Hydroplaning or aquaplaning is the technical term used to refer to the phenomenon of sliding or skidding of tyres on a wet surface. Tyres are designed in a way which allows them to scatter water across their surface. When the amount of water is too much and cannot be displaced by the tyre, it leads to hydroplaning of the vehicle.
While driving on waterlogged roads or on wet roads after a light rainfall, you might feel your car’s tyres drifting away all of a sudden. You lose control of the steering as the tyres lose traction. This is hydroplaning.
How Does Hydroplaning Occur?
Hydroplaning occurs on wet road surfaces. Many a times, the tyres might not be able to scatter the water effectively. As a result, the water is pushed under the tyre due to the pressure created in front of the wheel. Thus, a thin film of water is formed on the surface of the tyre which separates the tyre from the road. This is when the traction is lost and the vehicle loses control.
Although hydroplaning or aquaplaning can be triggered on any wet surface, the most dangerous condition is considered to be the first ten minutes of a light rainfall. During this time, the rain water mixes with the remnant oil on the surface of the road and turns the road into a slick surface. Vehicles, particularly those travelling at speeds of 55 to 60 kmph, tend to hydroplane on this surface. Such incidents can prove to be very risky and might even end up in loss of lives.
Things You Can Do To Avoid Hydroplaning:
Prevention is always better than cure. Although, hydroplaning might be inevitable in certain cases, keeping the following things in mind might help you dodge such instances:
- Cruise control: Cruise control is a very useful feature. It helps the driver to set a particular speed which is maintained by the car without the driver’s further intervention. But engaging the cruise control while you are driving in the rain is not recommended. Driving in the rain is a risky affair and it needs the driver to keep the speed under constant supervision, in order to avoid the risk of hydroplaning.
- Tyre pressure: Checking the tyre pressure on a regular basis is very important not only for the better performance of the car/bike, but also to avoid hydroplaning. A low tyre pressure does not allow the treads to stay in proper contact with the road and hence they do not scatter the water evenly. This increases the chances of the vehicle to hydroplane.
- Tyre treads: Tyre treads are meant to drive the water or snow away from the tyres. It is not meant to provide traction. If the tyre treads are worn off, the tyres will hardly displace the water and thus the chances of a hydroplaning incident will be higher.
- Do not tailgate: Tailgating is a dangerous practice, especially if it is raining. Tailgating is the practice of tailing another car very closely on the roads. Hydroplanes do not last for an extended period of time, but the chances of a fatal mishap increases in case you are tailgating another car. It is always recommended to maintain a safe distance from other motorists, while driving.
- Balancing your tyres: It is important to keep a regular check on your tyres and align them after fixed intervals. It is recommended to rotate and balance the wheels after every oil change or approximately after every 11,000 to 16,000 Kms.
- Slowing down: Hydroplaning generally occurs when the vehicle runs at an average speed of 55 to 60 kmph. It is always better to limit your speed as soon as it starts raining. Driving below the speed limit will keep you safer. It is harder for your tyres to drive the water away if you are driving fast. Sudden accelerations should be avoided at all costs as it increases the chances of hydroplaning.
- Choosing the right set of tyres: Choosing the right set of tyres can save you from many mishaps. It is recommended to spend slightly more on good quality tyres. It is not desirable to drive with bald tyres. For countries with frequent rainfall, drivers can buy a set of tyres that are particularly designed for wet roads.
- Avoiding accumulated water: Driving over standing water increases the chances of hydroplaning. It is better to avoid standing water on the road and in case there is no other option, it is recommended to drive off at a very slow pace.
- Keeping an eye on the cars in the front: The way the cars in front of you are behaving will help you understand the condition of the roads. Excessive amount of water coming from the tires of the car is an indication to the fact that the lane has accumulated water. The best you can do in such cases is to slow down and to change the lane, if possible.
Things You Can Do To Recover From Hydroplaning:
Even after following all the above mentioned tips, there are chances that you might fall in a situation where you face hydroplaning. In case your vehicle starts hydroplaning, keep the following points in mind to recover from the situation:
- Staying calm is the key to the recovery. As hydroplanes do not last too long, staying calm during that helps you avoid mishaps.
- Stop accelerating immediately. This will also help in shifting the weight to your vehicle’s front-end slowly and thus help you regain control.
- Do not slam on your brakes. If you brake too hard, you might end up locking your wheels which will lead to complete loss of control and the car will skid completely.
- In case your car has a manual transmission, push the clutch and let the car slow down on its own.
- In case of an automatic transmission, hold the steering wheel steadily and apply the brakes lightly.
- Steer the vehicle steadily in the direction of the skid. This will help the tyres to realign and regain steering control.
- Make sure you steer very steadily and do not oversteer.
Following these simple tricks will help you avoid hydroplaning as much as possible and help you get out of such situations without any major damage.
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