Hydroplaning 101: How to Stay Safe This Spring

While April showers give way to May flowers, they also yield dangerous driving situations. As a driver in wet conditions, it’s important to acknowledge the risk of hydroplaning and how to remain safe this Spring. For that reason, we’ll walk you through the hydroplaning basics, how to handle a hydroplaning situation, and how to avoid the experience altogether with several tips.

What is Hydroplaning?

Hydroplaning, or aquaplaning, occurs when your tires lose contact with the road and begin skidding across a wet surface or standing water. In other terms, hydroplaning happens when your tires are unable to scatter the water you’re driving through/on which results in a loss of steering and braking.

The below diagram from Smart Motorist does an excellent job illustrating this definition.

What Causes it?

While there are many contributing factors, hydroplaning is most typically caused by a combination of speed (especially over 35mph) and wet driving conditions. While many drivers assume that hydroplaning can only occur when driving through larger puddles, the reality is that significantly less water is required to lose control. For example, it’s possible that your car could hydroplane on a damp road on the sunniest of days.

It’s also important to note that driving within the beginning of even the lightest rainstorm is considered one of the more dangerous driving conditions. During the first several minutes of rain, the water and oil left by other cars mix to create slippery road conditions and significantly increase your chance of hydroplaning.

In general, where there is any road moisture, it’s important to understand that the risk of hydroplaning is very real.

How to Handle

Knowing what to do if your car begins hydroplaning is essential to keeping yourself and other drivers around you safe. If you begin to skid, remain calm. While your first reaction will be to slam the brake to stop your car from skidding, this action could result in a spinout and complete loss of control.

After taking a breath, remove your foot from the gas and begin steering into the direction of your skid to realign your tires and regain control. At this point, wait until you feel your tires regain contact with the road before hitting the break or accelerating again. Depending on the severity of the skid, we may recommend pulling over to collect yourself before continuing.

How to Avoid

There are many ways to avoid and reduce your chances of hydroplaning this Spring. Below is a list of the most common.

1.) Reduce your speed/avoid sharp turns: Speed is one of the biggest contributors to hydroplaning. Lower your speed when driving in any wet condition, especially when turning, to decrease your risk of losing control. Don’t drive with cruise control on either as this is an extra step to deactivate if you find yourself skidding.

2.) Maintain your tires: Keep your tires inflated to their optimal psi and ensure you rotate them regularly for the best traction.

3.) Avoid outer lanes/ follow the leader: Avoid driving in outer lanes where water has been pushed off to and follow the tire tracks of the car in front of you to give your tires the best surface for increased traction.

For additional information and all the parts, you’ll need to remain safe this Spring, contact or visit the knowledgeable employees and technicians at Sanel NAPA today!

About Sanel NAPA

Since 1920, Sanel NAPA has been a leading auto parts, heavy-duty truck parts, and body shop supplies distributor with over 42 store locations throughout New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts. We deliver quality car parts, heavy-duty truck parts, automotive paint and body supplies, and tools and equipment that are durable, dependable, and long-lasting in order to provide our clientele with the best products and services possible. For more information, call (603) 225-4000 or click to find a store near you.


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