Skip to main content

Securely reserve vehicles and apply for finance online from the comfort of your own home. Find Out More

Aquaplaning: What It Is and How to Avoid It

07 October 2023

As drivers, we often encounter various challenges on the road, from traffic congestion to adverse weather conditions. One such weather-related hazard is aquaplaning, a term that can strike fear into even the most experienced motorists.

Picture this: you're driving down the motorway on a rainy day, and suddenly, you feel your car losing control. The steering wheel becomes unresponsive, and panic sets in. Chances are, you're experiencing aquaplaning.

Understanding what aquaplaning is and how to avoid it is crucial for every driver. In this blog post, we'll delve into the phenomenon of aquaplaning, its causes, and the essential tips to prevent it, ensuring you stay safe on wet roads.

What is Aquaplaning?

Aquaplaning, also known as hydroplaning, is a hazardous driving condition that occurs when a layer of water builds up between your vehicle's tyres and the road surface.

This water layer causes a loss of traction and control, essentially making your car "float" on the water instead of making proper contact with the road. The result is a loss of steering control and the ability to brake effectively.

Causes of Aquaplaning

Several factors contribute to aquaplaning, and understanding these causes is the first step in avoiding this perilous situation:

  1. Tyre Tread Depth: One of the primary factors is the condition of your tyres. Worn-out tyres with shallow tread depth are more prone to aquaplaning as they cannot effectively disperse water from under the tyres.

  2. Speed: Driving too fast in wet conditions significantly increases the risk of aquaplaning. The faster you go, the less time your tyres have to displace water and maintain traction.

  3. Water Depth: The depth of water on the road plays a crucial role. Aquaplaning is more likely to occur when there is a substantial layer of water, typically at least 1/10th of an inch (2.5 mm) deep.

  4. Tyre Pressure: Under-inflated tyres can deform more easily, reducing their ability to displace water effectively.

  5. Road Surface: The condition of the road surface, including its slope and drainage, can also influence the likelihood of aquaplaning.

What to Do If You Start Aquaplaning

Despite taking precautions, aquaplaning can still occur. If you find yourself in this situation, here's what to do:

  1. Stay Calm:
    Don't panic. Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel.

  2. Do Not Brake Suddenly:
    Avoid slamming on the brakes, as this can worsen the skid. Instead, ease off the accelerator.

  3. Steer Straight:
    Steer in the direction you want to go. Avoid making sudden or sharp turns.

  4. Wait for Traction:
    Be patient and wait for your tyres to regain contact with the road. This typically happens when you leave the puddle or standing water.

How to Avoid Aquaplaning

Now that we understand the causes, let's explore how to prevent aquaplaning and stay safe on wet roads:

  • Maintain Proper Tyre Tread Depth: Regularly check your tyres tread depth and replace them when they become worn. Adequate tread depth allows tyres to channel water away effectively. Not sure on the condition of your tyres? Get in touch with your local Startin Dealership today, where our friendly team will help check them over for you! 
  • Drive at a Safe Speed: Reduce your speed in wet conditions, especially during heavy rain. Slower driving gives your tyres more time to displace water and maintain contact with the road.
  • Keep Your Tyres Properly Inflated: Regularly check and maintain the recommended tyre pressure. Properly inflated tyres perform better in wet conditions.
  • Avoid Puddles and Standing Water: If possible, steer clear of large puddles and areas with standing water on the road. These areas are more likely to lead to aquaplaning.
  • Use Quality Tyres: Invest in high-quality tyres designed for wet weather conditions. These tyres often have specific tread patterns and compounds that enhance grip on wet surfaces.
  • Maintain a Safe Following Distance: Leave a greater distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you to allow for more reaction time if aquaplaning occurs.
  • Drive Smoothly: Avoid sudden acceleration, braking, or sharp steering manoeuvres in wet conditions. Smooth, gradual actions help maintain traction.
  • Use Your Vehicle's Safety Features: If your vehicle is equipped with anti-lock brakes (ABS) and stability control, rely on these systems to assist in maintaining control during aquaplaning.

Aquaplaning is a real and potentially dangerous threat on UK roads, especially during the wetter months. However, with proper tyre maintenance, driving at appropriate speeds, and following the tips outlined in this Startin guide, you can significantly reduce your risk of experiencing aquaplaning.

Remember that safety should always be your top priority when behind the wheel, regardless of the weather conditions.