What aquaplaning is, how it is dangerous and how to fight it
Aquaplaning is an effect that many have heard of and some have even felt, but, nevertheless, it is often overlooked. Its potential danger is usually not only underestimated, but also aggravated – by non-observance of speed limits, untimely change of tires, improper actions in a dangerous situation… We shall find out what aquaplaning is, how it is dangerous and how to avoid it.
Aquaplaning is the loss of traction of a tire with the surface of the road due to a layer of water on its surface. As the word itself suggests, it is literally the effect of “planning over the surface of water” – it is also called a “water wedge”. As a rule, it occurs when a vehicle drives into a puddle or other accumulation of water at a speed too high for the current conditions. Complete loss of traction with road is the main danger: here it is even lower, than on ice, as there is no friction at all in the contact patch.
Excessive speed in this case is one of the main reasons, but it may be different depending on specific conditions, so we cannot say that any minimum (of road) speed is a universal way to avoid aquaplaning. However, in addition to speed, there are a number of other factors and causes that provoke this effect.
As mentioned above, the first and main factor is excessive speed. A normal car tire has drainage grooves designed to carry a certain amount of water out of the contact patch. When a car drives into a puddle at high speed, or simply on a very wet road, the tire may simply not physically be able to drain that much water. This will result in a water film between the tire and the road in the contact patch, and traction will be lost.
The thickness of the water film is the second logical factor. If the depth of the notorious puddle is great, no tire will be able to take away all this water from the contact patch. That is, at a certain speed and water film thickness, aquaplaning is simply inevitable, and the only way to affect it is to reduce speed in advance.
The residual depth of the tire tread is the third major factor influencing the potential risk of aquaplaning. The shallower the sipes and grooves that drain water, the less water they can drain. Worn tire, respectively, is much less effective in the fight for traction in the wet road than a new one – it should be taken into account when choosing a speed. In addition, some active drivers in the pursuit of maximum traction on dry roads install on their cars specialized sports rubber – so-called semi-slicks or even slicks, but do not always take into account that a smaller number of drainage channels means a lower suitability for driving on a wet surface. Therefore it is necessary to approach consciously both to a choice of rubber, and to its timely replacement.
Some other factors, which influence the possibility of appearance of this dangerous effect, are the pressure in a tire, technical condition of car’s suspension, its weight and condition of a road surface. The road is simple: the flatter and better the road, and the less bumps, bumps and bulges on it, the more even the water is distributed on it – and the higher the risk of aquaplaning. In addition, asphalt ruts filled with rain water pose a great danger: if you move “on a rolling path”, you can suddenly lose control.
Tire pressure also has an obvious effect on the minimum rate of aquaplaning: if there is insufficient pressure in the tire, then, on meeting a water obstacle, the tire will not effectively “cut” it, and will simply “squash”, leaving water in the contact patch. Therefore, underinflated tires increase the risk of aquaplaning and reduce the initial speed of its occurrence. The situation is similar with car’s suspension: defective shock absorbers, having insufficient elasticity and stiffness, further aggravate inability of the car to “cling” to the road surface – and thus, increase potential danger. Well, it’s even simpler with car weight: a light car has more chances to “float” at lower speeds than a heavy one.
The first and most obvious way to avoid this dangerous effect is to choose the right speed. The danger of aquaplaning is that its beginning cannot be predicted – unless you fly at a speed of well over 100 in a huge puddle: everything is clear there. Otherwise, the choice of optimal speed, which takes into account the amount of water on the road, the uniformity of the roadway, type and condition of the tire, the mass of the car and all other factors – the main guarantee of safety.
In addition to speed, you need to remember about the trajectory: the tires most effectively drain water when driving straight, and in a corner may be slightly less effective. Therefore, turns should be held slower than usual – not only that the wet road is slippery, so still a sudden puddle on the arc can dramatically change the current layout.
If you already feel that the car suddenly “floated”, the main thing is not to twist the wheel and do not hit the brakes. The water film under a wheel is not an icy road and not rolled snow, and habitual methods of struggle against drifting will not work here. If you turn the steering wheel at the moment of “surfacing”, as soon as the tire touches the road again, it will provoke a sharp jerk to the side – and the subsequent skid. Exactly the same applies to the wheels blocked with the brake pedal.
