Mastering Hydroplaning: Understanding, Preventing, and Overcoming the Risks

Understand what hydroplaning is and how to avoid it, as well as tips and tricks for recovery.

Hydroplaning can be a scary experience for drivers, especially during rainy seasons. It’s like driving on an ice rink but without the fun of twirling around. Unlucky hydroplaning can happen to anyone, no matter how many miles they’ve driven.

Be at ease, though. In this blog post, I’ll provide a comprehensive guide to hydroplaning. You can navigate wet roads safely by understanding the risks and following some simple precautions.

So, let’s dive in and learn how to handle hydroplaning like a pro.

What is Hydroplaning?

The layer of water between the tires and the road can cause hydroplaning
The layer of water between the tires and the road can cause hydroplaning

Hydroplaning refers to tires slipping or sliding on wet roads. When driving on wet or slippery roads, water can accumulate in front of the tires, creating a layer of water between the tires and the road surface, reducing friction.[1] It can cause a loss of vehicle control, making it difficult to steer, brake, or accelerate. This means drivers may be unable to avoid obstacles or stop in time to prevent accidents. 

Hydroplaning is possible whether you are driving in heavy rainfall or on a road that is still a bit damp after a passing shower. In addition, many people mistakenly believe this only happens when it’s raining or snow is melting. However, standing water on roads caused by clogged drainage systems, flash floods, and other situations can also cause hydroplaning.

Tips to Avoid Hydroplaning

Here are nine tips to avoid hydroplaning when driving:

#1) Slow Down Under Wet Conditions

Slow down under wet conditions

As the speed of the vehicle increases, the tires have less time to disperse the water on the road’s surface, resulting in a decline of grip and control. 

According to automobile safety experts, hydroplaning is more likely to happen when driving over 35 mph. It is recommended to decrease your driving speed by 5-10 mph on wet roads. If you observe standing water on the road, adjust your speed even further to ensure safety. 

#2) Avoid Braking Suddenly

When driving in wet conditions, sudden braking can cause your tires to lose grip on the road, increasing the risk of accidents.

Remember to give yourself plenty of time and space to come to a complete stop, especially when approaching intersections or other areas where traffic may be slowed or stopped. 

#3) Maintain Proper Tire Pressure

Check the tire pressure regularly

Both underinflated and overinflated tires can increase the chances of hydroplaning. It is crucial to check the tire pressure regularly and make sure all tires are properly inflated. 

Tires maintain optimal contact with the road by keeping the proper pressure, improving your overall safety on wet roads. 

For more information about maintaining correct tire pressure, please check out this blog post: Inflate to Greatness – Recommended Tire Pressure Ultimate Guide.

#4) Maintain Proper Tire Tread Depth

Tire grooves play a critical role in dispersing water from the contact patch. The deeper the grooves, the more effectively they can channel water away.

As tires are used, the tread depth gets reduced, increasing the risk of slipping and sliding. Checking your tires regularly for wear and tear is a smart move. When the tread depth gets down to 2/32 inches (usually the minimum allowed by law in most states), your tires need a replacement.

Additionally, some people think that new tires have wax residue from manufacturing, which can increase the chances of skidding. However, the truth is that new tires provide better control and are less likely to skid than old tires because new tires have a newer tread, enhancing their ability to grip the road surface.

#5) Turn Off Your Vehicle’s Cruise Control

By turning off cruise control, you ensure you’re in complete control of your vehicle’s speed and can adjust it as needed to maintain traction with the road. 

#6) Avoid Driving Through Puddles or Standing Water

The standing water on the road

Puddles and standing water can accumulate on the road, leading to deeper water levels that can cause a vehicle to hydroplane. Furthermore, the water can hide other potential hazards, such as potholes or debris, which can cause further damage to the vehicle or increase the risk of an accident.

#7) Follow the Tracks of the Vehicle Ahead of You

One good strategy to avoid hydroplaning is to follow the tracks of the vehicle in front of you. This is because the leading car has already displaced the water in the tracks, creating a path for your tires to grip the road more effectively. Remember to keep a proper following distance and modify your speed accordingly to avoid accidents.

#8) Driving in the Inner Lanes

Water tends to accumulate in the outer lanes of the road during heavy rain, which can increase the chances of vehicles losing control. So, it is advisable to drive in the inner lanes where water drains more quickly towards the outer edges of the road.

#9) Use Low Beams at Night

High beams can reflect off the water droplets on the road surface, creating a glare that makes it difficult to see the road. Low beams, on the other hand, provide better visibility and reduce the reflection of light off the water droplets, making it easier to see the road and potential hazards. Also, low beams allow you to see the road’s texture, which can help you determine if water accumulates on the surface. 

Steps for Recovering from Hydroplaning

Remain calm and take the appropriate steps to recover control of your vehicle. 

Stay in control of the steering wheel by gripping it with both hands and focus on keeping the car steady.

Release the gas pedal and avoid slamming on the brakes, as this can cause your car to skid and potentially lose control.

Steer in the direction of the skid. This can align your tires with the direction of travel, which will help to reduce the speed of the slide and allow the tires to regain traction with the road. 

Wait for your tires to re-grip the road. Hydroplaning is a temporary situation and will usually only last a few seconds.

Take a deep breath, then assess the situation. If conditions are still hazardous, reduce your speed and increase your following distance to avoid hydroplaning again.

The Bottom Line

Hydroplaning is a common occurrence that can lead to severe accidents if not handled appropriately. By understanding the causes, prevention methods, and techniques to overcome hydroplaning, you can significantly reduce the risks of driving in wet weather. 

However, it’s crucial to remember that no matter how experienced you are, you should always exercise caution and attentiveness when driving in adverse weather conditions.

Let’s strive to make our roads safer by being mindful and proactive. 

Picture of Nick Wang

Nick Wang

Nick is the guy behind Tire Think. He’s been working as an engineer in the tire industry for 8 years, focusing on endurance indoor testing operations.
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