Hydroplaning and the Role Tires Play

Many drivers have experienced hydroplaning; that feeling of loss of control that commonly occurs when water has built up on the road surface.

Hydroplaning occurs when the tires encounter more water than they can physically displace. This causes one or more tires to lose contact with the driving surface, resulting in the temporary loss of steering, acceleration, and braking control. This typically happens during and after heavy rain, when water has created pools and puddles on the road surfaces.

As your tires wear out, their ability to evacuate water from the contact patch is reduced. Tires with low to worn-out tread are more likely to lose traction and hydroplane in wet conditions than tires with more tread.

Manufacturers make tires that are specifically designed for wet-weather conditions and increased hydroplaning resistance. Directional, asymmetric, and tread patterns featuring deep circumferential grooves typically provide better hydroplaning resistance.

The main factors that can affect tire hydroplaning can include:
  • water depth
  • vehicle speed
  • vehicle weight
  • tire width
  • tread depth
  • tread design

A lighter vehicle with narrow tires and low tread depth will hydroplane at a much lower speed than a heavier vehicle with wide tires and deep tread. In the wrong conditions, hydroplaning can happen to any vehicle. The best way to avoid hydroplaning is to drive with caution and to make sure your tires have enough tread depth to evacuate water on the road surfaces.

Tips To Help Prevent Hydroplaning

  • Ensure that your tires are properly inflated
  • Maintain your tires regularly, particularly checking the tread depth
  • Drive cautiously, reducing speeds if needed, on wet surfaces and in rainy conditions
  • Try to avoid puddles and areas that tend to collect standing water
  • Avoid hard breaking or sudden stopping
  • In wet conditions, approach curves and turns with extreme caution, and maintain a slower speed than you would normally use in dry conditions

If you do hydroplane, try not to panic. Your instincts may tell you to accelerate or to slam on the brakes; it is best not to do either. Any sudden actions could cause the situation to become more dangerous. Additionally, it is best not to use your cruise control function while driving in wet conditions.