Aquaplaning – What is it and How to Avoid it

Aquaplaning definition in terms of driving is when a sufficient amount of water is between the road surface and the vehicles tyres to prevent contact between the two.

Aquaplaning or ‘hydroplaning’ as it is also known can be extremely dangerous as a vehicle is unable to be controlled either by braking or by steering. If you are ever unfortunate enough to find yourself in a situation where your vehicle is aquaplaning, you will likely find it one of the most terrifying experiences whilst driving.

Depending on the severity of the situation, you may lose total control of the vehicle for a short period of time. Following the below tips should allow your vehicle to regain control in the shortest possible time.

Standing water

Most modern busy roads have cambers that are designed to aid in water drainage. A heavily used road or poorly constructed road may become damaged over time, which may affect the roads camber. During periods of rainfall, standing water or puddles may form in areas where the road camber is ineffective. A car hitting standing water at speed is likely to aquaplane. See road camber for a more detailed explanation of road cambers.

What is Aquaplaning Caused by?

The amount in which a vehicle aquaplanes is to do with it’s speed, weight, tyres and depth of water. The layer of water between the road surface and the tyres is dispersed by the tyre tread to allow contact between the road surface and the tyre tread. The condition of the tyres plays a significant part in whether control is totally or partially lost or whether the driver is able to keep full control of the vehicle throughout.

A well maintained tyre will have the correct pressure. Under or over inflated tyres will not spread the tyre tread evenly from the centre to the shoulders of the tyres, reducing their effectiveness for maintaining grip in wet weather and aquaplaning.

The effectiveness of how the tyre dispels water is also determined by the tyre tread depth. The legal tread depth of a tyre is 1.6 mm around the entire circumference of the tyre and a minimum of 3/4 of the breadth of the tyre. See tyre legal limit for further information on illegal tyres and tyre types. If you are driving a car with wide tyres, you could be more prone to aquaplaning as the entire weight of the car is distributed over a larger surface area. Narrower tyres will cut through the standing water faster.

Aquaplaning car
Aquaplaning car

How Do You Avoid Aquaplaning?

  1. Ensure all tyres are in good condition and have at least the minimum legal tread depth.
  2. The correct tyre pressure ensure the vehicle remains stable. Check the tyre pressure sticker for pressures on your vehicle.
  3. Drive slower in wet conditions, especially after a heavy downpour. The faster you travel, the less grip your tyres have.
  4. Look well ahead for standing water.
  5. If you are about to enter standing water, slow down in good time using engine braking rather than the brake pedal.

How To Control Aquaplaning?

Depending on the circumstances outlined above, during a severe case of aquaplaning there is virtually nothing that can be done to control a car. What is therefore important is to gain control in the shortest possible time. Providing the correct actions are taken, aquaplaning should last no more than 2 or 3 seconds or maybe less. Here’s what you should do if your car begins to aquaplane:

1. Aquaplaning steering

Hold the steering wheel in the direction that the vehicle is travelling. Do not be tempted to steer the car as when the car regains grip on the road surface this may lead to a violent change in direction and another skid as the wheels may be facing a different direction to which the car is travelling.

2. Aquaplaning speed

During any loss of control in a car, due to panic the natural reaction is to heavily apply the brakes. This is highly likely to make the loss of control even worse. Accelerating will have a similar effect. Ideally, you should let your car slow down naturally under its own weight, so simply remove your foot from the accelerator and do not apply any braking.

4 thoughts on “Aquaplaning – What is it and How to Avoid it”

  1. Seema

    This site has been very helpful for me .
    I am sitting for my theory test soon.
    Most of my doubts are cleared.
    Thank you.

  2. Thembi

    This page is very helpful, I have shared it many times,I gave me confidence , now I can book my test. Thank you to the owner of this page .

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