How to React When Your Car Hydroplanes
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When your car hydroplanes, it can be a terrifying experience, but there are steps you can take to safely navigate the issue. Part of driving safely in the rain is being able to keep your cool when the weather seems to work against you. Hydroplaning occurs when standing water causes your tires to lose contact, or traction, with the road.
Thankfully, Jerry has compiled what you should do if your car hydroplanes while you’re driving a vehicle with front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, equipped with an anti-lock braking system (ABS), or are in a rear-wheel drive vehicle without anti-lock brakes.
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What to do if your vehicle begins to hydroplane
If your car begins to hydroplane, the most important thing to do is remain calm. You need a level head to navigate the moments that follow your car losing traction with the road.
Your first instinct may be to panic and slam on the brakes, but this will make the situation worse. Suddenly braking without traction can cause the rear wheels to lock up while the front of the car still pulls the vehicle forward. This can result in the vehicle spinning out of control.
You need to pick a spot where you want your car to travel. Quickly assess the situation and decide what direction is free of obstacles, such as other vehicles or trees. For example, steering toward an open field would be a great choice if you’re driving by the plains.
Once you’ve decided where you want to go, the next step depends on what kind of vehicle you have. If your car is a front wheel drive and rear wheel drive with an anti-lock braking system, gently press on the accelerator as you steer the vehicle into your targeted area. You only need the tiniest bit of gas.
If your vehicle is a rear-wheel drive without anti-lock brakes, the process when your car hydroplanes is mostly the same. The only difference in how you should react to hydroplaning when driving a rear-wheel drive car without ABS is that you do not push the accelerator. Your feet should make absolutely no contact with pedals in order to prevent the brakes from locking up and causing your car to spin.
How to prevent your vehicle from hydroplaning
To prevent hydroplaning in the first place, avoid using cruise control when it rains so you have the most control of your car in the case of an emergency. Cruise control may also detect the wet roads as a decelerator and try to make your vehicle accelerate suddenly for more power, which is one cause of hydroplaning.
Check your tire pressure at least once a month, and replace your tires when the tread begins to wear.
Do your best to follow other cars’ tire tracks in the rain for optimal traction, and slow it down whenever the weather turns sour. Also, bear in mind that the conditions for hydroplaning are most present in the first ten minutes of rainfall.
What is hydroplaning?
Essentially, hydroplaning is when there is too much water on the road and your tires can’t scatter it all. This causes a small film of water to get under the tire, separating it from the road. The driver then can’t control their vehicle. If you’ve ever tried driving on ice, you probably know what this sensation feels like.
What causes hydroplaning?
Hydroplaning is caused by wet, slippery conditions, especially during the first ten minutes of rainfall. The water can mix with the oils on the road to make the surface especially slippery.
Driving fast or with poor tires can increase the risk of your car hydroplaning. To check a tire’s tread, place a penny upside-down in the tread. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, that means your tread is too worn and you need to replace your tires.
Can I get a ticket for hydroplaning?
You can get a ticket for hydroplaning, especially if you were driving carelessly. Depending on your situation, you can fight the ticket in court, though we recommend an attorney if you choose to do so. If you were driving carefully and truly could not have prevented hydroplaning, you might be freed from the ticket.
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