Steps to Prevent My Car from Hydroplaning:

Winston-Salem, NC 5/8/2014

When your vehicle hydroplanes, you lose the ability to gain traction, steer effectively and brake. This makes hydroplaning one of the most dangerous driving conditions.

This begs the question, how do I prevent hydroplaning when driving? The key is to have a plan ahead of time and to prepare your vehicle to operate effectively in slippery conditions. Well before rainy conditions arrive, you should:

  • Check your tires and wiper blades. Your tires are your first line of defense against hydroplaning because they clear water away from the road, which allows you to maintain traction. Make sure your tires are ready for the task by ensuring they are properly inflated. Also go a step further and inspect your tires. Rotate or replace any tires that are showing significant tread wear.

    Finally, replace any wiper blades the make noises or leave streaks on your windshield. New wiper blades are much cheaper than repairing your car after an accident.
  • Know the roads. You may not know exactly where water has collected on the roads, but certain safety rules generally apply. You are safer driving in interior lanes as opposed to exterior lanes. This is because water drains to the outer lanes before it runs onto the shoulder. You should also avoid any standing puddles—going through them only exposes your vehicle to unnecessary risk.
  • Drive smart. Safe driving during wet conditions is as much about the outside weather as it is about how you handle your vehicle. When you head out on wet roads, slow down to give your tires a chance to scatter water.

Also avoid sharp turns or hard stops, which put a burden on your tires. Remember to turn off your cruise control for the entire trip, even if it is a long drive. This will prevent your vehicle from maintaining the desired speed, which is dangerous if your car hydroplanes.

So if you are forced to drive in heavy rains, how can you do ot as safely as possible? Here are five tips to keep in mind:
  • Take some extra precautions. This means slowing down and observing the three-second safe driving rule drivers need to abide no matter the conditions. (In case you need a refresher, the three-second rule says you should pick a landmark that the car in front of you just passed and count to three, making sure a full three seconds passes before you cross the same spot to ensure you are a safe distance from the car in front of you ). This is especially important when following large trucks and buses, since the water sprayed from their tires may hit your windshield and limit your vision.
  • Maintain your visibility. Turning your headlights on is an easy way to drive safely in heavy rain. Flip on your lights whenever a weather condition threatens your vision. This includes heavy rain as well as fog. If conditions are especially bad, consider turning on your four-way flashers.
  • Stick to paved surfaces. Driving off-road during wet conditions jeopardizes the traction your tires have on paved surfaces because mud and other debris can collect on them. You should also avoid traveling through puddles or open-water areas – their depth may surprise you.
  • Stay in your vehicle during lightning storms. If the weather outside has become too bad to continue driving or if your car breaks down during a thunderstorm, make sure you stay in your vehicle. Your car provides you with insulated protection against a nearby lighting strike. You won’t enjoy this protection standing out in the open.
  • Stay home if possible. Sometimes the simplest safety measure is the most effective. Unless you absolutely have to travel, stay in.
Lastly, what should you do if you start hydroplaning anyway?
 
The first thing to do is relax, as frantic movements will only make your situation worse. As you feel your car lose contact with the road, calmly but firmly grip the steering wheel with both hands. Don’t slam on the brakes or make dramatic motions with the steering wheel – these actions will jeopardize your control of the car.
Instead, aim the nose of your vehicle forward and calmly make slight adjustments with the steering wheel to keep your vehicle going in the right direction. Then take your foot off the gas and allow your car to slow down naturally as you continue to navigate. Resist the urge to slam on the brakes.
 
What if you are going to hit something?
If you’re heading toward another car, tree or median, then you may be forced to apply the brakes. How you should apply the brakes depends on the car you drive. If your car is equipped with regular brakes, pump them regularly and lightly as you continue to steer in the direction you want to go. If your car has anti-lock brakes, you should brake as normal by applying steady pressure to the brakes. Just try not to slam on the brakes. The process for braking when you’re hydroplaning is actually very similar to braking when you’re skidding on ice.
 
Hydroplaning is scary, but you truly can handle it with extra precaution and a little knowledge. Please contact our agency if you have further questions.
 
 
ISU Wilson Insurance - Our Knowledge is Your Best Assurance™. 
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