Virginia Auto Service

How to Avoid Hydroplaning- And What to Do When It Happens

The monsoons may have been late to start this year, but once they did they sure did not disappoint.

Only a few days ago Phoenix was hit by a massive storm which resulted in storm damage and flooding over much of the area. According to, the storms caused heavy street flooding, power outages and extensive flight delays at Sky Harbor International Airport. The Phoenix Zoo was even forced to close for a day following the intense storm in order to clean up the multiple trees that were downed, along with two tents that were destroyed. Thankfully no animals were injured in the storm.

These crazy weather conditions can bring on a road hazard that is dangerous for motorists- slick, water-filled roads that could result in hydroplaning.

How to Avoid Hydroplaning

What is Hydroplaning?

Hydroplaning is the term that is often used to refer to the sliding or skidding of the tires of the vehicle over a wet surface. It occurs when the tire encounters more water than it can scatter. There is water pressure in the front of the wheel that pushes water under the wheel separating it from the surface of the road. Essentially, your vehicle begins to ride on top of standing water instead of the surface of the road resulting in a loss of traction. Losing traction results in a loss of braking, steering, and power control.

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible for a vehicle to hydroplane when the road is only slightly damp. Even just a light rain can mix with the oil residue on the surface of the road creating slick conditions that can make vehicles, especially those going 35 mph or more, to hydroplane.  A scary, and potentially deadly, event for the driver and motorists in the surrounding area.

How to Prevent Hydroplaning

  1. Slow down. Like we said above, hydroplaning is more likely to occur at speeds of 35 mph or higher. The moment rain hits your windshield, slow your speed at least five to ten miles below the speed limit. In heavier rain and/or windy conditions you may want to lower your speed even more. Avoid sudden accelerations -such as passing other motorists- as sudden increases in speed increase the risk of hydroplaning.
  2. Keep your tires properly maintained. Tires have tread (grooves) that are designed to channel water from beneath the tire, creating greater friction with the road surface minimizing or even preventing instances of hydroplaning. When the tread is worn down you do not get as much traction and it can be very dangerous to drive on slick or bald tires. You should replace tires when needed and perform regular tire rotations. Also, keeping the tires properly inflated increases traction and can help prevent hydroplaning.
  3. Avoid driving in outer lanes where water collects. You’ve seen it, driving around during or after a storm there are some outer lanes where water seems to accrue, which can be dangerous. When possible, avoid driving in these lanes. If you can see the standing water, then it is very likely that your vehicle will hydroplane as it drives over it.
  4. Drive in the tracks left by the cars ahead of you. The cars ahead of you have started separating the water for you, increasing your traction and connectivity to the pavement.
  5. Turn off cruise control. You should never use cruise control while it is raining or when you are driving on wet roads. Should you begin to hydroplane with your vehicle in cruise control it will take longer for you to disable the function and start to regain control of your car.
  6. Avoid driving aggressively. Aggressive driving is never safe, however, in bad weather and on wet roads it becomes even more dangerous. Do not make any quick or sharp turns, avoid hard braking, and like we said above, do not speed or pass other motorists.

How to Recover from Hydroplaning

Unfortunately, there are times that hydroplaning will occur no matter how careful you are. These are the steps you can take to regain control if you should begin hydroplaning on a wet surface.

  1. Remove your foot from the accelerator immediately. You should never use your brakes in response to hydroplaning. Braking suddenly can result in your vehicle skidding completely out of control.
  2. Gently turn the steering wheel in the direction your vehicle is hydroplaning. It may seem contradictory, but doing so will realign your tires with the direction your vehicle is moving, helping you regain steering control.
  3. Wait for reconnection. It will be obvious to you when the vehicle is past the hydroplaning situation and has reconnected with the surface of the road.
  4. Pull over and breathe. Hydroplaning can be a scary event. Give yourself a minute to recover and collect yourself before continuing your journey.

Related Posts:

How to Stay Safe on the Road in a Dust Storm

How to Prepare Your Vehicle for the Monsoons

How to Get Your Car Unstuck from Mud

How to Check Your Car for Water Damage

14 Monsoon Road Safety Tips