What is Aquaplaning and How to Avoid It

Aquaplaning, also known as hydroplaning, occurs when a layer of water builds up between a motor vehicle’s tires and the road surface, causing the tires to lose contact with the road. This loss of traction can lead to a driver losing control of the vehicle, making it a significant hazard, especially during heavy rain. Common causes of aquaplaning include driving at high speeds on wet roads, worn-out tires, and improper tire inflation.

To avoid aquaplaning, drivers should reduce their speed during wet conditions and ensure their tires are in good condition with adequate tread depth. Maintaining proper tire pressure and avoiding sudden maneuvers can also help prevent loss of traction. Additionally, driving in the tracks left by the vehicles ahead can reduce the risk, as these areas are less likely to have standing water. Here’s a comprehensive guide on what aquaplaning is, its causes, and effective prevention strategies.

understanding aquaplaning and how to avoid when driving

What is Aquaplaning?

Aquaplaning occurs when a layer of water builds up between your vehicle’s tires and the road surface. This happens when water on the road cannot be displaced quickly enough by the tire tread, causing the tires to lose contact with the road. As a result, the vehicle loses traction, making it difficult to steer, brake, or accelerate.

The primary causes of aquaplaning include high driving speeds on wet roads, worn-out tires with insufficient tread depth, and improper tire inflation. Aquaplaning is particularly dangerous because it can lead to a complete loss of control over the vehicle. To minimize the risk, it’s crucial to drive slower in wet conditions, ensure your tires are well-maintained, and avoid sudden maneuvers.


Aquaplaning vs. Hydroplaning

Aquaplaning and hydroplaning are terms that are often used interchangeably to describe the same phenomenon. Both terms refer to the loss of traction that occurs when water on the road causes a vehicle’s tires to lose contact with the surface. Although ‘aquaplaning’ is the more commonly used term, both describe this hazardous situation.

This loss of traction due to water buildup makes it difficult to steer, brake, or accelerate effectively. Regardless of the term used, the danger remains the same, emphasizing the importance of cautious driving in wet conditions. Understanding both terms can help drivers recognize and address this serious risk.


Aquaplaning is primarily caused by excess water on the road, but several factors can increase the risk:

  • Tire Tread Depth: Tires with low tread depth cannot effectively channel water away, increasing the risk of losing grip.
  • Speed: Higher speeds reduce the tires’ ability to maintain contact with the road.
  • Water Depth: Deeper water on the road means a greater chance of the tires losing contact.
  • Tire Pressure: Incorrectly inflated tires, either under-inflated or over-inflated, can also increase the risk of aquaplaning.


Aquaplaning doesn’t happen suddenly. Having said that, it is possible to take precautions. However, in case you didn’t, you can also tell when your car is aquaplaning before it causes more trouble. Remember: Identifying when your car is aquaplaning can also help you react appropriately to avoid accidents. Some if the common signs of aquaplaning include:

  • Light Steering: The steering wheel feels unusually light or unresponsive.
  • Increased Engine Noise: The engine may rev higher as the tires lose grip.
  • Fishtailing: The back of the car may start to slide or drift.

What to Do

If you suspect your car is aquaplaning, it’s important to remain calm and to follow these steps:

Step 1. Ease Off the Accelerator

Gradually lift your foot off the accelerator.

Step 2. Avoid Sudden Braking

Do not slam on the brakes. Instead, follow the appropriate braking rules and brake gently once you regain some control.

Step 3. Grip the Steering Wheel Firmly

Keep your steering straight and avoid making sudden movements.

Preventing Aquaplaning

It is possible to prevent your car from aquaplaning. You may start with regular vehicle maintenance and by observing defensive driving practices:

1. Check Tire Tread Depth

Ensure your tires have adequate tread. The minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm, but it’s recommended to replace tires once the tread depth reaches 3mm.

2. Maintain Proper Tire Pressure

Check your tire pressure regularly, especially before long journeys and during cold weather.

3. Drive at Safe Speeds

Slow down in wet conditions. Reducing speed gives your tires more opportunity to maintain contact with the road.

4. Avoid Large Puddles

Steer clear of large pools of water when it’s safe to do so.

5. Plan Your Journey

Check weather conditions before setting out and be aware of any potential road hazards.

Safe Driving Practices in the Rain

To further ensure your safety when driving on wet roads, you may also consider the following road safety tips:

  • Increase stopping distances: Generally, it is advisable to follow the two- or three-second rule as a safe stopping distance. However, in case you are unsure about how well-maintained your tires are, it is best to leave a longer braking distance. After all, wet roads can easily double your stopping distance. Remember to adjust appropriately to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
  • Step on the brake gently: Abrupt braking can cause loss of control. Apply brakes smoothly and gradually.
  • Use your headlights: Make yourself visible to other drivers by keeping your headlights on in heavy rain.
  • Look as far ahead as possible: By looking far ahead, you can see and even anticipate any large puddles on the side of the road that may cause your car to aquaplane.

By understanding what aquaplaning is and taking proactive measures to prevent it, you can significantly reduce the risk of losing control on wet roads. Regular vehicle maintenance and cautious driving are key to staying safe, no matter the weather conditions.

Video: How to Prevent Aquaplaning and What To Do if It Happens

For more information on aquaplaning (or hydroplaning), the dangers it presents, and best practices to avoid or prevent it, check out this video from Eden Tyres and Servicing:


Aquaplaning or hydroplaning is a dangerous condition where a vehicle’s tires lose contact with the road surface due to a layer of water. It results in a loss of traction, making it difficult to steer, brake, or accelerate. To avoid the dangers brought about by aquaplaning, drivers should reduce their speed during wet conditions, maintain proper tire pressure, and ensure their tires have adequate tread depth. Stay informed, stay prepared, and drive safely to avoid the dangers of aquaplaning.

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