It’s the rainy season here in Florida again, and I’m wondering if you can tell me what I should be doing tire-wise to keep myself safe on the road?
Soaked in Sulphur Springs
I’m familiar with the rainy season. All of the sudden in the late afternoon, the sky opens up, drops a couple of inches of rain on you in about 10 minutes, then the sun comes back out and everyone enjoys a free steam bath, right? I always hated getting stuck on the road when one of those storms hit. Driving in them isn’t easy! Here are a few things you should know about driving in the rain (tire specific and more):
- Keep up with your routine tire maintenance—tire pressure and tread depth. You can usually find the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle on the inside edge of the driver’s side door; if you don’t see it, check the owner’s manual. The number listed on the side of the tire is NOT the recommended tire pressure, but the maximum air pressure for the tire. Find your recommended pressure and go with that. If you need help checking the pressure, check out our blog all about how to do this.
- Check your tread depth. Everybody’s got a penny stashed somewhere in their car or at the bottom of their purse. Find it. Then, slip that little sucker between the treads on your tire, head down. If you can see Abe’s head, then you need new tires. Tread depth is an important factor to staying safe in the rain; proper tread depth can help prevent skids and hydroplaning.
- Slow down! When you drive slowly, more of the tire’s tread touches the road and this leads to better traction.
- Know how to deal with skids. As rain falls, muck and oil already on the road mix together and make the road slick—and perfect for skidding! If you feel your car start to skid, don’t panic! Stay calm, apply firm, steady pressure to the brakes, and steer in the direction of the skid. Don’t slam on the brakes (that goes along with ‘Don’t panic!’), and if you have anti-lock brakes, don’t pump them. Firm and steady is the way to go in a skid. *Note: The first half-hour after rain begins (when the dry dirt and oil are mixing together with the rain) is the most slippery, so use extra caution then.
- Keep your distance. It takes three times longer to break in wet conditions than in dry conditions.
- Learn how to avoid and deal with hydroplaning. Avoiding is the first thing you should do because no one wants to hydroplane. When your car hydroplanes, the water in front of your tires builds up faster than the weight of your car can displace it. The water pressure makes your car rise up and slide along on a thin layer of water between your tires and the road. Did you hear that part? There’s a layer of water between your wheels and the road; as in, your tires aren’t touching the road. That’s a problem. You could be completely out of contact with the road, and at that point, who knows what could happen. You could cross the center line into another lane, skid, or fly right off the road. You don’t want to deal with any of these things. If you want to avoid hydroplaning, then check your tire pressure and tread depth, slow down, avoid puddles and drive in the tracks of the car in front of you. If you find yourself hydroplaning, don’t slam on the brakes or make sudden turns. Gently ease your foot off of the accelerator until you feel the car slow down and make contact with the road again. If you need to brake, then lightly pump the brakes, or if your car has ABS brakes, brake normally and your brakes should automatically take care of the pumping action.
- If the rain becomes too bad and the edges of the road are blurred or you can’t clearly make out the car in front of you, pull over off the road, preferably into a rest stop or parking lot. If there’s no protected area available, pull as far off of the road as possible. Always leave your headlights and hazards on when you’re stopped on the side of the road so that other motorists know you’re there.
The long and short of staying safe in the rain is this: Make sure your tires are properly inflated and in good shape, and use your common sense. If you’re not sure about the condition of your tires, run on by your nearest RNR store and let us check them out for you! If you need new ones, you’ll already be in the right place.:) Be safe!