What is aquaplaning?

Aquaplaning is one of the biggest dangers drivers face and it can be a frightening experience to suddenly feel the steering go light and unresponsive.

Knowing what to do when aquaplaning is therefore important, and we have some top tips to help.

What is aquaplaning?

Motorists in the UK will be familiar with driving on wet roads. However, when driving on wet surfaces, there is a risk of aquaplaning.

Aquaplaning is a frightening experience whereby your tyres lose their grip on the road. When it happens, you can lose the ability to steer, brake or accelerate.

Apart from your windshield wipers running at top speed, there are clear warning signals when aquaplaning threatens, such as the loud noise of water striking the underfloor and the steering becoming increasingly spongy and feeling light.

What causes aquaplaning?

Aquaplaning is caused by the tyre being unable to clear water away from the tread fast enough so that a layer forms between it and the road surface, acting like a wedge.

This lifts the tyre off the road so the driver has no way of steering or braking, and the vehicle essentially becomes an unguided boat.

The risk of aquaplaning in wet conditions is affected by certain factors:

  • Tyre tread – If your tyres are worn and have low tread depth, they won’t be able to clear water from the road as effectively as they should. All tyres in the UK must legally have at least 1.6mm of tread depth. If you’re unsure whether your vehicle’s tyres are safe to drive on, book our Free Tyre Check here.
  • Don’t drive too fast – Aquaplaning is more likely to occur at higher speeds which is why it’s important to drive slower in wet conditions.
  • Water – The more water there is on the road surface, the greater the risk of aquaplaning. Try to avoid standing water wherever possible.

What to do if you aquaplane?

While it may be a scary experience, there are steps you can take if you find yourself aquaplaning:

  • Keep both hands on the steering wheel
  • Do not attempt to brake or steer as this can cause a skid
  • Take your foot off the accelerator and reduce your speed gradually but without braking
  • Leave a bigger gap to the vehicle in front
  • Depress the clutch or shift into neutral and wait for your speed to drop to a level at which the tyres have contact with the road again

This advice should provide you with a greater understanding of what aquaplaning is and what you should do if you find yourself aquaplaning.

For more motoring advice, head over to our help and advice guides. If you’re tread is low and you’re in need of new tyres, you can explore our full range of tyres here.