Aquaplaning, what is it and how to avoid scares on the road

These days, when the passage through Spain of the storm Filomena has affected us, some have gone viral videos of cars slipping on snow uncontrollably and colliding with other vehicles stopped or parked on the streets, without anyone being able to do anything other than wait for an obstacle to get in the way of those affected and to abruptly stop their slide. They are not very different images from those that have circulated on the networks on the occasion of another snowstorm or an episode of very abundant rains.

The worst of the storm that has covered a large part of Spain with snow has already passed, however the Meteorology Statal Agency (AEMET) has already warned that, now, the entrance from the northwest of the Atlantic anticyclone will spread over the Peninsula and will bring a sharp drop in temperatures. With this cold wave, widespread frosts will occur, which can form ice sheets on the roads and, beyond that date, thaw and rains can cause the phenomenon known as aquaplaning, which occurs when the wheels of a vehicle loses grip and stops contacting the asphalt due to the accumulation of a large amount of water on the road. In this situation, the driver loses control and cannot brake or turn. According to RACE, this layer of water that forms between the rubber and the tire surface “occurs because the pressure of the water pushes under the tire. So much water accumulates that the tire is unable to evacuate it ”.

Aquaplaning, what it is and how to avoid scares on the road (Photo Bigstock)

Keeping our tires in good condition will always help us to maintain control of the vehicle, but in situations such as those described, RACE recommends taking a series of extra precautions:

-Reduce speed: When driving at low speed, the tires are capable of hitting and cutting the accumulated water. In other words, «they are able to evacuate it correctly, keeping in contact with the road.» On the contrary, if we go at high speed, the water accumulates on the front of the tires and “ends up lifting the tires off the road surface”.

-Use tires with the correct tread and pressure: the design of the tread of the tire can help channel the water better or worse, since if it is worn and has lost depth “the evacuation will be less effective (the legal one is 1.6 mm, but the recommendation is that the depth be below above 2 mm) ”. When it comes to tire pressure, both overpressure and one below the manufacturer’s recommendation can be equally counterproductive. The RACE also considers that 4 × 4 vehicles may have a higher risk of hydroplaning than two-wheel drive vehicles; and that the weight of the vehicle also influences: “the lighter, the more risk”.

How to act

If you are suffering an episode of aquaplaning on a straight, from the Mapfre Foundation They recommend “keep calm and do nothing with the steering wheel, keep it still and release the accelerator gently. Once the car slows down, you can regain control. » When the car regains adherence to the road, you have to progressively position the wheels in the direction of the road and accelerate very smoothly.

If this happens to you in a curve, the procedure to follow is the same, except that instead of leaving the steering wheel still, the Foundation warns that “what you have to do is turn it just enough to trace the curve you are driving through. Don’t turn it more than necessary, at least until the car regains grip ”.

In any case, experts warn that it is very important not to apply the brakes in a hydroplaning situation, since, if we do, when the wheels regain grip they will be blocked and we will lose control of the vehicle.

Finally, do not forget to always carry a reflective vest, two warning triangles, boot clamps, chains in winter and even a blanket, in case you have to wait inside the car, or a first-aid kit with you in the car. Gloves are also very practical, in case you have to change a wheel or make a small repair. In this sense, it is important to carry a spare wheel with the correct pressure and the necessary tools to be able to change it, as well as a kit to fix possible punctures.