Hydroplaning, also known as “aquaplaning,” can be a scary situation… especially when it happens to you for the first time. Though it’s not always avoidable, there are certainly some things you can do as a driver to keep your car in control when the roads are wet. In this article, we’ll go over our best tips to avoid hydroplaning in wet weather.
If you’re not entirely sure what hydroplaning is, here’s the definition via Dictionary.com: To ride on a film of water on a wet surface with a resulting decrease in braking and steering effectiveness.
The “film” the definition refers to is usually a result of rainwater mixing with car oils on the road. Thus, hydroplaning often happens more frequently when it has just started raining because the oils have not run off the road yet. During a hydroplane, your car loses grip on the pavement and you feel like you’re sliding. It can be very scary, especially if you’re not equipped to handle your vehicle in such a situation. In fact, your first instincts to brake or turn off the road are actually wrong. Here’s everything you can do to try to avoid hydroplaning and stay safe in rainy weather.
7 Tips to Avoid Hydroplaning and Keep Your Car in Control
Wondering what to do if you hydroplane? These tips could be literal life-savers.
Tip 1: Reduce speed
Generally speaking, hydroplaning usually occur at speeds of 40 miles per hour or more. If you’re concerned about slipping into a nervy hydroplane, one good prevention tactic is to watch your speed and make sure you don’t go over 35. Additionally, if you want to speed up to pass someone in rainy conditions, possibly think twice: sudden accelerations like this put you at greater risk of hydroplaning.
Tip 2: Make sure tires are inflated and balanced
Since your tires are the only thing standing between you and the road, it’s important to make sure they’re always properly rotated, balanced, and inflated. Additionally, keep an eye on your tire treads. If the tread, or grooved rubber, on your tires looks to be very worn down, your risk for hydroplaning goes up. Tire tread is meant to help you get traction, so without it, you’re fighting a losing game. A good rule of thumb is to have your tires rotated every other time you get your oil changed.
Tip 3: Avoid standing water and puddles
Wherever water tends to build up on the road is a bad place to be. For example, if they highway is a bit slanted, a lot of the water will pool on the lower side. If you can, try to get in the lane that’s on the higher end—driving through puddles and pools of water is just asking to hydroplane.
Tip 4: Turn off cruise control
Despite the name of the feature, cruise control does not give you much control of your vehicle when driving in dangerous conditions. If you’re on cruise control while you start hydroplaning, it will take much longer for you to turn it off than it would to take your foot off the pedal—especially when in a nervous situation, you might react even more dangerously. The best way to avoid hydroplaning is to refrain from using cruise control in rainy conditions. You want to be ready to take control of the situation ASAP.
Tip 5: Avoid hard braking
Many times when people begin to hydroplane, their first reaction is to hit the brakes. Do not do that. Braking hard is one of the big causes of hydroplaning because it causes your tires to lose traction on the slippery surface. If you do start hydroplaning, ignore your first instinct to brake hard—you’ll only make matters worse. You can actually cause yourself to spin out of control if you brake too hard while in a hydroplane.
Tip 6: Avoid quick or sharp turns
When driving in dangerous weather, you should automatically be more careful. You should be driving defensively and not rushing—mistakes happen when we lose our focus or don’t take the weather seriously. Just like hard braking, fast, sharp turns can cause your car to begin sliding on the wet surface.
Tip 7: Recover smoothly
If you do accidentally start to hydroplane, don’t freak out. Stay calm and ignore your instincts to brake and turn “out” of the hydroplane. The right thing to do in this situation is to first take your foot off the gas, then carefully turn into the hydroplane. Don’t brake. This will help your tires realign with the direction your car is traveling. Eventually, they will find their way back onto the surface (you’ll definitely feel it when it happens). At that point, you’re OK, but you might want to pull over to recollect yourself after such a dodgy situation.
Hydroplaning is no joke and can certainly be a terrifying situation for new or inexperienced drivers. Be sure to stay alert and take these precautious measures to help you stay safe on the road. We also have plenty of tips to help you become a better driver in general, so don’t hesitate to utilize all of our resources!