What to Do When You Hydroplane
When your vehicle hydroplanes, you feel out of control. Hydroplaning means that water separates the tires from the ground and causes it to lose traction. This scary experience can happen any time you drive on a road covered with water. Knowing what to do when your vehicle hydroplanes can help save your life. At the very least, it can help you avoid costly vehicle and property damage. While you should know how to handle the situation as it happens, you can also follow some strategies to help avoid hydroplaning altogether.
What Not to Do When You Hydroplane
Before covering what you should do when you hydroplane, let's talk about some of the things that you definitely should not do.
Do not panic. Panicking will only make it harder for you to think clearly and avoid danger.
Hit the Brakes
Resist the temptation to slam on your brakes. Slamming on your brakes will cause your vehicle to hydroplane more severely. Depending on the type of braking system that your vehicle has, slamming on your brakes could also cause a spinout, which puts you in even more danger.
Use Cruise Control
Don't rely on your cruise control in hard rain. Turn it off, and you are less likely to lose control.
What to Do When You Hydroplane
The specific strategy that you should use depends on where your drive wheels are. If you do not know whether you have a front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive vehicle, check with your local dealership. You could also check your vehicle owner's manual.
In a Front-Wheel Drive Vehicle
If you are in a front-wheel drive vehicle with traction control and an antilock brake system (ABS), then head for an open area either in the lane in front of you or on the side of the road. Do not swerve. The hydroplane should not last long, but you need a bit of distance to regain control of the vehicle. Push very lightly on the vehicle's accelerator as you steer towards the empty space. This will give your vehicle time to adjust to the new driving environment and give you greater control.
In a Rear-Wheel Drive Vehicle
If you hydroplane in a rear-wheel drive vehicle without traction control or ABS, then you need to use a slightly different approach. Again, look for an empty area that will give you some space to regain control of the vehicle. Steer in the direction of the empty area. Instead of applying pressure to the accelerator, slowly ease off it. You might not need to decelerate so much that the vehicle comes to a complete stop. Ideally, you will regain control before the vehicle stops. Prepare yourself for this possibility by staying focused. If you need to bring your vehicle to a complete stop, make sure you move to the side of the road and turn on your emergency flashers.
Preparing Your Vehicle for Rainy Weather
Just as you should know what to do when you hydroplane, you should also know how to take care of your vehicle so that it is less likely to lose traction in rainy driving conditions.
Check your tires' air pressure on a regular basis. Underinflated tires cause increased stopping distance and risk of hydroplaning. Your vehicle owner's manual should say what PSI your tires need. If you cannot find the recommended cold inflation pressure in the owner's manual, check your driver-side door jamb. The sticker containing this information may also be in your trunk or glove box.
Check the tires' treads regularly. If they have worn down, then you need to replace them. You should also check for uneven treadwear. Worn treads are one of the leading causes of hydroplaning. The experts at your local dealership can tell you whether your tires have enough tread left.