Environment & Science

What to do if your car hydroplanes in the rain

State Farm via Flickr

While driving the freeway during El Niño's downpour, it might be difficult to recall what your driving instructor told you to do if your car hydroplanes. Luckily, the basics are pretty simple with a quick refresher.

A car hydroplanes when tires lose all contact with the road, and the car begins riding on water alone.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xEptwB5E24

If your car starts to hydroplane, here are the steps to take to regain control: 

1. Whatever you do, don't hit the brakes

A photo posted by Kat Simonelli (@katsimonelli9) on

Katie Orona, a manager at Varsity Driving Academy, said that the most important thing to remember is to not hit the brakes. 

"Most people want to hit the brake when they are hydroplaning, but don't do it," Orona said. "What happens is you end up sliding even faster, so it just accelerates you rather than having you slow down, because there is no traction connecting with the rubber of the tire." 

Hitting the break could result in your car skidding out of control. Orona said that making sure your tires are inflated correctly and aren't worn can help keep you safe while driving in the rain.

2. Turn your steering wheel

Driving-Tests.org says that once your car starts to hydroplane, it is important to take your foot off the accelerator and turn your steering wheel in the direction that your car is hydroplaning. This will allow your car to regain contact and traction with the pavement. 

3. Remain calm, and slow down

Losing control of your car can be frightening, but it's important to stay calm until you feel your car's wheels reconnect with the pavement. Once they do, to keep yourself from hydroplaning again, the California Driver Handbook says that slowing down is key. 

The handbook states that unless you can see up to 100 feet ahead of you, you should not drive faster than 35 miles per hour — important to keep in mind when rain reduces visibility. Reducing your speed in a storm can help keep you and surrounding drivers safe.

Other reminders from the California Driver Handbook include turning on your defroster, headlights and windshield wipers so that your view of the road is not obstructed.

The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that 47 percent of vehicle crashes happen during rain. Just look at this map of traffic on Tuesday morning:

https://twitter.com/ThomTranKNX/status/684462297780109313

Storms are expected to continue though the week.