Water Hazards: Protect Yourself From Hydroplaning on Wet Roads

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hydroplaning is possibly one of the most frightening things that can happen to any driver short of being involved in a major collision. There u are, driving along at 50 or 60 mph in the rain, and suddenly your car is out of control. Some drivers have no idea why their car suddenly stopped responding to their turning the steering wheel and applying the brakes. Oftentimes, drivers who are interviewed after a collision caused by hydroplaning will say, I don’t know what happened, but I couldn’t control the car.

The one thing all hydroplaning problems have in common is the presence of water on the roadway. Here’s what happens when a hydroplaning car goes out of control:  As the tires roll over the surface of a road that is wet after or during a heavy rain or when water has accumulated because of poor drainage, a wedge of water builds up just in front of the tire where it meets the road. If your tires are in good shape, they will flush away the wedge of water at lower speeds and allow the tire tread to grip the road for steering and braking. But when tires are worn or bald, the wedge of water does no get flushed away and the tires actually climb up on top of the wedge, losing contact with the road. Once the tires are floating on the water, the car is hydroplaning. The deeper the water, the more likely a hydroplane will occur. At slow speed, the tire simply squeezes the water away. At higher speeds, it is harder to flush away the water. Tires with deep tire treads and tires specifically designed as rain tires work best. But even the best tires may hydroplane at higher speeds. And worn tires may start to hydroplane at speeds as low as 30 mph. The best advice for any driver encountering water on the roadway is to slow down. It is nearly impossible to know the depth of water on a roadway. Aside from hydroplaning, driving fast into water may cause a splash that could momentarily blind you or a nearby driver. Hitting water at high speeds may also cause water to splash up under the hood and cause the engine to die out. That could leave you dangerously stranded on a busy lane where following cars have minimal control.

Again the most important thing to remember no mater how good your tires are, no matter if you have anti-lock brakes, four-wheel drive or traction control is to slow down!

Your best safeguard against a potentially out-of-control hydroplaning experience is to slow down to below 30 mph when the roadway is covered with water and to avoid any puddles of accumulated water on the roadway.

Minimize your risk of hydroplaning by taking a few precautions:

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Bob Cerullo

Automotive Expert

Over thirty years experience as an auto mechanic/technician, service manager and automotive writer. Bob Cerullo hosted the ABC talk radio networks weekly Car Care Clinic for two years. He then switched to WOR Radio 710 where for several years he fielded listeners car questions as host of the AUTO SHOW. Cerullo provided weekly car care segments on the Rambling with Gambling program with both John A. Gambling and John R. Gambling. He has appeared numerous times on The Dolans Smart Money Radio Program, the Joan Hamburg Show and Bernard Melzer programs on WOR Radio along with frequent appearances on WEVDs Bernadette Michaels show. He was a guest expert on ABC radios Kathy Novack Show. The Owen Span program, Rich Taylors Car Corner and Talk Americas Auto World. Cerullo has been heard nationally in several radio markets with his Coping With Your Car Series.

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