What Is Hydroplaning and How Can You Avoid It

What Is Hydroplaning and How Can You Avoid It

Hydroplaning is commonly used to refer to the skidding or sliding of a car’s tires across a wet surface. It occurs when the tires encounter more water than intended, and the water pressure in the front of the wheel pushes water under the tires, resulting in the separation of the tire from the road surface by a thin film of water. 

During hydroplaning, you lose the ability to steer, brake, and power control. Hydroplaning can happen on any wet surface; however, the first 10 minutes of light rain can be the most dangerous. When light rain mixes with oil residue on the road surface, it creates slippery conditions that can cause vehicles, especially those traveling speeds in excess of 35 mph, to hydroplane. This can be deadly for the driver and surrounding motorists. 


The chance of being involved in a motor vehicle accident is greater during poor weather conditions such as fog, rain, ice, and snow. However, most of the time, it’s not the heavy rain and blinding snow that is the most dangerous, but rather the slick condition that drivers aren’t prepared for. Behind the wheel, hydroplaning feels like the vehicle is floating or veering in a direction on its own. 

Sometimes not all four wheels are involved; however, there might be an increase in your speedometer and engine RPMs as your tires begin to spin. If the back wheels hydroplane, your car’s rear end will begin to veer sideways into a skid. If all four tires wheels hydroplane, the car will skid forward in a straight line. 

What To Do if You Hydroplane

The right response to getting out of a hydroplane skid is to immediately take your foot off the gas and wait it out. Do not try to brake or steer because it will cause your car to spin out of control. Most hydroplane-related skids last for just a second before your vehicle regains traction. If you do brake when you start to roll on water, ease up on the brake until it’s over. If you drive a manual transmission, disengage the clutch as well. Don’t slam on the brakes or yank the steering wheel since it could cause you to lose further control. It’s best to wait to break until you’re out of the skid. If you have to brake to avoid crashing and have anti-lock brakes, you can brake normally. If your vehicle doesn’t have ABS, pump the brakes lightly. Gently steer in the direction you want the vehicle to go. You may need to correct the car’s direction with very light steering wheel movement as few times as you’re regaining traction, but be careful not to oversteer. 

How To Avoid Hydroplaning

  • Allow more time to get where you’re going if it’s raining or it’s forecasted.
  • Turn on your headlights. You'll see better, and others can see you better, too.
  • Slow down when driving. If you drive 35 mph or slower, you’re less likely to hydroplane because your tires get more traction on wet pavement at lower speeds. Lowering your speeds will also give you enough time to react to sudden traffic slowdowns, standing water, disabled cars, and any debris that’s been blown into the road. 
  • Give yourself twice as much stopping distance between you and the vehicle ahead. 
  • Avoid using cruise control. It can cause your tires to spin faster if you start to hydroplane. Using cruise control could cause you to fishtail and lose steering control when tires regain traction. 
  • Try to drive in the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you. The cars have done some of the work of scattering water for you. 
  • Avoid hard braking, sudden acceleration, and sharp or quick turns.
  • Lane changes and passing are bad ideas when visibility is poor, and stopping distance is twice what you need on a dry road. 
  • Avoid puddles and standing water. Driving through several inches of water at high speed can cause you to hydroplane and could splash water into your engine and stall it. 

Most weather-related auto crashes occur on wet pavement and during rainfall. Maintaining your tires and driving with extra care when it rains can help you from hydroplaning and get you where you’re going safely. 

The experts at Jody’s Automotive can help protect your car and can quickly get you back on the road. Contact us today, or bring your car to us today for an oil change, new tires, suspension repairs, or other maintenance services.