Dangers of Hydroplaning and How to Avoid It

What is hydroplaning?

  • When water interferes with a vehicle’s tires on the road, causing a loss of traction
  • When your car seems to glide over water and your control of your car is compromised

What causes hydroplaning?

  • Your car’s tires are built and designed to displace water as you go over it on the road– but your tires can only handle so much water
    • When your tires encounter too much water, the grooves in the tires cannot properly displace the water
      • This causes your tires to lose grip on the roadway, lifting your tires off the road and causing the gliding sensation that accompanies hydroplaning
        • If more than one tire is hydroplaning, the likelihood that you will lose steering and braking control of your vehicle increases

What should I do in flood conditions?

  • On roadways prone to flooding (and standing water in general), it is best to drive slowly through water IF it is at a reasonable, manageable height for your vehicle
    • If the water rises too high on your vehicle, you risk flooding your engine with water if you try to drive through– use your best judgment and choose another route if necessary
  • Try to stick to roads with higher drainage slopes: water cannot pool here
  • Avoid roads with potholes, poor run-off, or other major defects where water can pool

How can I avoid hydroplaning?

  • Make sure your tire pressure is to standard
  • Try to keep the weight of your car evenly distributed, as this can throw your car off if you lose steering control
  • Make sure the TREAD on your tires is not excessively or unevenly worn
  • Keep your speed low on roads with water, especially if you don’t know the depth

What should I do if I’m hydroplaning?

  • Do not drastically change your speed– do not brake, just let your foot off the gas
  • Do not try to steer
  • Try to remain on your course
  • If you MUST brake, pump your brakes slowly and lightly to ease your car out of the skid
  • If your rear wheels hydroplane, it is best to turn the wheel in the direction of the skid until the tires catch their grip, then steer in the opposite direction to right the vehicle (this is called an oversteer)
  • If your front tires hydroplane, it will diminish your steering capabilities and you must slow down by lightly pumping your brakes

Hydroplaning is a scary experience.  Keep your car in top condition, drive at safe speeds, and be aware of the condition of the roads on which you intend to travel.