Who doesn’t know the situation: Torrential rain, the steering loses its grip and the engine suddenly revs up. A clean cut case: the water trap – called aquaplaning by the experts – has struck again. But there are several things you can do against the lack of grip.
In the case of aquaplaning, the tyre grooves capitulate – they just fail to conduct a sufficient quantity of the water masses drowning the streets. The result: a wedge of water forms between the tyres and the tarmac, lifts the tyre tread from the street surface and makes the car ‘swim’. Cross grooves in the tyre are worse then longitudinal groves when it comes to conducting the water – but they are just indispensable for the stability. Therefore, modern tyres and wide tyres in particular are provided with a mix of longitudinal and cross grooves, thus also ensuring optimum grip in wet conditions.
Those who want to reduce the risk of aquaplaning will have to deal with the tyre-tread topic. The more tread a tyre has got, the better it succeeds in conducting the water. While new tyres with a tread depth of about eight millimetres will start aquaplaning at 81 km/h, the same effect will start as early as at 70 km/h if the tread depth adds up to just four millimetres. And: Should your car’s shock absorbers be defective, the aquaplaning will start at a speed some 16 km/h lower than it would be the case with the dampers working fine.
So what can you do to avoid the water trap? First of all, you should opt for a foresighted and conservative way of driving in wet conditions: Keep your distance to the car ahead. Bumpy roads use to be typical aquaplaning traps. Be careful if the car ahead doesn’t leave a trace. This means that the water runs back into the track grooves within seconds. Often, the danger doesn’t become obvious until your engine starts revving up and your wheels spin as if running on ice.
How to react if your car starts aquaplaning? Keep your cool, take your foot from the throttle and operate the clutch. Make sure to keep the steering wheel in your driving direction and wait until the tyres regain contact with the tarmac. Electronic aids such as ABS (Antilock Brake System), ESC (Electronic Stability Control) or TSC (Traction Control) help the drivers to cope with difficult situations such as aquaplaning. They help to brake the car down in the case of wheel spin, reduce the engine performance and maintain the car’s tractability. However, you most definitely should not rely on ESC & Co alone, as even they haven’t got what it needs to overrule the principles of the physics.