Based on the conditions described above, the best course of action in aquaplaning is to brake the engine without changing the position of the steering wheel. If the car “floated”, you need to release the gas and not make abrupt movements, waiting for the natural forces to return your grip and control over the car.
One more nuance: often aquaplaning occurs not on all wheels at once, but only on one or two: for example, if the car enters a puddle with one side. In this case it is doubly important to hold a rudder firmly and to keep calm: the sharply increased rolling resistance on the side, appeared in a puddle, may turn the car and even snatch a rudder from hands, and the sharp braking in this case may turn it to the other side – the one where there is no water, but there will be better grip with road. So the general scenario is the same: do not drive into wet areas at too high a speed and do not try to steer or brake sharply when one side of the car is “on the water”.
What is aquaplaning and how to avoid it?
How to avoid losing control of your car due to aquaplaning
Today, friends, we will consider with you such an interesting phenomenon that can happen to absolutely any car on the road, as aquaplaning. Let’s find out what this term means and, along with it, how this phenomenon can affect your car. And among other things we will learn what to do if the car started to aquaplan.
Unfortunately in most regions of our country we get a lot of different kinds of precipitation every year. Most of all this precipitation is in the form of rain, heavy showers and hail. The greatest danger for all motorists is of course rain, which leads to the formation of puddles on the roads.
Puddles are not only a threat to the car engine (water can cause e.g. engine water hammer), they can also cause aquaplaning.
Probably, some of you friends have a great experience of driving and have never faced with the car aquaplaning on the road. But that will not mean that aquaplaning is a very rare phenomenon on the roads and that this will never happen to your car.
Remember that anything can happen on the road, and moreover, unexpectedly. Even unlikely events. So, gentlemen, you have to be ready for anything. Including aquaplaning. And you need to know what to do in that case.
What aquaplaning is.
Aquaplaning, in spite of its complex name, is a word and a phenomenon quite simple to explain. It is a phenomenon where your car begins to lose traction due to a layer of water under the wheels. At the very moment when the tires of the car can no longer cope with a lot of water, the contact patch of the tires with the road surface begins to sharply narrow. Eventually, the car may completely lose traction with the road. This is called aquaplaning. In this case, of course, the car stops responding to steering, to braking and, in some cases, even to acceleration.
Why does this happen and why, even with new tires, can a vehicle sakaplan on the road? Let us remind our esteemed readers that every tire model has a special tread on its surface, which is designed to divert water when driving on wet and wet surfaces. This water drainage was specifically created by the creators of the tires in order to prevent the constant aquaplaning of the car on the road.
Thanks to this moisture-diverting tread, water literally begins to dissipate and disperse, drying out a certain section of the road surface under the wheel with which the tire interacts.
If this volume of water on the road is greater than the car’s tire tread can drain, an excess of water will form under the wheel. This buildup can cause the vehicle to lose traction, in which case aquaplaning will occur, after which the vehicle can become completely out of control.
This is why it is so important to keep an eye on the condition of your tires. Especially the depth of the tread. After all, the condition of the rubber depends on your safety, as well as the safety of passengers and other road users.
You must remember, my friends, that new or worn normal tires can remove enough water to avoid (in most cases) aquaplaning. True, this only applies to new or slightly worn tires. Thus, according to experts, a new summer tire can drain (remove) a standard bucket of water from the road surface in just 7 seconds. True, this speed of removal of water is achieved at the maximum speed of rotation of the wheel, which is provided by the manufacturer of the tires.
If the tire tread is not deep enough (it’s worn), excess water begins to form under the wheels during rain. Water can accumulate under the tires and reach a critical point where the tire contact patch narrows to a dangerous size or disappears altogether. As a result, a water cushion can form under the tires, which will lift the wheels above the road surface and the car will begin to aquaplan, all because the tires will completely lose contact with the road
Typically, and as it has been found, the front wheels are most susceptible to aquaplaning because the rear tires are already interacting with the drier asphalt after the front tires have drained away the water. This means that in aquaplaning, the car can lose control altogether. Including in aquaplaning, the effectiveness of the braking system can be significantly lost because the front wheels will not be able to stop the car properly in aquaplaning.
Also with aquaplaning on front-wheel drive cars, the accelerator pedal will not help to get the car out of the uncontrollable state, since the front wheels where the torque is transmitted will not be able to accelerate the car due to lack of contact with the road surface
Rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive cars can also lose traction and steerability. For example, at the moment when all four wheels lose contact with the road surface due to the water cushion that may form under the wheels.
