How to Avoid a Car Accident Caused by Hydroplaning

June 13th, 2016 by Patrick Hogan

Even drought stricken California experiences rain when an El NiƱo weather pattern arrives or when a summer afternoon thunder-storm pops up in the mountains. When driving through rain-soaked roads, hydroplaning is an ever-present possibility.

Hydroplaning occurs when a film of water lifts the wheels of your car off the pavement. Normally, the weight of the car on the wheels pushes the water out of the way. In addition, the tire tread channels the water away. When driving too fast over deep puddles however, the tires can’t move the water out of the way quickly enough and starts to hydroplane. At this point, you lose traction, braking, and steering. Avoid a car accident caused by hydroplaning by following these tips:

Stay on Top of Tire Replacement and Maintenance

  • Replace your tires when the tread wears down. This occurs when the tire wear bars appear across the tread. Shallow tread depth prevents the tire from channeling water.
  • Properly inflate your tires. Your tires perform best in water when inflated at their recommended pressure.
  • Don’t ignore your rear tires. If you have front wheel drive, don’t allow the rear tire treads to wear out. Although the important functions of power transmission and steering occurs at the front wheels, rear wheels provide stability. Without good tread, your rear wheels will slip and cause fish tailing on wet roads.

Adjust Your Driving

  • Slow down. A lower speed allows your tires to channel and move water more effectively.
  • Avoid water puddles. Drive in the tire tracks of the vehicles in front of you. Their tires have already pushed the water to the side. Also drive in the middle lanes of multilane highways. These are at the top of the road’s crown and have the least water accumulation.
  • Avoid hard steering. Wet road surfaces have reduced traction, especially during the first ten minutes of rainfall when the dried grease and oils haven’t been washed off yet.

When Your Car Hydroplanes

When your tire contact feels loose and the car starts to veer, slowly let up on the gas and continue steering in the direction of travel until your tires contact the road again. Don’t brake or turn the steering wheel. You want to continue in a straight line until the hydroplaning stops.

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