What is the danger of aquaplaning
Aquaplaning is an effect that many have heard of, and some even felt, but which, nevertheless, often go unnoticed.
In this case, its potential danger is usually not only underestimated, but also exacerbated by non-compliance with the high-speed regime, untimely tire replacement, unsuitable actions in a dangerous situation … We find out what aquaplaning is, why it is dangerous, and how to avoid it.
What is aquaplaning?
Aquaplaning is the loss of tire adhesion to the surface of the roadway due to a layer of water on its surface. As the word implies, this is literally the effect of “planning on the surface of the water” – it is also called the “water wedge”. As a rule, it occurs when a car at too high a speed for current conditions enters a puddle or other accumulation of water. The main danger in this case is a complete loss of traction: here it is even lower than on ice, since there is no friction at all in the contact patch.
Excessive speed is one of the main reasons, but it can be different depending on specific conditions, therefore it cannot be said that some minimum (of the road) speed is a universal way to guarantee guaranteed avoidance of aquaplaning. However, in addition to speed, there are a number of other factors and reasons provoking this effect..
What factors increase the risk of aquapnulation?
As mentioned above, the first and main factor is excess speed. The tire of a conventional car has drainage grooves designed to divert a certain amount of water from the contact spot. When a car enters a puddle at high speed or simply on a very wet road, the tire may simply not be able to physically cope with the discharge of such an amount of water. As a result, a water film appears between the tire and the road in the contact patch, and traction disappears..
The thickness of the water film is the second logical factor. If the depth of the notorious puddle is great, then no tire can already divert all this water from the contact spot. That is, at a certain speed and thickness of the water film, the occurrence of aquaplaning is simply inevitable, and the only way to influence this is to reduce the speed in advance.
The residual tire tread depth is the third major factor affecting the potential risk of aquaplaning. The smaller the depth of the lamellas and grooves that divert water, the less this water they can divert. A worn-out tire, accordingly, is much less effective in the struggle for wet grip than a new one – this must be taken into account when choosing a speed. In addition, some active drivers, in pursuit of maximum grip on dry roads, install specialized sports tires on their cars – the so-called half-slicks or even slicks, but do not always take into account that a smaller number of drainage channels means less suitability for driving on wet surfaces. Therefore, you need to consciously approach both the choice of rubber, and its timely replacement.
A few more factors on which the possibility of manifestation of this dangerous effect depend – this is the tire pressure, the technical condition of the car’s suspension, its weight and the condition of the roadway. Everything is simple with the road: the smoother and better the road, and the less tubercles, irregularities and bulges on it, the more evenly the water is distributed over it – and the higher the risk of aquaplaning. In addition, asphalt tracks filled with rainwater pose a great danger: if you move “along the rolled path”, you can suddenly lose control.
The pressure in the tire also affects the minimum speed of aquaplaning: it is quite obvious that if the pressure in the tire is insufficient, then when it encounters a water barrier, the tire will not “cut” it effectively, but simply “rinse”, leaving water in the contact patch. Therefore, flat tires increase the risk of aquaplaning and reduce the initial rate of occurrence. A similar situation with the car’s suspension: faulty shock absorbers that do not have sufficient elasticity and stiffness further aggravate the car’s inability to “cling” to the roadway, which means they increase the potential danger. Well, with the mass of the car it’s still easier: a light car has more chances to “emerge” at a lower speed than a heavy one.
How to deal with aquaplaning?
The first and most obvious way to avoid this dangerous effect is to choose the right speed. The danger of aquaplaning is that its beginning cannot be predicted – unless you fly at speeds far beyond 100 into a huge puddle: everything is clear here. Otherwise, the choice of the optimal speed, taking into account the amount of water on the road, the uniformity of the roadway, the type and condition of tires, the mass of the car and all other factors is the main guarantee of safety.
In addition to speed, you need to remember the trajectory: the tires remove water as efficiently as possible in a uniform motion in a straight line, and can be slightly less effective in cornering. Therefore, turns should be slower than usual – not only is the wet road slippery, but also a sudden puddle on the arc can dramatically change the current alignment.
If you already feel that the car suddenly “swam”, then the main thing is not to turn the wheel and not hit the brakes. The water film under the wheel is not an icy road and snow is not rolled, and the usual methods of dealing with skidding will not work here. If you turn the steering wheel at the time of “ascent”, then as soon as the tire touches the road again, it will provoke a sharp jerk to the side – and the subsequent skid. Exactly the same applies to the pedal-locked wheels.
Based on the above conditions, the best scenario for aquaplaning is engine braking without changing the position of the steering wheel. If the car “floated”, you need to release the gas and not make sudden movements, waiting for the natural forces to return your grip and control over the car.
Another caveat: often aquaplaning does not occur on all wheels at once, but only on one or two: for example, if the car enters the puddle on one side. In this case, it is doubly important to hold the steering wheel firmly and keep calm: after all, a sharply increased rolling resistance on the side that is in the puddle can turn the car around and even pull the steering wheel out of the hands, and sharp braking in this case can turn it in the other direction – the one where there will be no water, but there will be better grip. Therefore, the general scenario is the same: do not drive into wet areas at too high a speed and do not try to steer or brake sharply when one of the sides of the car is “on the water”.
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