What is hydroplaning? | What factors increase the risk and how to avoid
May 18, 2023

Hydroplaning, also known as aquaplaning, is a dangerous phenomenon that occurs when a vehicle's tyres lose contact with the road due to a thin layer of water between the tyres and the pavement. This layer of water creates a barrier between the tyres and the road, reducing friction and making it difficult for the driver to maintain control of the vehicle. Hydroplaning can occur on any wet surface, but it is most common on highways, especially during heavy rain.

How Does Hydroplaning Occur?

Hydroplaning occurs when the water on the road is deeper than the tread depth of the tyres. As the vehicle moves forward, the water is forced into the grooves of the tyre tread. At a certain speed, the water pressure in the grooves exceeds the pressure of the tyre on the road, causing the tyre to lift off the road surface and ride on a cushion of water. This loss of traction makes it difficult for the driver to steer, brake or accelerate, and increases the risk of a serious accident.

Factors That Increase the Risk of Hydroplaning:

Several factors increase the risk, including:

  • Speed: Hydroplaning can occur at speeds as low as 30 miles per hour, but the risk increases as the speed increases. As the speed increases, it becomes more difficult for the tyres to channel water away from the tread, increasing the risk of aquaplaning.
  • Tyre Tread Depth: Tyres with shallow treads are more likely to hydroplane. As the tread wears down, the tyre's ability to channel water away from the tread decreases, increasing the risk of hydroplaning.
  • Tyre Inflation: Under-inflated tyres have a larger contact area with the road, which increases the risk of hydroplaning. Properly inflated tyres provide better traction on wet roads and reduce the risk of it happening.
  • Road Conditions: It is more likely to occur on roads with standing water, especially on roads with poor drainage. The risk also increases on roads with a high crown or on curved roads.
aquaplaning What Is Hydroplaning

How to Avoid Hydroplaning:

To reduce the risk of hydroplaning, drivers should:

  • Slow down: Reducing speed in wet conditions can help prevent hydroplaning. Slow down and drive at a safe speed that allows for adequate stopping distance.
  • Maintain tyre pressure: Properly inflated tyres can help prevent hydroplaning. Check the pressure regularly and ensure that tyres are inflated to the recommended pressure.
  • Replace worn tyres: Tyres with shallow treads are more likely to hydroplane. Replace when the tread depth reaches less than 2-3mm. Never go below the legal limit of 1.6mm
  • Avoid standing water: Try to avoid driving through standing water, especially if it is deeper than the tread depth of your tyres.
  • Steer and brake carefully: If you begin to hydroplane, do not panic. Gently steer in the direction you want to go and avoid slamming on the brakes. Harshly braking can cause the vehicle to skid.

Hydroplaning is a serious safety issue that can occur on any wet road surface. Drivers should be aware of the factors that increase the risk of hydroplaning and take steps to reduce the risk. Slowing down, maintaining tire pressure, and replacing worn tires can help prevent hydroplaning and keep drivers and passengers safe on wet roads.

Related Blogs