Aquaplaning and how to avoid it

Aquaplaning and how to avoid it

In the UK it rains more than 150 days per year on average. Heavy rainfall will lead to surface water on the roads, which can directly lead to aquaplaning. This is why it’s such a big issue for Britain’s motorists. It therefore makes sense to educate yourself about aquaplaning so that you know exactly what causes it, as well as how you can prevent it from turning into a collision. Luckily we’re here to help with that, so read on and in five minutes you’ll be armed with all the knowledge you need about aquaplaning

What is aquaplaning?

Aquaplaning – also referred to occasionally as hydroplaning – is an issue that is caused when a layer of water builds up between your car’s tyres and the road surface. When this happens your tyres do not have the intended grip capabilities, which causes a loss of traction. When you lose traction at speed you cannot accelerate, brake or steer.

If you’ve ever been in a vehicle that has aquaplaned then you will understand just how frightening it can be. You’ll also understand the potential that it has to cause an accident.

What causes aquaplaning?

In order for aquaplaning to occur, surface water or pools of water in holes or ruts need to be present. This water needs to be at least 2.5mm deep. For this amount of water to build up there has to be either heavy rainfall, rainfall for a prolonged period or a flood of some description.

Aquaplaning can be worse if you’re travelling at high speed, or if your tyres are in poor condition. This is why many motoring organisations recommend replacing your tyres far before they reach the 1.6mm legal wear limit.

Car tyres are designed to remove water so that they can make contact with the road surfascde. A good quality tyre with decent tread will clear a 5 lite bucket of water every 7 seconds when driving along. Conversely a worn tyre with very little tread depth won’t be able to remove much water at all so the risk of aquaplaning is increased.

How can you tell if your car is aquaplaning?

Aquaplaning is one of those things that you usually ‘just know’ is happening. A good driver will almost instantly realise that they are not in full control of their vehicle when it happens. Here are some telltale signs if you have time to notice them:

  • Increase in engine revs
  • Lighter steering
  • Loss of control of the rear of the car

You can usually hear the engine noise when the revs increase, or you may notice it on your rev counter. The steering wheel will require less effort to move too. If the aquaplaning is severe then you’ll also feel the back end of the car coming around towards the front.

How to control a vehicle when it’s aquaplaning

If you suspect your car is starting to aquaplane on a wet surface, then try not to panic. Although easier said than done if you don’t panic you will be able to think more clearly and remember the following tips to rectify the situation.

  • Hold the steering wheel straight
  • Ease off the accelerator
  • Do not brake too hard

If you’re using your car’s cruise control then you’ll need to turn this off as soon as possible. Ideally by using the switch or button. The quickest way however is to brake. When doing so make sure you don’t brake hard. Gently ease your foot from the accelerator while holding the steering straight. When the car feels responsive again as the wheels gain traction you can brake harder to slow down if required.

Note: if your car has cruise control it’s advisable not to use it in conditions where aquaplaning is a risk. For example on a motorway when it’s raining and there’s lots of spray.

How to avoid aquaplaning

When the conditions allow it, aquaplaning is almost inevitable. However there are a few things that you can do to eliminate some of the conditions and therefore make aquaplaning less likely.

Ensuring your tyres are of good quality and have plenty of tread depth is the best way to avoid aquaplaning. This is because good tyres will be good at removing the water that sits on the road between the surface and your car’s tyres.

Slowing down in wet conditions will also reduce the risk of aquaplaning to the extent that you lose control of the vehicle. This is because a slower moving car grips the road better than a faster moving car.

Avoid sudden braking or accelerating at all times when driving, but even more so in wet conditions. By looking ahead and planning your router you will notice obstacles and hazards more easily, which will mean that you won’t have to react suddenly.

Just being prepared for the possibility of aquaplaning will go a long way to preventing it. Be aware that aquaplaning is a risk on wet roads. Keep your cruise control off in such conditions and adjust your driving speed accordingly.

Keeping your distance is also important at all times, but even more so when conditions are wet or slippery. A longer distance between yourself and the car in front will give you more time to react. It will also give you more space to rectify the situation if you find that your car is aquaplaning.

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Do bad tyres cause aquaplaning?

During wet conditions, tyres play a big part in aquaplaning. Worn tyres will be unable to dissipate water effectively which will make conditions more likely for aquaplaning to occur.

What to do if my car is aquaplaning?

The first thing to remember is not to panic. Hold the steering wheel straight, and ease off the accelerator. Do not brake too hard or make any sudden movements

How we reviewed this article:

Our experts continually monitor motor industry news & research, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

  • 6th November 2023
    Current Article - By Gary McKrill
  • 6th November 2023
    Copy Edited - By Gary McKrill
  • 4th January 2024
    Reviewed - By Gary McKrill

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