As the monsoon season is in full swing, hydroplaning becomes a major issue for drivers navigating through wet and slippery roads.
What is Hydroplaning?
Hydroplaning, also known as aquaplaning, is a dangerous situation that occurs when your vehicle skids on a wet road due to loss of traction.
To understand what traction is, let’s delve into how tires work. Tires have patterns of rubber and grooves, known as tread patterns, which are designed to push water away when you drive on wet roads to prevent skidding. The ability of your tires to grip the road is called traction. Hence, if the traction is poor, it becomes difficult to control the vehicle.
In the above picture, the combination of rain and oil residue creates a slippery film on the road surface, which lifts the car slightly off the road. Reduced tire traction results in loss of control as it becomes difficult for drivers to maneuver the vehicle on slippery road surfaces.
Causes of Hydroplaning
Worn-out Tires: Worn-out or bald tires have increased tread depth, which means the rubber cannot disperse the water effectively. This leads to a loss of traction and control on wet surfaces. As a result, the vehicle starts skidding and this can lead to accidents or mishaps on a slippery road.
Road Condition: Rough road conditions increase the chances of hydroplaning. Poor drainage can cause the water to accumulate on the roads, creating a layer between the tires and the road. This results in a loss of traction and the driver starts to lose control of the vehicle.
Vehicle speed: The speed of the vehicle plays an important role in hydroplaning. When a vehicle’s speed is high, it pushes more water under the tires. Due to high speed, the water pressure can lift the tires off the road surface, leading to a loss of contact and control. Therefore, slowing down during wet road conditions helps maintain contact with the road, enhancing traction and control.
Steering & Control: If you’re driving in heavy rain, then sudden or aggressive steering changes can result in hydroplaning. This is because when we turn the steering wheel quickly on wet roads, the tires cannot clear the water out of the way fast enough. As a result, tires ride on top of the water, rather than on the road, resulting in reduced traction and control of the vehicle.
Tips for drivers to prevent hydroplaning
Maintain proper tire pressure: Maintaining proper tire pressure is important as it affects how well your tires grip the road. Worn-out or underinflated tires are more likely to cause hydroplaning as they cannot channel water away effectively.
Our Advice: At OkayKer, our gurus would recommend you regularly rotate your tires every 8000 to 11000 kilometers. And also maintain an optimal tire pressure range between 30 psi to 36 PSI.
Tire Tread Depth: Tire Tread Depth refers to the measurement of grooves in the rubber of your tires that help maintain contact with the road surface. Over time, as you drive, the tread on your tires wears down and they become less effective at dispersing water. Therefore, it is essential to check your tire tread depth regularly for better control and handling of your vehicle.
Our Advice: Invest in tires with advanced tread patterns that provide better grip and control on wet roads.
Reduce speed in wet conditions: During the rainy season, you don’t want to risk yourself or your car in an accident. You must slow down in wet weather conditions to prevent hydroplaning. Higher speeds increase the risk of losing traction which leads tires to lose their control with the road surface.
Our Advice: During wet conditions, you must always slow down your vehicle’s speed to gain control and make it more manageable. This will minimize the risk of hydroplaning.
Brake smoothly: During heavy rain, pressing the brakes shifts the car's weight forward, increasing the load on the front tires. The water on the road creates a slippery surface, causing the front tires to lose grip and the car to slide instead of stopping smoothly. In this situation, you should apply the brakes gently instead of slamming them to prevent the tires from locking up and skidding.
Our Advice: Release your foot from the accelerator pedal to reduce the speed gradually. Once the tires regain their traction, apply the brakes gently.
Avoid cruise control: When you are driving in wet conditions, avoid using cruise control. Since the system uses pre-set speed, it is difficult to adapt quickly to sudden changes in traction which increases the risk of hydroplaning. Therefore, disengaging the cruise control allows the driver to remain actively engaged where he can respond quickly to changing conditions.
Our Advice: We’d advise you not to use cruise control when it is raining as slippery and wet road surface increases the chance of hydroplaning.