As winter fully sets in here in North Carolina we tend to get a variety of weather conditions that can make roads extremely dangerous. Everyone worries about snow because we see it so rarely, but wet roads can be just as dangerous as snowy roads. And on days of heavy rain one of the most terrifying words you can hear is hydroplaning. Hydroplaning specifically refers to a film of water that forms between the roadway and your tires that lifts the front wheels off the pavement and adversely affecting your ability to steer and brake. Hydroplaning is base on a number of variables, and speed is the most significant. However, vehicle weight, tire pressure, and water accumulation all play a part.
There are several things that you can use to help prevent hydroplaning. The most important is to slow down. Any speeds over 35 mph on wet roads increase your likelihood of hydroplaning. Keep your vehicle maintenance up-to-date. This includes checking your tread on your tires and ensuring they have over ¼ inch tread. Cold weather lowers the pressure inside your tires which makes you more susceptible to hydroplaning. Ensure your tires are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressures. Do not use cruise control during adverse conditions. Use proper route selection to avoid water on the roadway.
Hydroplaning results in understeer, which is where you have your wheels turned but the film of water under the tires causes a loss of traction. The vehicle will continue straight as if you have not even turned the wheel. If you realize you are hydroplaning, let off the accelerator. As your speed decreases your tires will pass through the film and gain contact with the road again. Ensure your wheels are pointed in the direction that you need to go. Avoid sudden and large movements of the wheel, gas pedal, and brakes due to the fact you don’t know when your tires will make contact.
Drive as slow as you need to when dealing with adverse road conditions. It is much better to arrive a bit late than to have an accident along the way.
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