How to React When Your Car Hydroplanes

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Part of driving safely in the rain is being able to keep your cool when the weather seems to work against you. Hydroplaning is one of those times and occurs when standing water causes your tires to lose contact, or traction, with the road. When your car hydroplanes, it can be a terrifying experience. In order to emerge from the experience safely, there are things you should and should not do. Find out how to react safely if your car hydroplanes while you’re driving a vehicle with front-wheel drive or a rear-wheel drive equipped with an anti-lock braking system (ABS), or are in a rear-wheel drive vehicle without anti-lock brakes.

Front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive with ABS

Step 1: Stay calm. When your car hydroplanes, it’s not the time to panic, although that may be easier said than done. You need a level head to navigate the moments that follow your car losing traction with the road.
Step 2: Do not hit the brakes. Suddenly braking without traction can cause the rear wheels to lock up while the front of the car still pulls the vehicle forward.
This combination may result in the vehicle spinning, from which it is difficult to regain control.
Step 3: 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.
Step 4: Lightly depress the accelerator as you steer. Gently push on the accelerator as you steer the vehicle into the open area you identified. You only need the tiniest bit of gas.

Rear-wheel drive without ABS

Step 1: Follow Steps 1 to 3 of Method 1. Most of how you should react when your car hydroplanes is the same regardless of the type of vehicle you drive: keep your cool, resist the urge to brake, and decide where you need to go.
Step 2: Steer your car without accelerating. The only difference in how you should react to hydroplaning when driving a rear-wheel drive car without anti-lock brakes is that you do not push the accelerator.
Your feet should make absolutely no contact with pedals in order to prevent the brakes locking up and causing your car to spin.
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. 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 rain beginning to fall.

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