Have you ever driven through a big puddle and felt the car slow down or pull to the side as soon as it hit the water? If so, you have been on a water ski. Hydroplaning is a risky thing to do. It can make you lose control of your car, so it’s very important to know what causes it and how to stop it or lessen its effects.
Hydroplaning happens when water builds up between your car’s tires and the surface of the road. This makes the tire slide on the water like a surfboard. Hydroplaning can make the car lose traction and make it hard for the driver to steer, speed up, or slow down. When this happens under a single tire, hydroplaning is usually easy to control. If something is under two or more tires, the car may start to slide out of control.
Most of the time, tires are made to keep you from sliding on water. The tread pattern has grooves and cracks that drain water from between the rubber and the road. This makes more rubber touching the road surface. The grooves basically give the water somewhere to go. When there is more rubber touching the road, the car has a better grip, and the driver has more control.
To avoid hydroplaning, it’s important to make sure your tires are in good shape. If your treads are thin and worn, they won’t be able to move water into the grooves as well, which makes hydroplaning more likely.
Proper tire grip depends on how full the tires are. Make sure to check your car’s owner’s manual for tips that are right for the way you drive. Don’t use the number that’s written on the sidewall of the tire. These are the maximum pressures, and the pressures most likely recommended by the car’s maker are lower.
Speed also plays a role. If you’re going too fast, water builds up too quickly, and even brand-new tires can’t get rid of the water fast enough to keep you from hydroplaning. When it starts to rain, you should always slow down. Also, you should either avoid standing water on the road or slow down when you get close to it. Do not use cruise control when it is wet because it makes it harder to control the car and could make it take longer to react if you hydroplane.
If you think your car is hydroplaning, keep a firm grip on the steering wheel, and don’t try to fight it by jerking it quickly. Don’t hit the brakes hard. Either one of these things could make the car slide. If you need to stop, brake lightly so you don’t lock the wheels and cause the car to skid. Most cars today have antilock brakes that do this for you, but if you have an older car or one without antilock brakes, you’ll need to gently pump the brakes to keep the wheels from locking up.
Lastly, if the back wheels hydroplane, the car’s back end can slide. Since the driver has less control over the back wheels than the front, you should always put the new tires on the back of your car and the older, more worn tires on the front. This is true even if you only need to replace two tires.