Today is Tuesday. You’re driving to work like any other Tuesday, except that today is slightly different. The sky appears very heavy and dark. That sulky grey, that becomes so concentrated in areas, that it looks like it’s complaining. It reminds you of that time you experimented with how much water you could fill into your mom’s old tweed suitcase before it began bursting out the sides.
Weather is a part of nature, and you would be ready for nature if you had bought new tires like Girlie Garage recommended during your least vehicle health check-up.
Now you’re cruising down Interstate 5 in the number 1 lane (furthest on the left) at a breezy 47 miles per hour. 47 miles per hour is quite fast in this inclement weather, as we all know that a single drop of rain in Southern California, causes immediate panic. Consequently, everyone drives like the rain may physically sting them every time it hits their windshield.
You have both hands on the steering wheel, daydreaming that you and your car are actually a cheetah on a sunny day (since cheetahs can run up to 80 miles per hour). You hear the loud splash of water being thrown into your wheel well, and your hands begin to float. You have no control as your tires have left the pavement, and are now being supported solely by a living, and moving element of water. This is called hydroplaning.
Your knuckles turn white from holding on to the steering wheel with your karate death grip. You’re not religious, but you say a prayer to the road gods that you’ll survive this strange moment of floating in a 2-ton machine. You’ve officially unlocked time travel as you can now count your heartbeats.
Instinctually your foot should let off the accelerator, and as your vehicle naturally slows, it should find grip again with the road. The tires winning their Mortal Kombat KO, match with the layer of water that lays across your path.
No matter what type of tread your tire has, whether it is designed for summer, winter, off-road,
or all-season, the tread in your tire is made to disperse water. When you don’t have any tread left because your tires are worn down to their wear bars, there is no longer enough tread to safely disband water. This means that the water wins, and your tire is no longer contacting the road.
Picture from tireamerica.com
A couple things to help against hydroplaning:
1. Maintain your tires (tread and tire pressure)
2. Follow in someone’s tire tracks ahead of you (take the driest path where they have already split the water)
3. Do not drive in the lanes on the edge of the road, as that is where the water pools. If you don’t have an option, most roads have a slight slant and you can drive to the opposite side of that.
Remember that if it’s hard for you to see, you should make yourself more visible to others by using your headlights. Do NOT use your high beams as the water reflects the light and will make it MORE DIFFICULT for you to see.
I hope that you’ve never experienced hydroplaning, but if you do, hopefully you'll land safely back on all 4 tires making contact with the road.
QUESTION: What to do when you hydroplane? How to handle when you hydroplane? What do you do if you hydroplane while driving? When you hydroplane, you should?
ANSWER: Let off the accelerator and keep the steering wheel as straight as possible. Do not make sudden adjustments and do not hit your brakes.
QUESTION: What does hydroplane feel like?
ANSWER: The tires are rotating but you have no control. It feels like a cross between floating and immense panic.
QUESTION: Can you hydroplane at any speed?
ANSWER: Yes, although it’s more likely at higher speeds generally because you have less reaction time. Generally, if you see a large puddle, you could potentially avoid it at slower speeds.
QUESTION: Why cars hydroplane?
ANSWER: Cars hydroplane when a layer of water separates the tire from contacting the pavement. This means the tire is no longer creating traction and you are sort of floating on top of the water.