Driving Tips: Avoid + Handle Hydroplaning

By: The Driving Team (&

At a recent Driving team meeting, during a safety check-in, a driver shared that he experienced a scary hydroplane situation in his car. In classic driving-team form, this turned into a robust conversation about the do’s and dont’s of driving to prevent hydroplaning and support a safe outcome if it happens to you:

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What is hydroplaning? Hydroplaning happens when a sheet of water wedges itself between the road and your tire, preventing the tire’s tread from properly gripping the road, which can lead to a loss of control, steering, and braking. While road conditions and tire health both increase the risk of hydroplaning, the main perpetrators are speed and water depth. Crash Forensics says that you’re at risk when moving above speeds above 45 MPH and when water depth on the road is at least 1/10th of an inch.

Unfortunately, we can’t stop our cars and break out the rulers, so the safe bet would be to treat all wet roads as potential hydroplaning hazard zones. And while it is possible to identify the factors above, the truth is that hydroplaning often strikes unexpectedly, creating a scary and hectic few moments for everyone involved—especially those who are unprepared or unaware of the indicating factors. Taking a few precautionary steps can help you avoid hydroplaning and handle it in an emergency.

Tips to Avoid Hydroplaning

  • Don’t use cruise control in the rain to stay more in tune with the conditions at hand.

  • Make sure your tires have adequate tread and are properly inflated; rotate tires and replace as needed. 

  • Avoid standing water and puddles.

  • Drive at a safe speed. The faster you drive, the harder it is for your tires to push water away.

  • Pay attention to the cars in front of you. The car in front of you can help you understand the condition of the road. If you see excessive amounts of water coming from their tires, they may be driving in a lane that’s holding excessive water. In this case, you may want to slow down or make a lane change. Always maintain a safe, proper distance.

  • Try to drive in tracks created by the vehicle(s) ahead of you.

If You End up Hydroplaning
Sometimes, even when you do take every possible precaution, you can still end up hydroplaning. If your vehicle does start to hydroplane, follow these steps:

  • Don’t panic or overreact—stay calm.

  • Don’t slam on the brakes.

  • Ease your foot off the accelerator and apply brakes gently if necessary to avoid further loss of control. In the case your vehicle does not have anti-lock brakes (check your manual), try to avoid braking altogether. If you must brake, “pump” the brake pedal gently.

  • Maintain a firm grip on the steering wheel and keep yourself pointed forward, or in the direction of the road, and be prepared to compensate when the tires regain control.

  • Be careful not to over-steer, as your momentum can throw you off course or into a spin.

  • Whether you have front-wheel or rear-wheel drive, you always want to maintain the course of the road. This may take a few turns of the steering wheel in either direction.

  • Take a deep breath and calm your nerves.

“Safety is all about information; most safety issues are a result of not knowing. Inform yourself as much as needed for any task you take on. This alone will reduce your safety hazards. Combine this with a cautionary mindset, and you can take on any task with a good outcome. - Josh, ReBuilding Center General Manager

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