Torque shop

I had a frightening experience on the road last week. While driving at 60 to 70kmh in the rain and negotiating a long sweeping clockwise curve (not sharp), I suddenly felt the car drifting towards the kerb on the left.

My immediate reaction was to slow down and try to correct this by steering a little more to the right. I did not touch the brake pedal.

This was the frightening part.

It felt as if my steering wheel was completely detached from the tyres and the car did not respond to the steering at all.

Only after a few seconds did the car slow down and behave normally again.

What could be the problem? And what should I be aware of in order not to experience this again? Although my car tyres are not new, they have at least 50 per cent of their lifespan and, as far as I know, there is no fault with my steering or suspension.

You just survived the most dangerous of all the possible causes of accidents - aquaplaning, where a film of water separates your car's tyres from the road.

Once this phenomenon occurs, there is nothing you or even a professional race driver can do but pray the tyres regain contact with the road.

Several factors come into play to create aquaplaning, including the car's speed, road condition, tyre condition (tread depth, compound, age) and volume of water.

Only two factors are under your control - speed and tyre condition.

Speed, as you discovered, does not have to be very high for aquaplaning to occur. So, reduce your speed when it rains. The heavier the rain, the slower you should drive.

Your vehicle's tyres may be more worn than you think. Or they may not have been a very good set to begin with. Do yourself a favour and get a decent set of tyres.

Andre Lam

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2017, with the headline 'Torque Shop'. Print Edition | Subscribe