Aquaplaning Explained

According to some studies, aquaplaning is a contributory factor in around one in ten fatalities on the road around the world. What is it? What are its causes and what can you do to avoid aquaplaning in the first place? If the worst comes to the worst – and you detect yourself aquaplaning when behind the wheel – what should you do to overcome the problem and get back full control of your car? Read on to discover the latest advice on each of these important questions all motorists should have the answer to.

What is Aquaplaning?

Also known as hydroplaning, aquaplaning is a common problem for drivers which occur when a layer of water comes between a vehicle’s tyres and the road surface. In the case of a car, this usually means that the tread on the tyres is not able to shift adequate amounts of water out of the way so that they can reach the tarmac. Given the amount of rainfall that occurs in the UK each year, it is hardly surprising that aquaplaning causes so many accidents.
Essentially, if sufficient water is allowed to build up between the road surface and a car’s tyres, then the car is driving on a thin layer of water. Just like a skimming stone, the car cannot break the surface tension in the water at a sufficient rate to maintain grip. The problem means that drivers will be unable to control the car’s basic functions. Aquaplaning makes it impossible to steer, brake or accelerate properly and often means that drivers end up colliding with someone or something.

What Are the Main Causes of Aquaplaning?

If you drive in water that is 2.5 mm deep or more, then you may aquaplane. Water builds up to these sorts of levels if there is insufficient drainage on the road or if it has a flattened camber which provides insufficient runoff. Heavy rain can mean that even well-designed roads build up to this level of water which means aquaplaning is more likely when it is raining or shortly after a heavy downpour. Aquaplaning may also be caused by drivers using incorrectly fitting or bald tyres. In such cases, even a very thin film of water may be enough to cause aquaplaning to occur.

What Ways Can Drivers Avoid Aquaplaning In the First Place?

There are several methods for the avoidance of aquaplaning. These include:

  • Checking your car’s tyres. Car tyres which are under-inflated provide less grip than those which are properly pumped up. This means they will shift less water when you drive through it than they ought to. Equally, over-inflated tyres present less of the tyre’s edge to the road, thereby reducing the grip you get in watery conditions.
  • Avoiding large puddles. Standing water is a common cause of aquaplaning. Try driving around any that you might see on the road ahead by simply steering around it if it is safe to do so.
  • Confirm your tread depth. Tyres with worn down patches may be street legal, but they are not as good as cutting through water to the road’s surface as new ones. Take the time to check your tread depth regularly and don’t just leave it until your MOT.
  • Slow down. When you drive more slowly through water, your tyres are able to shift the fluid they come into contact with more easily. Basically, you put less demand on them and are less liable to aquaplane, as a result.
  • What Are the Tell Tale Signs That You Are Aquaplaning?

  • If your car suddenly revs very hard, then it may mean your drive wheels are spinning fast because they are no longer in contact with the tarmac – a sure sign you are aquaplaning.
  • If your car feels like you have dropped down a gear when you have not, then this is another indication that you have lost control because of water.
  • If your steering feels spongy, then this could mean you have gone into an aquaplane, too.
  • Finally, aquaplaning is indicated by your car’s back end swinging outwards or from it wiggling like a fishtail.

How Can You Deal With an Aquaplaning Car?

Although it is frightening to go into an aquaplane, the most important thing is not to panic or to make any heavy movements. Above all, you must avoid the temptation to hit your brakes hard as if you want to slow down. Remember, your car is effectively skidding on the water already so the brakes won’t operate as they would do if they had contact with the road.

In order to come out of an aquaplane you should ease off the accelerator pedal and hold the steering straight. As the car loses energy, it should slow and allow the tyres to do their job – clear enough water to give you road traction once more. Another good tip is to switch off cruise control if your car has that function.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *