What to Do When Your Car Hydroplanes
Puddles can cause your car to hydroplane.
Hydroplaning: What You Need to Know
Hydroplaning occurs when pressure from water in front of your tires pushes water under the tires, causing your tires to “float” on the water between your tires and the pavement. This means that your car temporarily loses traction with the road—and that’s what makes hydroplaning so nerve-wracking. You can prevent hydroplaning by driving cautiously when the roads are wet and avoiding puddles. But since hydroplaning can happen to even the best drivers, we’ve outlined the protocol.
Stay Calm, and Ease Off the Gas
While you may be tempted to slam on your brakes when you lose control of your vehicle, this is not what you should do. Instead, remain calm, and ease your foot off the gas pedal. This will allow the car to slow down on its own. You should keep a firm grip on the steering wheel, and steer your car in the direction you want to go.
In order to understand how you should brake in this situation, you need to know if your car has regular or anti-lock brakes. If you have regular brakes, you should use gentle pumps, rather than steady pressure. However, if your car has anti-lock brakes – as nearly all modern cars do – you may brake normally (this doesn’t mean slamming on your brakes!). Once your tires make contact with the road again, you should begin to slow down.
Once you’ve slowed down and are actually driving on the road again, you can regain control of your vehicle and resume driving normally. Remember that when it’s raining, or even just wet outside, you need to drive slower than you would in ideal conditions.
One important thing to keep in mind when driving in the rain is that you should avoid using cruise control. If your car is set on cruise control when you encounter a deep puddle, the cruise control can actually cause your vehicle to accelerate, which is not something you want to happen. Plus, to deactivate cruise control you need to brake, and as we established, braking is not the immediate response you should have when you begin to hydroplane.
Another consideration is tire maintenance: keeping your car’s tires properly inflated, and rotating and replacing them when necessary, will help you out when the roads become slippery. You don’t want to make it any harder on yourself when you’re dealing with inclement weather conditions.
And finally, if at all possible, you should keep to the middle lanes of the road. The outer lanes are where water typically builds up. Stay in the inner lanes and you’ll decrease your probability of running into standing water.