April Showers Bring....An Increased Risk of Hydroplaning?

Here in Brighton, Michigan we’re no strangers to dangerous driving conditions, so it’s important to make sure you take the necessary precautions when such conditions arrive. April brings with it a lot of heavy downpours; don’t underestimate the danger of driving in heavy rain! If you do, you are exposing not just your car, but also yourself, to a possible accident. Heavy storms limit your line of sight and reduce tire traction, causing your car to hydroplane. 

Hydroplaning is a scary situation to be in because you lose control behind the wheel. It occurs when your car’s tires lose contact with the road during wet or rainy conditions. Hydroplaning is one of the most dangerous driving conditions because you lose the ability to gain traction, and to steer and brake effectively. 

Did you know your tires play an important role in how you handle hydroplaning? As you drive down wet roads, your car’s tire treads are clearing water away from the road in order to maintain traction. However, if your car is traveling faster than the tires are able to remove the water, pressure will force water beneath the tires. This stops your car’s tires from being able to gain traction, and when your tires lose traction on the road your car is at an increased risk of hydroplaning.  
The risk of hydroplaning doesn’t mean you should never again drive in wet conditions, that’s a bit unrealistic after all. However, it does mean that you should know how to recognize potential dangers and act accordingly. Here are tips on how to be prepared for the rainy season: 

  1. Check your tires and wiper blades: Your tires are your vehicle’s first line of defense against hydroplaning so make sure they are properly inflated. Bring your car into AA Muffler & Brakes for a tire inspection; we’ll rotate your tires and replace any that are showing signs of tread wear.  Properly functioning windshield wipers are important during heavy rain as well, so replace your wiper blades if they are making noise or leaving streaks on windshield. 
  2. Pay attention to the roads. You can never know exactly where water has collected on roads during rainy weather, but there are some general safety precautions you should keep in mind. Try to stick to the inside lanes rather than the outside lanes; water drains to the outer lanes before it runs onto the shoulder.   Avoid standing puddles as driving through them only puts your vehicle at an unnecessary risk. 
  3. Be smart! When driving on wet roads, or in stormy conditions, drive slow. This will give your tires a better chance of removing the water from underneath them. You should also avoid sharp turns and hard stops as they are hard on your tires.  Remember: Drive slow; drive steady; drive safe.  

If you do find yourself hydroplaning, don’t panic! Try to relax, frantic adjustments to your car will only make the situation worse. 

  • Firmly grip your steering wheel with both hands.
  • Do NOT slam on your brakes or make any dramatic movements with your steering wheel. 
  • Aim the front of your car forward and calmly make small adjustments with the steering wheel to help keep your car moving in the right direction.
  • Slowly take your foot off of the gas pedal and let your car naturally slow down as you continue to calmly steer your car in the right direction.

Resist slamming on the brakes, it will only exacerbate the situation. However, if you are hydroplaning and are about to hit something, you may be forced to apply your brakes. How you do this depends the kind of car you have. 

  • Your car has regular brakes: pump your brakes regularly and lightly while continuing to steer your car in the direction you want to go. 
  • Your car as anti-lock brakes: apply regular, steady pressure to your brakes. Just try your best not to slam on your brakes. 

When in doubt, treat the situation the same way you would when you skid on ice. Like skidding on ice, hydroplaning is a scary situation to be in. You can handle it with a little extra precaution, some knowledge, and expert advice from your local auto service center. 

Call us today to bring your car in for a rotation and tread evaluation!