Simple Ways to Prevent Hydroplaning
Last week was an absolute soaker with some areas of the South getting over a foot of rain! Driving around in the downpours has been a challenge – to say the least – especially with the very real possibility of hydroplaning. There is nothing more scary than losing control of your vehicle. When your vehicle hydroplanes, you not only lose the ability to steer, you are filled with fear as well. If you don’t know what to do, that fear can completely take over your reaction time. Whether you are driving in a torrential downpour or on roads that are still just a little damp from a passing shower, hydroplaning is a very real possibility and something that you should try to avoid. Use the following tips on how to prevent hydroplaning.
Image via Flickr
What Is Hydroplaning?
When a car hydroplanes, it is because a sheet of water has come between the car’s tires and the pavement. Either due to wear or poor drainage on the road, the tire cannot move the water out of the way fast enough. The rubber of the tire no longer touches the road, the vehicle loses traction and you lose control of steering. It’s a sensation similar to sliding on ice, and it can be just as dangerous. And contrary to popular belief, hydroplaning not only occurs in heavy rain, but it can also occur even when the roads are only slightly damp.
Different cars behave differently depending on how you’ve been driving and which tires are hydroplaning.
- If you’ve been driving straight, your vehicle will most likely feel loose and begin veering in either direction.
- If the drive wheels hydroplane, your speedometer and engine RPM’s may increase as your tires begin to spin.
- If your front wheels hydroplane, the car will start to slip towards the outside of the bend.
- If your back wheels hydroplane, the car’s rear end will begin to veer sideways into a skid.
- If all four wheels hydroplane, the car will slide forward in a straight line, similar to a large sled.
How To Prevent Hydroplaning
The best way to prevent hydroplaning is to drive carefully and take the following preventative measures.
- check and maintain good tire tread. Balding tires can increase your risk of hydroplaning greatly.
- always maintain the proper tire pressure for your vehicle. Remember to go by what your car’s owner manual lists as the proper tire pressure for your vehicle, not the numbers that are on the tire itself.
- have your tires and brakes inspected by certified mechanics like those at East Hills Jeep on a regular basis
- drive accordingly when in snow, ice or rain. Drive slower than you would in dry weather.
- avoid slamming on the brakes in inclement weather.
- never use your vehicle’s cruise control when driving in bad weather. If you are using cruise control, your vehicle will actually increase its speed when the drive wheels lose their traction.
What to Do if You Hydroplane
When you first begin to feel your car lose control, your natural reaction is going to be to panic. Try your best not to. Instead try to relax and remember these three important things:
- Do not slam on the brakes or jerk the steering wheel suddenly. This will make things a lot worse.
- Slowly lift your foot off the accelerator pedal and allow the car to begin to slow down until you stop hydroplaning. If you are driving a vehicle with a manual transmission, push the clutch in and let the car coast until the hydroplaning stops.
- Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel and keep yourself pointed forward in the direction of the road. Be prepared to compensate once the tires regain control. Again, do not slam the brakes on and do not jerk the steering wheel. If you absolutely must brake and you do not have anti-lock brakes, gently pump the brakes instead.
Keep in mind that the car will regain its traction, and most hydroplane-related skids last for just a split second before your car regains traction.