Aquaplaning. Everyone has heard of it, but would you know if you encountered it?
What is aquaplaning?
Also called hydroplaning, aquaplaning happens when excess standing water on the road causes a tyre to lose contact with the road’s surface.
To be more specific, when tyres aren’t able to push away enough water, more water ends up building up in front of the tyre.
At lower speeds, that’s not too problematic. But at higher speeds, enough water can collect to lift the tyre from the road surface.
That layer of water prevents your tyre from gripping the road surface and can cause a loss of control.
The deeper the water and the faster your speed, the higher the chance that your car could end up skating out of control without braking or steering.
What contributes to aquaplaning?
Speed, though not a direct contributor, makes it harder for the driver to regain control of the vehicle should it start to skid across the road.
Tyres play a large part in preventing hydroplaning. If you replace your tyres regularly, you’ll have less chance of encountering that dangerous, out-of-control situation. Tyres with more tread in them have lesser chance of aquaplaning than those with less tread.
Vehicle weight The lighter the vehicle, the more chance it has of aquaplaning.
How do I regain control if I aquaplane?
Don’t panic, aquaplaning can be recovered from if you follow these tips.
- Ignore your instinct to immediately slam hard down on the brakes – doing so could prove dangerous.
- Ease off your accelerator
- Straighten your steering wheel
- Once you have regained control, then gently ease into your brakes to start slowing the car down
If you hit your brakes or immediately twist your wheel hard when you encounter hydroplaning, it could exacerbate the situation, making it harder to recover.
Remember, never use cruise control on very wet roads, or roads which are semi-submerged, as that could cause your car’s wheels to spin when they hit a patch of water.
Avoiding that dreaded slide can be as simple as making sure your tyres are not bald, and that they have a legal amount of tread left in them. Bring your car to a mechanic to have it looked at.
Also, drive slowly when the roads are wet. You might have fitted brand-new tyres to your car, and you might feel that you’ve got plenty of driving experience, but aquaplaning doesn’t discriminate and can catch you out when you least expect it.