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Hydroplaning: Not as Fun as it Sounds

 During periods of rain, water can collect on the surface of the road and act as a layer between your tyres and road surface. As a result, your vehicle can lose traction, and this is what is referred to as aquaplaning or hydroplaning.

Aquaplaning can be very dangerous, as you have no control over the vehicle. However, we have here some tips on how to avoid this scary experience, and how best to handle it if it does happen to you.

Prepare your vehicle for wet weather

Ensuring your car is set up correctly for rain will go a long way in helping you prevent aquaplaning. Tyres should be inflated to the manufacturer’s recommendations (these can be found in the owner’s manual and often stickered on the doorsill). Under-inflated tyres can increase stopping distances, and cause your vehicle to aquaplane.

Remember that when you’re checking your tyre pressure and inflating your tyres, ensure they are cold (as hot air expands, affecting the reading).

It is also crucial to regularly rotate your tyres and check the condition of the tread. Sufficient tread allows water to be disbursed away from the tyres, increasing grip levels.

If your tread has been worn down, the risk of aquaplaning is significantly higher and you should replace your tyres. Manufacturers include tread wear indicators on the surface of the tyre but, if in doubt, your local tyre specialist will be able to determine if you have sufficient tread.

Avoid driving through puddles

The risk of aquaplaning is much higher when driving through puddles and standing water, so where possible avoid driving through them. If there are cars around you this may not be possible to be alert and if you need to drive through them, ensure you slow down.

Slow down when it’s raining

We’ve all heard this advice before, and it makes perfect sense. When it’s raining, visibility is reduced and grip levels are significantly lower. By reducing your speed, you will be more able to react to changes in the road conditions and any puddles you need to go through can be done at a much lower speed, reducing the potential for aquaplaning.

Also, the faster you are travelling, the harder it is for your tyres to disburse the water, so slowing down will give you the most grip.

Don’t brake

If you do find your car aquaplaning, the most important thing is not to panic. Maintaining focus will ensure you are able to react accordingly. Most people will immediately slam on the brakes if traction is lost, but this could send your vehicle into a skid. Instead of braking, ease off the accelerator smoothly to wash off excess speed and regain control of the vehicle.

Don’t make any sudden movements

Maintaining control is important, and sudden movements such as braking, turning or accelerating can exacerbate the problem.

Try to remain as smooth as possible with your inputs, and the car should settle and regain traction accordingly. It’s important not to try and swerve, as this can upset the balance of the car and also cause an accident with surrounding traffic.

Don’t steer into the slide

Aquaplaning is not the same as sliding, so don’t be tempted to steer your vehicle into the slide. Instead, you should focus on an empty and safe place to stop, and smoothly steer and accelerate towards it. If you’re in a rear wheel drive vehicle, you may want to smoothly back off the accelerator while steering towards the safe space.

By ensuring your vehicle is set up correctly and by driving defensively, you will maximise your chances of avoiding a situation of aquaplaning. However, if you do find yourself in this situation, remaining calm and following these tips will allow you to effectively regain control of your vehicle.

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