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How to deal with aquaplaning

Although it sounds like an extreme water sport, aquaplaning is a dangerous phenomenon which can occur on a very wet road


What is aquaplaning? Although it sounds like an extreme water sport, it is a very dangerous phenomenon which can occur on a very wet road.

Aquaplaning is a sudden loss of grip while driving on a wet surface. It occurs when there is too much water between the tyre and the road, causing the tyre to lose contact with the road surface.

Every driver should be aware of this danger as it leads to the momentary loss of the steering control over the vehicle. It generally occurs at higher speeds, such as on a motorway, but can occur at lower speeds as well if the road is wet enough and your tyres are lacking grip.

Dealing with aquaplaning

The period of aquaplaning lasts usually about two seconds. When it happens, remember to follow this simple advice:

  • Stay calm and don’t panic
  • Take your foot off the accelerator
  • Don’t brake or accelerate, just let the car coast for a few seconds
  • Hold the steering wheel firmly (don’t make any sudden movements)

Keep these simple rules in mind and you are bound to feel contact with the road again in a short moment.  If the tyres are not in contact with the road then you won’t have any steering control, so it’s important to keep the wheel still and wait for the tyres to regain their grip.

Preventing aquaplaning

Don’t wait for aquaplaning to occur and take precautions to minimise the risk. Here’s what you need to remember:

  • Always adjust your driving style to the weather and road conditions
  • Avoid puddles, wheel-ruts and holes on the road
  • Keep the correct tyre pressure (under or overinflated tyres can increase the risk of aquaplaning)
  • Make sure your tyre tread at least the legal minimum of 1.6 mm and preferably a lot more: the more tread your tyres have, the more grip you will get.

Timely tyre replacement

Reducing the risk of aquaplaning is a good reason not to prolong tyre replacement until the legal minimum of 1.6 mm tread depth is reached. Safety experts advise changing tyres when tread depth is less than 3.0 millimetres.

Generally speaking, the job of tread on a wet road is to push water aside from underneath the tyre. When the tread pattern is not deep enough, the risk of aquaplaning increases.

This article was originally published in May 2016. Last updated November 2021

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