Dear Driving for Dollars,
I recently moved to an area where it rains a ton, and I find driving in it disconcerting. It never seems like my car is making good contact with the road like it does when the roads are dry.
Is my car hydroplaning? If so, what can I do to prevent it?
-- Jim F.
It's understandable how driving in the rain can make you feel uncomfortable when you are not accustomed to wet weather. It does "feel" different from driving on a dry road.
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Hydroplaning occurs when your tires don't have enough tread or tire pressure for the water to be dispersed and allow the rubber to keep contact with the road. You also can have momentary instances of hydroplaning when driving through standing water, such as a puddle or where water collects on the edge of a road.
To reduce your chances of hydroplaning, make sure your tires don't need to be replaced. Check the tread depth and inspect for signs of wear, such as flat spots or sidewall cracks.
If your tires are in good shape, make sure they are inflated to the correct tire pressure. Set a reminder to check the pressure monthly because tires naturally lose air over time. The correct tire pressure is listed in your owners manual or on a sticker on your driver's side doorjamb.
Reduce speed when driving on wet roads. The faster you drive, the harder it is for your tires to distribute the water and maintain contact with the road. Avoid making quick turns and braking hard, as these maneuvers only make it harder to maintain contact with the road.
If it turns out you need some new rubber for your car, read "How to choose new tires."