Topic: Hydroplaning
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Hydroplaning can occur to your sport utility vehicle when water on the roadway accumulates in front of your tires faster that the weight of your vehicle can push it out of the way. Your vehicle will actually ride up on top of the water, much like a water skier on top of a lake. In this very dangerous situation, your tires no longer have any contact with the road surface and you will no longer have control of your vehicle. This usually happens at higher speeds, over 40 miles per hour, while going through water standing on, or running across the roadway. The top photo shows an SUV driving fast through a large pond on the road. The danger of hydroplaning in this situation can be very high.

Let's examine the second photograph showing an SUV tire coming straight at you to understand a little more about what's going on with hydroplaning. Notice the water running across the road. The surface of tires (yellow line) must move that water out of the way in order for the tire to stay in contact with the pavement. The tire will squish the water out the sides (red arrows) and backwards within the tire treads. If you are moving slowly, this is not a problem. If you are moving fast, and if the water is deep enough, the water will not be moved out of the way fast enough and it will build up in front of the tire. At this point your entire SUV will float on top of the water (third photograph).

It is often hard to tell when you are hydroplaning. The rear end of your vehicle may feel a little squirrelly (loose, giving you the sensation that it has moved to one side or the other), especially in a high crosswind. The steering may also suddenly feel loose or little too easy. If you sense that your vehicle is hydroplaning, DO NOT HIT THE BRAKES - YOU WILL SKID OUT OF CONTROL. Take your foot off the gas and steer straight ahead until the vehicle slows to the point where the tires come back into contact with the pavement. The best defense against this problem is to reduce your speed significantly anytime there is standing water on, or water running across, the roadway. If it is raining very hard, you need to drive even slower to give your tires the time they need to move the large volumes of water out from in front of them. Note: even though you may driving in 4 wheel drive in your SUV, that won't help one bit once your vehicle tires lose contact with the roadway. Control of your vehicle depends entirely upon the action of your tires on the pavement. Try to imagine yourself in midair turning right or left, or hitting the brakes or gas pedal. It should be obvious that nothing is going to happen! Same results when in a hydroplaning situation.

Watch the road ahead for standing or running water. You can also pay attention to the spray being kicked up by the cars in front. If it suddenly increases (bottom photo), it is possible that the driver has hit a patch of water that could cause hydroplaning.

WARNING: SUV One cannot tell you at exactly what speed and water depth your particular vehicle will start to hydroplane. There are complicated formulas used by scientists to figure this out and they depend on vehicle weight, water depth, tire tread type, and even the density of the water among other things. Suffice it to say that your vehicle will hydroplane if you are going fast enough in deep enough water.
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