Hydroplaning: How It Works & What to Do
Besides poor visibility and reduced traction, navigating a rainy road increases your chances of hydroplaning. To minimize your risk of hydroplaning, it’s important to understand how it works. Read on for more information about this spring driving danger, and what to do if your vehicle begins to hydroplane.
What is Hydroplaning?
Hydroplaning – also known as aquaplaning – occurs when a thin film of water builds up between the tires of a vehicle and the road underneath it. This leads to the driver losing control of their vehicle’s steering, braking, and power control.
Essentially, when a vehicle hydroplanes, its tires have encounter too much water – they cannot scatter the water build-up, and the vehicle slides or skids across the wet road.
The risk of hydroplaning is higher in springtime due to melting snow and increased rainfall during the spring months. What’s more, your vehicle is most susceptible to hydroplaning during the first ten minutes of a light rainfall – the rain stirs up oil that has dried on the road, creating extra slippery driving conditions.
The best way to protect yourself from hydroplaning is to prevent it in the first place:
- Slow down: since hydroplaning is most likely to occur when driving over 65 km/hour, reducing your speed is one of the most important things you can do to stay safe during a rainfall.
- Avoid driving through standing water: since your tires will have the most difficulty maintaining traction when driving through puddles or standing water, this is where you’re most likely to hydroplane.
- Drive in the centre of the road: since the sides of the road are slightly lower than the middle, this is where puddles are most likely to form, and where it’s most difficult to drive in the rain.
- Avoid cruise control: avoid using cruise control when driving in the rain, since it will take additional time for you to turn off cruise control before you can begin regaining control of your vehicle.
- Double your safety distances between the car in front of you and those beside you.
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated.
- Regularly rotate and balance your tires.
What You Should Do
If your vehicle starts to hydroplane when driving on a rainy street, don’t panic! Follow these guidelines to safely recover from hydroplaning and regain control of your car:
- Do not brake – a sudden brake on a rain-soaked road may cause your car to skid.
- Instead, stay calm, and wait for the skid to stop. Avoid yanking on the steering wheel.
- Remove your foot off the accelerator, easing off of the gas.
- Begin to gently steer into the skid – although it seems counter-intuitive, when you begin to hydroplane, you should use the technique known as “steering into the skid.” This involves carefully steering in the direction that you want your car to go. As you regain traction, you might need to use some light counter-steering to help correct your car’s course.
- If you cannot avoid braking during your skid, then gently pump the brakes until your tires regain contact with the road.
No matter how it occurs, losing control of your vehicle can be frightening experience – however, following the above precautions can help you to safely recover from hydroplaning, and prevent it from happening in the future.