Aquaplaning occurs when your tires have to handle more water than they can drain, they lose contact with the road and slide over the water surface. The water pressure in front of the tires creates a thin layer of water under the tires, the tires no longer have friction and the driver can lose control. It's good to learn how to prevent aquaplaning and what to do if it does happen. It can be a scary experience, but the most important thing is to keep your composure.
Part 1 of 3: Preventing Aquaplaning
Step 1. Be careful when it just starts to rain
The first 10 minutes after it starts to rain are often the most dangerous. This is because the rain soaks dried oil and other substances from the road. The mixture of oil and water forms a thin film on the road which can make it very slippery.
- During the first few minutes drive more slowly and pay close attention to other cars.
- If it continues to rain for longer, the water will wash the road clean again, so the situation becomes less dangerous.
Step 2. Slow down when the road is wet
The faster you drive, the harder it is for your car to maintain traction when the road is wet. If your tires hit a pool of water instead of the road surface, you are more likely to aquaplane. That's why it's important to slow down in wet conditions, even when visibility is still good.
- You can safely drive slower than the speed limit if the roads are wet. Don't go slower than other traffic, but you really don't have to keep going 120 km/h on the highway when it's raining hard.
- If there are puddles of water on the road, it is even more important to slow down.
Step 3. Avoid puddles and standing water
Those are the areas where you are most likely to get aquaplaning because your tires can't maintain traction. The puddles are not always easy to spot in advance, so drive extra carefully (and slower) if puddles start to form on the road.
- Puddles usually form on the side of the road, so try to stay in the center of the roadway.
- Try to drive in the tracks of the cars in front of you. This reduces the chance of water building up in front of your tires and causing you to lose control of your car.
- Make sure your windshield wipers are working properly. Poor visibility during rain showers can lead to accidents, as puddles are more difficult to detect in advance if the rain is not properly wiped off the window.
Step 4. Turn off the cruise control
If you have a car with cruise control, you should not use that function if it starts to rain. You can better adapt to the conditions with the cruise control off. You may need to slow down quickly, and it's a lot easier if you have cruise control off.
Step 5. Consider driving in a lower gear
A lower gear makes it easier to maintain traction and keeps you from going too fast. It may not always be possible to downshift when driving on the highway, but on a country road it may be safer to select a lower gear to avoid aquaplaning.
Step 6. Drive slowly and carefully to avoid sliding, and keep a light pressure on the accelerator pedal
Brake gently pumping if necessary; if you have a car with ABS this is not necessary, you can brake normally. Make sure that the wheels do not lock, because then you will certainly slip.
- Avoid sudden acceleration and braking. Don't steer too suddenly or you could lose control.
- Take extra care on winding roads, then steer smoothly and don't drive too fast.
Part 2 of 3: Restoring control in aquaplaning
Step 1. Understand what happens in aquaplaning
With aquaplaning, so much water builds up in your tires that you lose contact with the road. Every car reacts differently to this, depending on your driving behavior and the type of tires.
- If you were driving in a straight line it will probably feel like you are sliding and the car will start moving in a certain direction.
- If there is aquaplaning at the drive wheels, the speedometer will go up and the revs will increase as your tires start to spin.
- If the front wheels are aquaplaned, the car will skid toward the outside of the curve.
- If there is aquaplaning at the rear wheels, the rear of the car will move sideways.
- If there is aquaplaning at all wheels, the car will slide forward in a straight line, as if the car were a large sled.
Step 2. Keep calm and wait for the sliding to pass
If you feel yourself slipping, you may panic. You have lost control of the car and you may have a tendency to do something quickly. Do not panic and do not lose your concentration. All you have to do is wait for it to pass, and stay alert so you can regain control of the car. No matter how your car reacts to aquaplaning, you can take the same steps to regain control.
- Keep in mind that the moment of aquaplaning usually lasts only a short while, traction is back in most cases within a second. Waiting is the best way to handle the situation.
- Do not apply the brakes hard or pull the steering wheel suddenly, as this will make you more likely to lose control of the vehicle.
Step 3. Slowly throttle back
Accelerating while aquaplaning will only make it worse, you will lose control of the car. Instead of accelerating, try decelerating slowly and wait for traction to return until you accelerate again.
- Slowly brake a little less if you were braking when it started, until it's over.
- Depress the clutch. Release the clutch when you no longer suffer from aquaplaning.
Step 4. Steer in the direction you want to go
Keep your hands firmly on the steering wheel and carefully steer the car in the right direction. This technique works best for getting your car back on track after aquaplaning. When traction returns, you may have to countersteer slightly a few times.
Don't turn too suddenly. If you pull the handlebars too fast you will lose control. Keep your hands steady but firmly on the handlebars and steer with small movements to correct your course
Step 5. Brake gently
Don't apply your brakes too hard during aquaplaning, as unexpected things can happen. If at all possible, it is better to wait to brake until the moment has passed. If you must brake, apply the brakes gently and pump until contact with the road is restored.
If you have a car with ABS, you can just brake normally, because the ABS system ensures that your wheels cannot lock
Part 3 of 3: Keeping your tires in good condition
Step 1. Make sure your tires have sufficient tread
Low profile tires do not have a good grip on the road, especially in wet conditions. With bad tires you are more likely to aquaplane (in addition, you are more likely to skid on an icy road and you are more likely to get a flat tire). So make sure your tires are in good condition.
- Worn tires are more prone to aquaplaning because there is little tread left. With a tire with a worn profile, aquaplaning occurs at a lower speed.
- A new tire has a profile of about 8 mm, and this wears out with driving. You can no longer pass the MOT with a profile of less than 1.6 mm, but the ANWB advises to renew tires with a profile of 2 mm.
- You can measure the profile depth yourself with a simple caliper that can be bought in the better car shop.
Step 2. Rotate your tires if necessary
Tire rotation is a good way to use your tires for longer. Some tires will wear faster than others, depending on the type of car and your driving style. By changing the tires to other places, you prevent certain tires from wearing out faster. Take your car to a garage or tire center to have it rotated.
- It is common to rotate tires every 5,000 miles. If you're not sure if your tires have ever rotated, you can do it just in case.
- Front-wheel drive cars require more frequent tire rotation because the tires wear more unevenly.
Step 3. Check your tire pressure regularly
Tires with too little air are more likely to suffer from aquaplaning, because the road holding is much worse. They can also bend inward, raising the center of the tire and dispersing less water. Changes in temperature can cause tire pressure to rise and fall, so it's important to check your tire pressure regularly. So do that every few months to make sure you have the correct tire pressure.
- The required tire pressure is different for every car, look in the user manual which tire pressure is prescribed for your car.
- Refill the tires with the required air if necessary.
It is always better to avoid aquaplaning, and you do that by making sure your tires are in good condition and by driving slowly when it rains. As a general rule, try to cut a third of your speed on a day when it rains long and hard
- Don't brake too hard during aquaplaning, even if that might be your first impulse. Your wheels will lock with hard braking and you will lose control of your car.
- Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and ABS can never replace careful and sensible driving. These modern systems are tools to restore road holding faster in difficult situations, but they cannot prevent aquaplaning.