WHAT IS AQUAPLANING?
Simply put, aquaplaning (also known as hydroplaning) is when your tires become water skis!! Technically, when enough water is between the road and your tires, the tire rubber is no longer in contact with the road and momentarily floats on top of a skin of water
If you’ve ever accidentally driven over a large patch of water at a reasonable speed, you may have experienced this temporary “sliding” or loss of direct control. Unfortunately, when you’re temporarily hydroplaning, your steering or braking inputs are severely less effective. Depending on the situation, hydroplaning can lead to total lose of control and even accidents or death.
SO…with that being said, keep reading on how to avoid aquaplaning.
THE CAUSE OF AQUAPLANING
Essentially, aquaplaning is an equation of physics. For some of us, physics class was fun, for others…not so much. BUT, regardless of your past experience with Physics, this short read is worth it to avoid an accident or worse!
Your vehicle’s tread depth and tread design, tire pressure, speed, weight, as well as the depth of the water layer on the road – all have an affect on your vehicle’s potential to hydroplane. When the layer of water between the road surface and your tires is unable to be dispersed by the treads and grooves on your tires, things start to go wonky. Ideally, tire treads and grooves are deep enough to channel away the water out from underneath the tire which allows the tire to remain in contact with the road surface. But when your tire tread is low (for example) and you’re hydroplaning, a significant amount of water is still present underneath the tire and creates kind of a surf board for the tire to ride on! Sounds like fun, right? (eh..not so much)
There are other factors that also contribute to aquaplaning, such as under of over inflated tires. When your tires are under or overinflated, the shape on the tire “footprint” on the road is no longer optimum and the capacity to maintain grip in wet conditions diminishes.
QUICK CHECKLIST TO AVOID AQUAPLANING
Ok, so now that’s you’ve got a basic understanding of the Physics involved in aquaplaning/hydroplaning, here’s a quick checklist to avoid it:
- Ensure your tread depth is in good condition or at least meets minimum legal requirements (see our post on Quick Way to Check Your Tread Depth)
- Make sure your tire pressures are matching what’s on your door placard/sticker – (You can find this in when you open your door, on the door jamb)
- Take it easy and lower your speed, especially in heavy rain
- Increase your following distance, since you braking traction will be diminished compared to dry
- If you see a deep puddle, safely reduce your speed but don’t make erratic swerving motions which can reduce your vehicle’s traction
IF YOU DO AQUAPLANE EVEN AFTER TRYING TO AVOID IT
- Try to keep the vehicle in a straight line by holding the steering wheel steady in towards the initial direction of travel (Don’t swerve because when you regain grip, you’ll catapult to wherever your wheels are pointing)
- Contrary to your gut instinct, do NOT slam on the brakes! This will potentially make the loss of control even worse. Same thing goes for accelerating
- Let the vehicle slow down naturally while coasting (foot off the accelerator pedal) and without any brake pedal application
And there you have it! Be prepared, be aware, and respect the laws of physics – especially in the rain!