Hydroplaning: What It Is and How to Avoid It

You know that horrifying feeling when your car starts to slide out of control on a wet road? That's called hydroplaning, and it happens when water gets in front of your tires faster than the weight of your car can move it out of the way. The water pressure raises your car enough so it slides on a thin layer of water. Best case scenario, it only lasts a second and you regain control. Worst case scenario? You may slide and cause an accident. Nobody wants that, so here's more about hydroplaning and how you can avoid it. 

Why Does Hydroplaning Happen?

Hydroplaning is most likely to happen when there is standing water on the road. If you're driving too fast, your car can't move the water out of the way fast enough. The chances of hydroplaning are further increased if have under-inflated or worn-out tires, as you won't have the tread you should have to begin with. As winter approaches, it's increasingly important to make sure your tires are in good shape. 

How to Recover if You Hydroplane

If you start to feel your car losing traction, it can be scary, but don't panic and slam on the brakes or accelerate quickly. If you brake suddenly, you may slow the front tires but lock the rear tires, causing a spin-out. Sudden acceleration can cause your vehicle to pull straight ahead, which may not be the way you want to go. The right reaction will depend on the type of vehicle you have. 

If your vehicle is front-wheel or rear-wheel drive with traction control and ABS: Stay lightly on the gas and gradually steer toward an open space.

If your vehicle is rear-wheel drive without ABS or traction control: Slowly let off the gas and gradually steer toward an open, safe space to drive. 

ABS stands for anti-lock brakes. It's a system that prevents your wheels from locking up under emergency or harsh braking conditions. 

Learn more about escape techniques.

How to Avoid Hydroplaning

Nobody wants to unexpectedly hydroplane. Here's how to avoid it in the first place while driving in the rain

  • Don't turn on the cruise control function in the rain. If you hydroplane, it can cause your wheels to spin faster. 

  • Ensure you have adequate tread on your tires. When you place a penny in your tread (upside down), Lincoln's head should be hidden. If it's not, it's time to replace them

  • It's recommended that you reduce your speed by 5 to 10 mph when driving in rainy conditions.

  • Give yourself double the distance between you and vehicles in front of you so you have more time to stop. 

  • Drive in the tire tracks left by other cars when possible. They've already scattered some of the water for you.

  • Avoid sharp turns and sudden braking. 

  • Limit lane changes unless absolutely necessary. 

  • Avoid driving through puddles and standing water. 

Dust Off Your Driving Knowledge 

Looking to brush up on your driving knowledge? By taking a defensive driving course, you can strengthen your skills behind the wheel. Plus, it can help you to get a ticket dismissed or save on your car insurance premium. With DriversEd.com, you don't even have to go to a classroom. You can complete the course online from the comfort of home. Simply sign up here and access the lessons from a computer or smartphone!

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