begins to push the tire off the ground. When this happens, separation is created between the road and tire, resulting in the loss of traction and potentially control of your car.
One of the most common causes of hydroplaning is driving too fast on a wet road. In this scenario, the probability increases that water buildup in front of a car tire will occur, which then lifts the tire from the pavement.
Drivers are susceptible to hydroplaning in the rain, particularly at the beginning of a rainstorm. At this point, oils on the pavement combine with fresh rainwater, which makes the pavement slippery. Thus, if you drive in the rain, you should take extra precautions to minimize your risk of hydroplaning.
Cruise control is often a cause of hydroplaning, too. This driver assistance feature is available in many cars, and it allows you to set your vehicle’s speed and take your foot off the gas pedal as you drive. However, if your vehicle is in cruise control and starts to hydroplane, the risk of an accident or collision is significant due to the fact that your car continues to travel at a consistent speed while it hydroplanes. In this instance, you need to turn off your cruise control right away.
Vehicle Factors That Contribute to Hydroplaning
In addition to water depth and road conditions, various vehicle factors can contribute to hydroplaning, and these include:
The time it takes for a tire’s tread to remove water varies due in part to the speed in which a car is traveling. In some cases, hydroplaning can occur in vehicles that travel as low as 45 miles per hour, Bridgestone points out.
In terms of weight, a heavier car is less prone to hydroplaning than a lighter one. The reason: a heavier car has more force in which to remove water from a tire’s tread.
In relation to car tires, a wider tread that faces the direction in which a car is traveling will hydroplane sooner than a narrower tread, since the wider tread has more surface area to create water buildup in front of the tire.
A car tune-up can make a world of difference, particularly for drivers who want to lower their risk of hydroplaning. If you get your car serviced regularly, you can ensure that its tires are properly maintained, as well as identify the best tires to accommodate your vehicle.
What to Do When Hydroplaning
If your car starts to hydroplane, do not slam on the brakes, as this can cause your vehicle to skid out of control. Also, do not turn your car’s steering wheel in the opposite direction in which your car is hydroplaning.
When your car is hydroplaning, try not to panic. Instead, steer your car in the direction in which it is sliding. This helps you align the tires in the direction in which your car is traveling and recover steering control.
Once your car is facing the right way and you have control of the steering wheel, pull over to the side of the road and take a break. Hydroplaning can be a stressful experience, breathing calmly before returning to the road.
How to Avoid Hydroplaning
There are several things you can do to avoid hydroplaning, including:
1. Use Common Sense
When it comes to driving in the rain, common sense reigns supreme. Therefore, if you can keep an eye on the weather, you could map out your travel schedule to avoid a rainstorm. You can also drive slowly and give yourself extra time to brake at stop signs and traffic lights when you drive in the rain.
2. Ensure Your Tires Are Properly Inflated
A tire with low pressure has more surface area than a properly inflated tire, and as such, low tire pressure increases a car’s risk of hydroplaning. Fortunately, checking your car’s tire pressure at least once a month allows you to identify and address this issue before it can lead to hydroplaning.
3. Rotate Your Tires
A tire rotation is generally recommended approximately every 6,000 miles, and it allows you to ensure your tires are correctly balanced. That way, you can maintain good traction on the road, thereby reducing your risk of hydroplaning.
4. Turn Off Your Cruise Control
Deactivate your car’s cruise control any time you’re traveling on wet roads. This allows you to focus solely on safe driving as you travel in inclement conditions, as well as prevent your cruise control from contributing to hydroplaning.
5. Avoid Standing Water and Puddles
There is no telling how deep a pool of standing water or puddle may be, but it only takes a small amount of water to cause your car to hydroplane. If you avoid standing water and puddles, you may be able to avoid hydroplaning altogether.
Don’t let hydroplaning get the best of you — use these tips, and you can drive safely on wet roads.
This blog post was contributed by Fix Auto Portland East, a leading industry expert and collision repair shop servicing the Portland area, including Montavilla, Mt. Tabor, Gateway, Parkrose, Lents, and Vancouver.
Fix Auto USA
We are the premier independent body shop network delivering world-class customer service and high-quality collision repairs across the U.S.
Learn About Us