If you have ever experienced the feeling of your car’s tires hitting standing water on the road and the pull as you lose your ability to steer, you know the sudden heart-racing jolt that follows.

This weekend’s torrential downpour was probably a challenge for many drivers, especially after driving in dry or snowy road conditions. Water has a different feel under your tires; so we wanted to share some tips as we are getting close to the ground thawing and Spring rains.

When a tire encounters more water than it can channel through its grooves, water pressure in the front of the wheel pushes water under the tire, and the tire is then separated from the road surface by a thin film of water causing the tire to lose traction. The result is hydroplaning, causing partial, or even total loss of steering and braking.

When does Hydroplaning Occur?
Hydroplaning can occur at any speed whenever a road is wet. Vehicles traveling faster than 35 miles per hour are more likely to experience hydroplaning, so our best advice is to slow down in rainy conditions. All it takes is a 1/10 of an inch to cause trouble. The first 10 minutes of a light rain can be the most dangerous because the moisture mixes with oil residue on the road surface, creating slippery conditions that can cause vehicles to hydroplane.

Tips to avoid hydroplaning:

  • Keep your tires inflated to the recommended pressure
  • Rotate and replace worn tires when necessary
  • Slow down when roads are wet
  • If possible change lanes to go around puddles and standing water
  • Try to drive in the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you
  • Turn off cruise control
  • Avoid hard braking
  • Make your turns slow and smooth

What to Do if you Hydroplane:
If your vehicle begins hydroplaning on a wet road surface, there are several steps to take to help regain control:

  • Take your foot off the accelerator and resist the urge to brake. Sudden braking on a wet road can cause your car to skid.
  • Although it may seem contradictory, slowly turn your steering wheel in the direction your car is hydroplaning. This will help your tires to realign with the direction your vehicle is traveling so you will be able to steer.
  • Wait it out. You will feel the tires reconnect with the surface of the road and breathe a sigh of relief.

Hydroplaning can be a scary experience so if you need a moment to pull over and calm your nerves, do so! It doesn’t take much water on the road for conditions to become dangerous, so slow down and leave extra travel time so you can get to your destination safely.