What Is Hydroplaning? (How It Occurs, What To Do + Avoiding)

When your vehicle hydroplanes, it can be dangerous and hard to get under control for even the most skilled driver.

Hydroplaning can happen to all vehicles no matter the year, make, or model. But what exactly is hydroplaning, and how can you avoid it? Keep reading and find out!

What Is Hydroplaning?

Hydroplaning is the process of your tires losing connection to the road. When there is more water on the road than your tire can disperse, a layer of that water forms under your tire, lifting your vehicle off the ground and causing you to lose traction and control. This makes you feel like you’re driving on a sheet of ice.  

When your vehicle starts to hydroplane, it can be scary and even dangerous. Read on to find out more about what to do when your vehicle hydroplanes and the best way to avoid the situation!

What Causes Your Vehicle To Hydroplane?

When it rains hard enough, and you’re driving on a road that has poor draining, standing water or water puddles can become a problem.

If your tires are unable to disperse the water through the traction grooves of your tire, your vehicle can start to hydroplane, in which tires float over the tire.

This basically means you will have a layer of water that forms under your tires, disconnecting your vehicle’s tires from the road.

Additionally, when you are hydroplaning, you can lose just about all control of your vehicle, making for a very dangerous situation.

What Does Hydroplaning Feel Like?

What Does Hydroplaning Feel Like?

Hydroplaning feels like your vehicle is on a sheet of ice in which you have no traction over the vehicle.

Also, when hydroplaning occurs, your vehicle can slide, fishtail, or spin out without even touching moving your steering wheel.

What can make this very dangerous is you might actually be hydroplaning for a while before you even notice that you are.

What To Do If Your Vehicle Starts To Hydroplane?

When your vehicle hydroplanes, the last thing you want to do is overreact or panic.

Getting your vehicle back under control will take more finesse actions than reacting suddenly with fear or force.

When you notice you are hydroplaning, the first thing you should do is lay off the throttle/gas pedal slowly and don’t hit the brakes.

If your vehicle is starting to skid off track, do not try to turn the steering wheel back to the direction you want your vehicle to go in, turn the steering wheel into the slide. This is a method called “turning into the skid.”

Trying to turn away from the skid will most likely cause you more problems making the situation worse.

If you’re too scared to turn into the skid, then you’re better off just letting off the gas and waiting for the vehicle to correct itself.

How Much Tread Should I Have On My Tires To Avoid Hydroplaning?

How Much Tread Should I Have On My Tires To Avoid Hydroplaning?

The first thing you should do about avoiding hydroplaning is to stay aware of your tire’s tread depth and tire wear.

It is a lot more likely that hydroplaning will occur to your vehicle if your tires don’t have enough tread depth.

Because of this, you should always have your tread depth checked when you take your vehicle in for service.

If you want to do this at home just for your own peace of mind, there is a very easy way to do it.

The recommended tire depth is no less than 2/32-inch of tread, anything less than that, and your tires are not good for wet road driving.

To find out if you have enough tolerance, you can do the penny test. Take a penny and stick Abraham Lincoln’s head in the tread upside down facing you.

If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, even the hair, your tires are not good for driving in the rain.

How To Avoid Hydroplaning When Driving?

Safe driving habits are always good to have, no matter what the driving situations are.

It’s a good rule of thumb to slow down to meet road conditions and traffic even if you have to drive under the speed limit.

Driving in the rain is dangerous enough, but what a lot of drivers don’t understand, is that when it first starts to rain that’s when the roads are the most slippery.

This happens because the rain has not yet washed away the oil drips, anti-freeze leaks, litter, and everything else our vehicles and humans leave behind.

This new rainwater mixes with the excess of dried-up road grime and turns roads into danger zones with just a few drops of the start of rain.

The best thing you can do is slow down to a comfortable speed whenever you notice just a hint of a raindrop on your windshield.

Also, another great thing to do to keep from hydroplaning is to keep your vehicle in the vehicle tracks that have already been laid down from previous vehicles, as this will help you avoid standing water.

Standing water, also known as puddles, can make your vehicle hydroplane easily, and there is no good reason to go through a big puddle unless you have no choice.

But if you do have to go through standing water, you should slow down as much as possible so the traction on your tires will have time to do its job.

One last thing that can help you avoid hydroplaning incidents is to not use your cruise control in unfavorable weather conditions.

The chance of having something bad happen in bad weather can happen at any time, you want to be able to adjust your speed immediately to quickly adjust to the situation, and having your cruise control on might impede this process.

What Are The Best Tires To Have To Avoid Hydroplaning

What Are The Best Tires To Have To Avoid Hydroplaning

As talked about above, one of the most important parts of tires and hydroplaning is making sure you have enough tread on them.

If you’re on the lookout for tires that perform well in wet water situations, or even snow and icy situations as well, you should look towards all-season tires.

The brand is more of a preference, but all-season tires are usually pretty good at handling everything.

To know more about tires, you can also read our posts on how long do all-season tires last, if all-season tires are good for winter, and if tires float in water.

Conclusion

Hydroplaning can happen to any vehicle at any time, so being prepared for it and not overreacting to the situation is the best way to get back to driving safely fast.

Also, taking precautions like slowing down, driving in already laid tracks from the vehicle in front of you, and making sure you have enough tire thread is always a good way to prevent hydroplaning.

You should always drive accordingly for the road, traffic, and weather conditions.

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