“Hydroplaning” describes any time a vehicle’s tires lose contact with a road surface and instead glide on top of the water on the road surface. This can happen during periods of heavy rain, but may also occur on roads that are damp from recent precipitation. Hydroplaning is terrifying and can cause car accidents or other serious life-threatening situations to even the most experienced drivers. It’s vital for drivers of all experience levels to know how to avoid it.
Tips to Avoid Hydroplaning
While it’s important to know how to handle hydroplaning when it happens, drivers should be careful to avoid it in the first place. A few tips for avoiding hydroplaning include the following:
Reduce the vehicle’s speed
Hydroplaning is more likely to happen at higher speeds. At high speeds, the vehicle’s tires spin faster and are therefore more likely to lose contact with the road surface and glide on top of standing water instead. It’s wise to drive a few miles per hour slower than the posted speed limit in heavy rain. Hydroplaning is most likely to happen to vehicles traveling faster than 35 miles per hour.
Perform regular tire maintenance
It’s good practice to have your tires balanced and rotated every 7,000 to 10,000 miles, or with every other oil change. This will help ensure your tires can maintain good contact with road surfaces.
Buy high-quality tires
It’s crucial to know when to replace your tires. Tires that are losing their treads or balding are more likely to hydroplane. Invest in tires designed to prevent hydroplaning if you live in an area that sees regular heavy precipitation.
Don’t use cruise control in the rain
While cruise control is an attractive feature for many drivers, never use it in the rain. If a vehicle hydroplanes while the driver has engaged the cruise control, the driver will need to disable it before regaining control of the vehicle. The extra seconds can make a world of difference in such a situation.
Avoid pools of water
If you can see standing water or pools on the road, it is highly likely that your car will hydroplane if you drive over the water at high speed. Even a small amount of water can cause hydroplaning, so slow down or avoid the standing water to prevent hydroplaning.
Recovering from Hydroplaning
Although hydroplaning is terrifying, it’s important to remain as calm as possible to get out of the situation safely. The first thing a hydroplaning driver should do is to remove his or her foot from the gas pedal and avoid braking. While braking may seem like the ideal solution for slowing down the vehicle, braking while hydroplaning can actually cause a vehicle to spin completely out of control. If the car begins to swerve, turn the steering wheel in the direction the car is hydroplaning. While this may sound strange, doing so actually helps realign the vehicle’s tires in the direction the vehicle is moving, helping the driver regain control.
It will be obvious to the driver when the vehicle’s tires regain contact with the road surface. Once this happens, it’s probably best to slow the vehicle down and pull over for a moment. Hydroplaning is scary and potentially deadly, so remember these tips and drive with extra caution during any amount of rain.