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Holding Icon How to Handle Aquaplaning

How to Handle Aquaplaning

SAS survival expert, John 'Lofty' Wiseman

Whether due to heavy rain or melting snow, aquaplaning occurs when water accumulates between a car's tyre and the surface of the road, causing the vehicle to lose grip.

When this occurs your steering will feel light due to the low friction - like you're driving on a sheet of ice. The consequence of this is reduced steering control and increased stopping distance.

Prevention is always better than a cure, so take the following steps to minimise the chances of aquaplaning.

  • Monitor Tyre Tread Depth
    Whether you drive a Ford or a Ferrari, the only thing keeping you in contact with the road is your tyres, so monitor tread depth - which helps expel water from beneath the wheel - and ensure they are correctly inflated.
  • Slow Down
    Drive in line with the road conditions by lowering your speed and allow greater distance between you and the car in front.
  • Be Smooth
    Be extra cautious through bends in the road by steering smoothly and avoiding sudden changes in direction as well as speed.
  • Following In Their Tracks
    If possible without getting too close, try to drive in the tyre tracks left by the car in front where water has already been removed from the road surface and there is more grip.
  • Heed The Signs
    Pay attention to road signs and heed any warnings. Also think about your surroundings - if driving downhill for example there is an increased risk that pools of water will have formed at the bottom.

If despite your best efforts you do aquaplane it is important to stay calm. Remember that it is not the initial stages of an incident that will cause or prevent a loss of control but what you do in response.

  • The first thing to do is take your foot off the accelerator and continue to steer your car smoothly in the direction of travel. Do this until you feel your tyres gain grip again.
  • DO NOT brake suddenly as this will make the situation worse.
  • If you have to brake, do so in gentle pumps. Make sure that you don't lock the wheels, which could throw your car into a skid (if your car has anti-lock brakes, then you can brake normally).
  • Keep the car as straight as possible, don't make any unnecessary turns.

Survival Tip

Consider renewing your tyres when they have 3mm of tread - which can decrease your stopping distance by an extra 8 metres in wet conditions compared to the legal minimum of 1.6mm.(Lofty)

Halfords Autocentres offer a free tyre check while you wait.

Winter Survival Guide

Download the complete guide

Winter Survival Guide cover


Amid falling temperatures and rising levels of concern among drivers, Halfords Autocentres has worked with renowned survival expert, former SAS Sergeant Major and author of the best-selling SAS Survival Handbook John 'Lofty' Wiseman to create the ultimate Motoring Survival Guide.

Download the complete guide or read on for more winter survival advice.