How Does Hydroplaning Occur?

Hydroplaning happens when there is more water on the road than the tire can evacuate from where the tread rubber meets the road. Tires on a vehicle driven on a wet road, can build up water at the leading edge of the tire, pushing water under the tire. If the tire tread can’t efficiently evacuate the water away, it will be forced between the tire and road, and may cause hydroplaning.

Tires are designed with grooves and sipes that assist in channeling water away from the contact patch; that is, the point where the tire meets the road. However, higher vehicle speeds, heavy rain, and advanced tire wear can all increase the likelihood of hydroplaning.

 

Goodyear tire driving through a wet surface over a plate glass to display water evaucation

When Does Hydroplaning Happen?

Hydroplaning most often happens during – and right after – heavy rains, when there are large puddles and other pools of water on the road surface. Though not due to hydroplaning, you should be aware that after a period of dry weather, even a light rain has the potential to affect wet traction. The various oils on the asphalt pavement may float on the wet road surface and may lead to reduced wet grip.

Higher speeds in wet weather makes hydroplaning more likely. As speed increases, tires are less capable of evacuating the water from the contact patch with the road. If it’s wet, slow down to help maintain proper control of your vehicle.

How Does My Tire Help Reduce the Chance of Hydroplaning?

Remember, the only thing on your car that touches the ground are your tires.

The tire tread depth is the greatest factor in minimizing the chances of hydroplaning. Deeper grooves on the tire give more room for water to be evacuated from the contact patch. As the tire wears, however, the grooves get shallower and the void volume decreases. As tires wear toward their minimum tread depth of 2/32”, they gradually lose the ability to resist hydroplaning. If you’re tire tread depth indicates it’s time for a replacement, find tires for your vehicle here.

Tires are designed with tread patterns that work to evacuate water away from the contact patch. The deep circumferential grooves help to channel the water, while the lateral grooves then evacuate the water out and away from the contact patch. Tires like the Goodyear Assurance® WeatherReady® help to sweep the water away, giving you excellent all-weather traction and confidence.

Close up view of water evacuating from the tire tread of the Goodyear Assurance WeatherReady tire

Over time, your tire wears, making the grooves shallower. In turn, this gives you less traction in wet conditions. Tires like the Assurance WeatherReady are engineered with Evolving Traction Grooves that transition from deep grooves to wider grooves as the tire wears, to continue to evacuate water from the contact patch through the life of the tire.

How to Minimize the Chance of Hydroplaning and Drive Safely on Wet Roads:

  • First, if it’s wet, turn on your headlights. The light will help you see deep puddles, as well as help others on the road see you. A good rule of thumb – if your windshield wipers are on, so should your headlights.
  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated, with sufficient tread depth. Underinflated tires will result in a contact patch shape that is not optimized and therefore wet traction may deteriorate.
  • Drive slower. Higher speed increases the chances of hydroplaning.
  • Avoid standing water if possible. If you can’t avoid a deep puddle, drive through it slowly.
  • Avoid sudden stops or hard braking. Sudden slowing can increase the chances of hydroplaning.
  • If on a multi-lane highway, avoid the outer lanes. Water tends to pool on those outer lanes of highways, increasing the risk of hydroplaning.
  • If following another car in traffic, try and stay in their tire tracks. That first car has already cleared the road of a good bit of water – it only makes sense to drive where the water isn’t.

If Hydroplaning Happens:

  • First, don’t panic.
  • Be smooth with every control of your vehicle – the gas pedal, the brake pedal, and the steering wheel. Don’t slam on the brakes, which could lead to a skid. Conversely, stepping on the gas can cause you to lose even more traction. Just ease up on the gas pedal to slow the vehicle’s speed.
  • Gradually steer the car in the direction you want to go – gently. Just a slight turn of the wheel can help you regain traction. Sudden, jerky movements, however, can lead to a further loss of control.

What to do Next:

If you’re not sure about whether your tires are up to the task of avoiding hydroplaning, schedule an appointment for a tire inspection at a Goodyear dealer near you, or alternatively, you could buy a new set today. Your Goodyear dealer can take a look at the tread wear on your current tires and help make recommendations to enhance your tire performance on the road ahead.