The dangerous phenomenon of Aquaplaning (also called hydroplaning) consists of the gradual loss of contact between the tire and the road surface. The cause is the entry of a thin layer of water, (thicker than half a millimetre), between the tires and the road. As a result, he front wheels lose grip, float and stop contacting the asphalt. In this situation, the driver loses control of the vehicle because it is no longer possible to brake or turn.
For those who have never experienced this situation, a similar example may be slipping on an black ice.
Keep in mind that if there is a small amount of water on the asphalt, the tires will be able of shifting the water sideways, and there will be no problems. We must be more attentive to large accumulation of water that form on the road and will be hard to manage by the tires. Speed will also be a significant factor, the faster you go, the less time the tires will have to displace the water. Wider wheels are also more prone to hydroplaning due to their larger contact area.
How to avoid aquaplaning?
Follow these specific recommendations in addition to regular vehicle maintenance in order to reduce the chance of hydroplaning:
- Check the expected weather conditions before the trip. It will help you get an idea of what to expect and tailor your driving accordingly.
- Check the tires. These must always be in good condition. As mentioned before, tires in poor condition have a greater tendency to hydroplane.
- Drive smoothly. Avoid sudden maneuvers that can cause the lose traction. Sudden changes of direction on wet surfaces are not a good idea and can cause hydroplaning. Therefore, take special care when cornering.
- Always be alert. If you drive while raining, there is not only the risk of hydroplaning but the braking distance increase considerably.
- Watch your speed. Wheels tend to lose grip more easily when driving at high speed. The higher the velocity, the more the risk of aquaplaning.
- Follow the path of the vehicle in front. If you are driving behind other cars, you can follow your line, always maintaining a safe distance.
What to do if aquaplaning occurs?
When you notice that your vehicle has started to hydroplane, it’s essential to remain calm. Avoid sudden braking: although instinct invites you to use the braking pedal, it is not very convenient. You will not be able to stop the car because the wheels do not have traction, and when the grip returns, if the wheels are blocked, the skidding could increase. Nor do you have to continue accelerating: instead, gently release the gas pedal and wait until the slide ends.
In conclusion, always keep your car in good condition, check the weather conditions before leaving home in order to be prepared, if raining, try to drive slower (being mindful of speed limits) and if despite the precautions your car hydroplanes, be calm, hold firmly the steering weal, release the gas pedal and wait until the slide ends.