Have you ever experienced a momentary loss of steering control of your car when you hit a puddle of water on a wet day?
As a driver, it is important for us to understand why this happens and how to avoid this dangerous situation called Hydroplaning or Aquaplaning.
It is a frightening experience and surely not a situation one should get into.
In this post, I will attempt to explain the causes of hydroplaning and how to avoid getting into this situation which could lead into a fatal accident.
Hydroplaning or Aquaplaning explained
When the tire hits a puddle of water, usually water will be squeezed out through the sides of the tire so that road and tire contact is maintained. Sometimes, the volume of water is so much that it cannot be expelled fast enough and the water gets trapped as shown in the illustration. The tire then gets lifted off the road surface, losing contact with the road surface.
This phenomena occurs due to the build up of a layer of water between the tire and the road surface. When there is no direct contact between the tire and road surface, loss of traction takes place resulting in loss of directional control. The vehicle will not respond to steering movements and will take its own course of direction. Just imagine a vehicle going on its own course with the driver in a panic situation.
Causes of Hydroplaning
- Incorrect tire pressure- Under inflation or over inflation can contribute to loss of traction.
- Worn out tires- If the tires are worn out and insufficient tread depth, water cannot be expelled fast enough to prevent hydroplaning.
- Driving too fast over a puddle of water-Again, depending on the depth of water in the puddle, and the vehicle going over it too fast, the water cannot be pushed out fast enough to prevent hydroplaning.
- Harsh braking-It is not advisable to put too much pressure on the brake pedal when the road is wet. Keep it gentle and always anticipate the danger ahead so that there is enough time to react to any kind of situation.
- Sharp turns on wet road-Keeping in mind that the road is wet and slippery, speeding around corners can result in lateral slip of the tires resulting in losing control of the vehicle.
Tips to prevent Hydroplaning.
- Condition of tires- Do not use worn out tires. Always check the tread depth and maintain at least 1.6mm of depth so that hydroplaning can be minimized.
- Speed of vehicle-During wet and slippery road conditions, drive slowly. Speed increases the chances of hydroplaning. Allow enough time for the water to be expelled. When driving slowly, the weight of the vehicle itself helps to squeeze the water out thus keeping tire and road contact.
- Safe driving technique-Look ahead and watch other vehicles in front running off track and throwing up water.This is a sure indication of a dangerous patch of water up ahead. Necessary action can then be taken to prevent hydroplaning.
- Cruise control-Do not use cruise control on a rainy day. If speed cannot be controlled by the driver, it can surely lead to an accident.
How to get out of hydroplaning.
If you are already in this state, the immediate reaction should be to reduce speed by taking foot off the accelerator. Take it easy on the brake pedal and try to steer the vehicle in the direction of the vehicle movement, not in the opposite direction. This action will enable the vehicle to regain traction and slowly be brought to a halt. Remain calm and be in control.