What should you do if aquaplaning occurs?
So, imagine this. You are driving along the road, you see a big puddle ahead and without slowing down, you drive into the water. At that moment, let’s assume that your car starts to aquaplan. How do you know if your car has lost contact with the road surface and starts aquaplaning? For those who are unfamiliar with this and have never been in aquaplaning in the first seconds it will be hard to understand what happened to the car, but nevertheless, even a beginner will understand after a few seconds that the car began to aquaplan. True, it is desirable to understand it at once, as it will depend on whether you can get the car out of aquaplaning.
So how to recognize in the first second that your car began to aquaplan? First, aquaplaning usually causes the engine speed to increase dramatically (due to the reduced resistance needed to spin the wheels). Second, the steering wheel becomes lighter (again, due to the reduced effort required to turn the wheels).
What to do in this situation?
As with many dangerous situations, the worst thing you can do behind the wheel is panic. For example, when aquaplaning, the most common mistake drivers make is to take inappropriate actions. For example, braking or trying to jerk the steering wheel sharply in order to get the car back on track.
But remember that usually the car starts to aquaplan because the front wheels have lost contact with the road surface, so braking or steering will be ineffective to regain control of the car.
Here’s what you should do when aquaplaning:
– If you’re using cruise control, turn it off at the first sign of aquaplaning
– Do not press the brake pedal, as this could cause the car to skid.
– Slowly and slowly release the accelerator pedal. Since the brakes and steering won’t help in aquaplaning, there is nothing you can do but lower the engine speed by gently releasing the gas pedal so that the car begins to slow down naturally. Also, you should never press the accelerator pedal while aquaplaning, adding engine speed, as this will only aggravate aquaplaning and possibly lead to a skid
– As the car’s speed decreases, carefully check whether the steering wheel has become heavier (stiffer). If so, gently and slowly begin to brake by depressing the brake pedal. If the steering wheel is much lighter than normal, do not turn it and start braking, because this means that the wheels of the car do not yet have the necessary contact patch with the road surface
– Remember that only a smooth and consistent action behind the wheel will help you regain control of your car after aquaplaning
– Unfortunately the actions described above are only possible if you are driving at a low speed and you have time to slowly and smoothly regain control of the car. But most often aquaplaning occurs at high speed and at the most inopportune moment. For example, before a turn. In this case, you will have to try to stop the car by smoothly pressing the brake pedal and correcting the movement of the car with the steering wheel (if of course it will be possible).
But even in this case, you have to pull yourself together and not panic. That is in no case do not make any sudden movements of the steering wheel and do not press sharply the brake pedal. All movements should be smooth and slow.
How to avoid aquaplaning the car?
When your car starts to aquaplan, in most cases you actually turn from a driver into a passenger, because you are no longer literally in control of the car. So the best course of action is to prevent aquaplaning.
There are a few golden rules that you should follow to reduce the risk of aquaplaning your car while driving.
First, always consider road conditions. If you see a large puddle on the road, for example, or it’s pouring heavily, be sure to reduce your vehicle’s speed. During rain you should also avoid driving on flooded areas of the road. Especially on deep ruts, where a lot of water usually accumulates.
By slowing down, you give your car’s tires more room to drain and maintain their contact patch. Remember, the slower your car is going, the less excess water accumulates under the wheels. So by reducing speed, you’re essentially increasing the tire’s contact patch with the road.
Of course, to avoid aquaplaning you must also keep an eye on the condition of your tires. Worn or damaged tires are less effective at dispersing water from the road surface. Therefore, if the tire tread depth does not meet the established minimum standard, you should replace the tires with new ones, otherwise there is a huge risk of aquaplaning.
In addition, you should not drive on the road if the tire pressure does not meet the norm, which is usually set by the car manufacturer. Remember that underinflated tires cannot drain water from the road surface as effectively as possible.
In particular, we advise you in rain or in damp weather to go exactly on the traces of another car, whose wheels as a rule have already sufficiently drained the road surface. True, be careful in this case, because it is necessary to drive close enough behind the other car. But remember, if it is raining while driving, you will have to increase the distance to the other car, as the braking distance increases in heavy rain.