Have you ever been driving down the highway during a rainstorm and felt like you suddenly lost control of your car for a split second? This was likely caused by hydroplaning. This guide will tell you exactly how you should handle it.
What Is Hydroplaning?
Hydroplaning occurs when water causes your tires to lose contact with the road, reducing your traction. When your car hydroplanes, it can feel like a quick jerk that may last for a fraction of a second or up to several seconds. The reason your tires lose traction is because they can't disperse the water you drive through fast enough.
New tires can disperse water at a rate of 8 gallons per second at 50 mph, but when they can't move it all out of the way, the tires are driving on water instead of gripping the pavement. This is why you lose control until the tires can start making contact with the road again.
How Do I Handle Hydroplaning?
When you feel the steering wheel start to jerk out of your hands, you need to react before the situation gets out of hand. Learn how to handle hydroplaning.
1. Remain Calm
The first thing you need to make sure you do when you start to hydroplane is to remain calm. If you remain calm and stay in control, you can easily ride out the hydroplane.
2. Let off the Gas — and Don't Hit the Brakes
If you hit the gas while you are in the middle of a hydroplane, you'll lose even more traction and potentially start skidding. This also goes the same for braking. As you start to slow down naturally, your tires will start to grip faster.
3. Maintain Control of the Wheel
There is potential that your car will enter a skid if you hydroplane at a high rate of speed. Continue to steer your car in the direction you want to travel, and avoid making any sudden jerking motions. This will keep your vehicle on a safe path for when you exit the hydroplane.
4. Wait for the Car to Grip
As long as you take your foot off of the gas and control the wheel, you should quickly feel the tires start to grip the road again. This shouldn't take more than a second or two after entering the hydroplane. Once this happens, regain your lost speed and continue on your drive, but take it slow and pay extra attention to the road.
How Do I Prevent Hydroplaning?
While it's impossible to avoid every possible situation where you can hydroplane, you can minimize your chances of it by following these tips:
Slow down in inclement weather. The faster you travel, the more likely you are to lose control.
Avoid driving through any puddles, especially at high speeds.
Turn off cruise control in stormy weather. When you start to lose speed when you hydroplane, cruise control can cause you to accelerate, making the situation worse.
Keep your tires at the recommended PSI, or you can lose grip easier.
Replace your tires if the tread gets too low (try the penny test), or they won't disperse water fast enough.
Drive Safely in Hazardous Road Conditions
You should always remain calm, keep control of the car, and let off the gas if you start to hydroplane. Now that you know how to handle a hydroplane, expand your knowledge even further by signing up for behind-the-wheel lessons at IDriveSafely.com. Certified instructors will prepare you with the knowledge you will need to handle anything you come across on your drives.