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Aquaplaning – the dangerous phenomenon that many drivers face: what it is and how you control it

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Where there is surface water there is always the risk of “aquaplaning”, which can cause you to lose control of the vehicle and put you in danger of being involved in a collision.

It is important for any driver to take some time to consider what aquaplaning is, how to act if it happens while driving, and what to do to prevent it from happening.

What is aquaplaning

Aquaplaning is a problem caused when a layer of water is allowed to accumulate between the tires of a vehicle and the surface of the road below.

At this point, the tires cannot get in the way and this causes a lack of traction, which means that the driver loses control and cannot turn, brake or accelerate.

It can be quite a scary experience and can easily cause an accident.

Some people know this as an alternative to hydroplaning – both words mean exactly the same thing.

What causes aquaplaning

This can be caused by heavy rainfall forming on the surface of a road or by ponds where there are holes or ditches on the road. The water must be at least 2.5 mm or 1/10 inch deep.

In addition, aquaplaning can be aggravated by two other factors – the condition of a vehicle’s tires and the speed at which the vehicle moves.

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It is said that good quality tires can clean the equivalent of a bucket of water on the road every seven seconds – which means that top tires can cope with a fairly good amount of water when driving in rainy conditions.

On the contrary, low-tread tires will have difficulty cleaning as much water as possible and could, in the wrong conditions, aggravate the problem and allow water to build up under the tires.

How do you know if your car is waterlogged?

When driving on a wet road it is possible:

  • You hear that your engine suddenly gets louder
  • You feel that you have dropped the clutch in steps while driving at high speed, which causes the speed to increase.
  • Feel the direction is getting “easy”
  • The back of the car slips from side to side – a phenomenon known as “fishtail”

How to control an aquaplaning vehicle

If your car starts to aquaplan, don’t panic – follow these tips to help you control an aquaplan vehicle:

  • Don’t brake hard
  • Slightly releases acceleration
  • Keep the steering wheel straight
  • Stop cruise mode if you have activated it
  • When the car starts to take control, you can start braking to slow down
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Once you realize that your car has started to aquaplan, it is important to stay calm. If you try to do something drastic – slow braking or sudden steering – you can cause the car to skid or slip into a collision.

Instead, it is important to keep the steering wheel straight and gradually get your foot off the accelerator. As you slow down, you should feel the wheels gain traction and you regain control. At this point, it is safe to make slow and steady movements of the steering wheel and use the brakes lightly.

If your car has a cruise control mode, then it’s a good idea to turn it off when driving in wet conditions. If the car is waterlogged and it is on, then you should stop as soon as you notice the four problems listed above, this should be done with the button and not with the brakes to avoid problems.

How to avoid aquaplaning

There are a number of things drivers can do to avoid aquaplaning – both in terms of driving technique and vehicle maintenance, key points include:

  • Check the condition of the tires
  • Don’t drive too fast
  • Avoid sudden actions
  • Be prepared

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