Hydroplaning can happen to any driver regardless of the years of experience you have driving or don’t have. The most important thing is to stay safe on the road. Here’s what you need to know about hydroplaning and how to avoid it.

What is Hydroplaning?

Hydroplaning occurs when a vehicle begins to slide uncontrollably due to an accumulation of water that the treads can’t displace, causing the car to lose traction with the road. If you’re traveling at high speeds on wet pavement, water will start to push the front tires slightly off the ground, creating a film between your vehicle’s tire and the road. With the separation between the road and the tire, you easily lose control of your vehicle, which can result in an auto accident.

What Are the Different Types of Hydroplaning?

The three types of hydroplaning are:

  • Dynamic
  • Reverted rubber
  • Viscous

Dynamic Hydroplaning

Dynamic hydroplaning occurs when water lifts your tires off the road, which occurs when water accumulates in front of the tires and lifts them off the road. When dynamic hydroplaning occurs, you’re literally riding on water! However, riding on water is not good in this instance because you don’t have the function of your brakes or traction.

Reverted Rubber Hydroplaning

Reverted Rubber hydroplaning occurs when your vehicle’s tires lock and the rubber starts to melt. When the tires start to melt, the water that’s trapped under the tire transforms into steam. When you’re riding on steam, the tires melt in the process.

Viscous Hydroplaning

Viscous hydroplaning occurs when oil or accumulated rubber combines with water on the road. When oil or accumulated rubber mixes with water on the road, it can form an impenetrable layer of liquid. Your tires won’t be able to break through this liquid to maintain traction with the road, especially if the road is smooth asphalt.

When Does Hydroplaning Occur?

Hydroplaning can occur any time the road’s surface is wet, especially during the first 10 minutes of rainfall. If rain mixes with oil residue on the road’s surface left by passing vehicles, a slippery patch is created. This slippery spot can cause vehicles to hydroplane, especially vehicles that are traveling faster than 35 mph.

Your chances of being involved in an auto accident drastically increase during poor or unfavorable weather conditions, such as rain, snow, and fog. Although roads can be slick due to heavy rain and snow, the roads are more dangerous when the roads are slickest, which is during the first 10 minutes of rainfall.

How Can You Tell If Your Vehicle Is Hydroplaning?

If you’re not sure if your vehicle is hydroplaning, here are a few ways to tell:

  • Your vehicle feels like it’s floating or drifting
  • Your vehicle’s engine’s RPMs suddenly increase as the tires lose contact with the road
  • You notice a loss of feedback from your vehicle when you’re driving in wet road conditions
  • Your steering wheel becomes unresponsive to your steering
  • Your vehicle begins to fishtail or veer sideways (especially if only one set of tires is affected instead of both tires being affected)
  • Your ability to feel the road beneath you while steering suddenly reduces or diminishes completely

What to Do If Your Vehicle Hydroplanes

If your vehicle starts to hydroplane, stay calm and take the following steps:

  • Remove your foot from the accelerator
  • Don’t slam your brakes
  • Position your steering wheel towards the same direction you’re traveling
  • Allow your vehicle to slow down on its own and avoid slamming the brakes (if possible)
  • If you need to brake, gently ease your foot on the brake
  • If you’re driving a vehicle with a manual transmission, release the clutch
  • Regain control of your vehicle

Once you’ve regained control of your vehicle, pull over in a safe location and gather yourself. Hydroplaning can be frightening and take a toll on your nervous system. If you are involved in an accident involving property or another vehicle, call for help immediately.

How to Prevent Hydroplaning

To prevent hydroplaning, you can take the following steps to stay safe:

  • Maintain proper tire pressure
  • Maintain the proper speed for wet road conditions
  • Avoid standing water
  • Ensure the tread depth on your tires is above 4/32”
  • Avoid using cruise control during wet road conditions
  • Increase your following distance
  • Gently turn the steering wheel instead of sharply steering and turning

Safety Tips for Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning can be terrifying, but it helps to know what to do in this situation. Hydroplaning can happen suddenly, so make sure you know the next steps to take. Use these tips to help keep you and everyone else on the road safe.

Reduce Your Speed

Reducing your speed is essential in preventing your vehicle from hydroplaning. Hydroplaning is most likely to occur when vehicles are traveling at a speed higher than 35 mph. As soon as it starts to rain, decrease your speed by at least 5 to 10 mph.

Follow Tracks

Tracks on the road are like footprints. When it’s safe, drive in the tire tracks left by the vehicles in front of you to help your tires maintain traction with the road. The vehicles in front of you move a lot of the water on the road’s surface, meaning there’s less water by the time you travel in the tire tracks, helping you avoid hydroplaning.

Check Your Tires Regularly

Your tires are the primary factor in hydroplaning, so make sure they’re performing at their best. You should have your tires rotated every 7,000 to 10,000 miles. You also need to ensure your tires are properly inflated and have adequate tread depth to channel water. Quality tires designed for wet road conditions can help prevent hydroplaning.

Use Your Headlights

It’s important to use your headlights during any type of precipitation. Using your headlights makes it easier for other drivers to see your vehicle and you can see the road better. It is a law in many states for drivers to use their headlights during any precipitation, such as rain and snow, even if it’s during the day.

Avoid Using Cruise Control

While cruise control is great to use in dry conditions, it’s not ideal for wet conditions. Using cruise control in rain, fog, or snow can delay your response time, which can result in hydroplaning or an accident. It’s safer to have full manual control of your vehicle during wet conditions.

Drive Smoothly

It’s easy to lose control of your vehicle in wet road conditions. However, avoiding sudden stops turns, and accelerations can help you maintain control of your vehicle and avoid loss of traction.

Be On the Lookout for Standing Water

After it rains, it’s not uncommon for water to collect in certain areas and begin to pool, creating a puddle. You should avoid all puddles regardless of how big or small. Standing water and puddles are the perfect location for hydroplaning. If you can’t avoid puddles, decrease your speed and drive slowly through them to reduce water buildup under your tires.

Stay Focused and Alert

You should be more focused and alert when you’re driving in rainy or wet conditions. Always look for signs of hydroplaning, such as light steering or spinning wheels.

Types of Tires for Rainy Roads

There are different types of tires available, and some are great for rainy weather while other tire types are best for other types of precipitation, such as snow. Understanding a tire’s features can help you determine which tire is best for the type of driving you’re doing.

All-Season Tires

All-season tires are designed to handle different types of road conditions, including heat, rain, and snow. These tires aren’t designed for one specific type of weather and are generally good for drivers who live in areas that experience all seasons weather conditions, hence the name.

High-Performance Tires

High-performance tires are also referred to as summer tires. These tires perform best on standard road conditions, such as sunny, dry days. If you live in an area where it snows a lot or experiences freezing temperatures, these tires won’t be able to perform as they should. When it comes to rain and wet pavement, the tire’s composition and tread pattern matter. You need to know how quickly these tires regain traction.

Winter Tires

Winter tires, also known as snow tires, are designed specifically to handle terrifically on snowy and icy roads. Some modern winter tires work great in the rain as well as snow and ice, which is a great option if you drive in both weather types often. Look for tires that have hydroplane resistance and traction so you’ll have extra protection during winter and rainy weather.

All-Terrain Tires

All-terrain tires are best in rough and rugged road conditions, such as off-road adventures. However, these tires can be a great way to stay prepared for unpredictable road conditions.

Hydroplaning can happen suddenly! Make sure you’re staying awake and alert when you’re driving in wet and rainy conditions to ensure your safety and the safety of others on the road. Stay safe and happy driving!