Hydroplaning is one of the most terrifying and uncontrollable aspects of driving in the rain. It can cause the most seasoned drivers to cause an accident and can be a huge liability to anyone on the road. In this article we will explore what hydroplaning is, what to do when you are hydroplaning, and how to avoid hydroplaning.
Hydroplaning is when a car tire's contact with the road surface is reduced or eliminated by water which causes the tire to glide on top of the water. In this state, there is no longer anything touching your car to provide friction between it and the road. Your car will be unable to stop or turn, making it a unique and terrifying hazard. Hydroplaning can happen in any driving conditions that include standing or flowing water from above or below ground level.
When hydroplaning occurs, you will suddenly and unexpectedly lose all control of your vehicle even if you are traveling at a very slow speed. The hydroplaning tire literally glides above the road surface on top of hundreds or thousands of pounds of water. This can cause you to hydroplane through an intersection causing damage to property and injury to pedestrians or other drivers who were not expecting hydroplaning (or had no way to avoid it).
The transition point is the moment when your automobile enters the water. The following factors influence it:
Your car's hydroplaning capabilities are drastically reduced by having the incorrect tire size, profile, or type. A smaller tire with a high aspect ratio (the ratio of height to width) will hydroplane before a larger tire because hydroplaning resistance is directly related to surface area.
Some hydroplaning accidents are caused by having an incorrect tread pattern on your tire. These hydroplaning accidents happen because the design of the tread does not have enough grooves or channels to push water away from the tire's surface, giving it less ability to provide friction for you car.
The hydroplaning resistance in your tires is also directly related to the tire pressure. If your tire's air pressure is too high, it will have less hydroplaning resistance because there is more air between the grooves of the tread pattern. If your tire's air pressure is too low, hydroplaning can occur much sooner because there isn't enough air between the grooves of the tread pattern, meaning there is more road contact and less hydroplaning resistance.
The hydroplaning resistance of a tire is greatly reduced when the amount of water covering your tires is more than half the tread pattern. If more of you car's tire is under water, hydroplaning will occur much more easily and at higher speeds because there will be less surface area of tire against the road to provide friction.
While hydroplaning can occur at any speed under specific conditions, it's safe to assume you are at an increased risk when you are traveling over 40 mph.
Tire hydroplaning resistance is also directly related to the weight of your vehicle. The heavier your vehicle, the more hydroplaning resistance it provides because there is more road surface area for friction between you tires and the road.
As soon as hydroplaning starts, release the accelerator, do not brake , and slowly turn the wheel whichever direction feels natural. Once hydroplaning begins you should hold your hands steady with minimal turning until contact is regained between your car's tires and the road surface.
Now is a great time to use your emergency lights to indicate to other drivers you may have a problem. It's unlikely that they will understand you are hydroplaning, but you can at least signal to other drivers to be on the lookout.
Outside of your emergency lights, be sure to use your horn if you are in a high traffic area, as well as your high beams. Do anything in your power to inform other drivers that you have no control of your vehicle.
Do not brake or drive onto the sidewalk to avoid hydroplaning; there may be people walking who cannot see your hydroplaning car.
Remember that hydroplaning can happen to you any month of the year if conditions are right. If hydroplaning starts, steer in an attempt to place your tires back on the road surface as soon as possible before complete loss of control occurs. Do not brake or turn suddenly when hydroplaning because this could lead to a hydroplaning accident where you lose control of your vehicle and could injure yourself or others.