Hydroplaning is not a pleasant experience, but it is a common one. If you find yourself hydroplaning, here are some steps to help you regain control of your vehicle.
The first and most important step according to TireBuyer.com is to not panic. This might sound hard, but a panicked response will make the situation worse when you need to be handling the vehicle calmly and efficiently to regain control and minimize any potential damage.
Turn off cruise control
According to USNews.com contributor Brian McHugh, cruise control misreads the buildup of water underneath the tires and believes the vehicle is naturally slowing down, so it will pump extra power to the wheels and try to downshift when you hydroplane. Turn it off immediately.
Avoid hitting the brakes
Adrienne Haney, contributor to WUSA9.com, advises against hitting the brakes because it could make the situation much worse. The front wheels will usually start hydroplaning before the rear wheels because they’re displacing the most water, which leads to a difference in traction between the front and back wheels. This difference will cause you to spin out of control if you hit the brakes, so it’s better to ease off the accelerator and gently apply the brakes only when necessary. McHugh warns that if your car is older and doesn’t have anti-lock brakes, you shouldn’t use your brakes at all.
Navigate toward a clear spot
Look ahead for a clear spot and try to direct your vehicle toward that space. According to McHugh, you need to turn the steering wheel in the direction that the car is sliding to straighten out. That means if the back of your car is sliding to the right, you need to turn the wheel to the right.
Be prepared: Once you turn the wheel, the back of your car will begin to swing in the opposite direction, and you’ll have to straighten it out again by matching the wheel’s direction to the car’s slide. The back of your car will likely swing back and forth a couple of times like a pendulum before you regain control, and you’ll need to compensate for each swing to eventually straighten out your vehicle.
It’s important to not overcompensate when trying to straighten out your vehicle, cautions TireBuyer.com, because you might lose control completely and spin out before you can even attempt to readjust the wheel. Keep each turn of the wheel proportionate to how far you’re sliding: Turn the wheel a little for a smaller slide, and more if your car’s is sliding further. It’s better to start with a smaller turn of the wheel and adjust it as you go compared to recovering from a spin out. Even when your wheels begin to regain traction, don’t accelerate or brake until you gain complete control because the sudden change in traction can be jarring to both you and the car.
Take a moment to breathe
Once you finally regain control from hydroplaning, feel free to pull over once it’s safe to do so and take a moment to calm your nerves. Assess the situation like you would for a collision: Did you hit anything? Is anyone hurt? Was there any damage to the car?
Hydroplaning is unfortunately common when driving on wet roads, but these steps will help you regain control of your vehicle faster and help mitigate potential damage.