How to Prevent Hydroplaning While Driving In Rainstorms
The average driver, the one daydreaming, or half asleep, or putting on makeup, or engrossed in NPR, will be taken by surprise when the car suddenly accelerates as it enters into a hydroplane. Yes that's right. It goes faster. And rather fast, mean rather suddenly.
When water settles on roadways, and you come barreling down the highway with limited visibility (hopefully your lights are on), in order for the tires of your vehicle to maintain contact with the road, the tires must displace the water. Like parting the red sea. This task is handled by the tire's treads, if they're not worn. If the treads on the tires are worn, the water will stay right where it is -- as a layer between the wheels of your car and the road. Not good.
When water becomes your new road, the vehicle will "hydroplane". Similar to water skiing but without an engine and a screaming child in the back seat. And that doesn't leave much traction for the tires. The lack of traction between the tires and the road decreases the amount of drag (or resistance) therefore the vehicle gains forward momentum.
Here's how that plays out. You're bee bopping down the road in the rain and hating your boss for making you drive into the office when you could have easily worked from home, and your tires loose contact with the road surface and you and your trusty vehicle go gliding across a sheet of water like an olympic figure skater. If you're lucky, the vehicle will continue moving in the same direction and with the front of the vehicle leading the way. If you're not so lucky, the back of your car will be leading the way.
If this ever happens to you, NEVER, NEVER, step on the brakes. Why? Because stepping on the brakes will prevent the tires from rolling. If the tires aren't rolling, but the vehicle is still moving, then there is no possibility of the tires regaining their traction. With hydroplaning, you have a big hunk of out of control useless mechanical energy parting the waters as it spins along the interstate at high speed. With you in it. Getting dizzy.
What you should do is remove your feet from the gas and the brake pedals. Hold the steering wheel firmly as your vehicle initially picks up speed. Your job at this point is to try and keep the vehicle heading in the same direction as before the hydroplaning began. You do this by turning the wheel ONLY if the car begins to turn first. You want to turn the wheel in the direction the back of the vehicle is moving. Basically, that translates into turning the wheel in the opposite direction of which the car wants to spin. Turn the wheel just enough to compensate for the vehicle wanting to spin/turn. This helps to keep the tires in line with the path of travel.
As the vehicle turns to the left, you turn the wheel to the right. Then as the vehicle changes direction and begins to turn to the right, you turn the wheel to the left. These movements will be large at first, but with each turn they should become smaller and smaller until the vehicle comes to a complete stop, or until the tires regain traction with the road surface.
If the vehicle stops completely before you regain control, you could be facing any direction. If you haven't collided with any other vehicles, calmly and quickly restart the engine if it stopped, and continue driving. Don"t sit there waiting for someone to come crashing into you. If you need to do so, drive your car to the side of the road to regain your composure but do it quickly.
If the vehicle doesn't stop, but instead you gain control, then just keep on going as though nothing happened.
on Nov 20, 2011 | 2006 Toyota MR2 Spyder