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Old 05-18-2009, 02:57 PM   #1
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good scare - hydroplaning

Today I had a good, long hydroplane in the Yukon. First time that I've ever experienced this - at least, to this extent. It hadn't been raining for a very long time - or for very hard. I was driving between 45-50 mph and all the sudden, I was sliding towards the ditch. Thankfully all was under control before a nose dive into the alligator infested ditch! I did a couple google searches and found a few discussions regarding how poorly the Yukon handles on wet roads.

This experience got me thinking about towing. Does towing a trailer effect hydroplaning? I'm wondering if the engagement of the trailer brakes would assist in such a situation --- or would the whole rig be *out of control*? Anyone have any experiences with this?

Laura
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Old 05-18-2009, 03:11 PM   #2
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good scare - hydroplaning

Greetings Laura!

While my GMC Suburban pre-dates your Yukon by several years, I had hydroplaning and directional stability issues from the factory. In my case there were two steps that resolved the situation.
  1. Locate an alignment shop that is accustomed to dealing with GM light trucks and sport utilities. I found one that would work with the truck until the settings were right on factory specification and not off by the allowable +/- amount. This made a tremendous difference in the directional stability and some very minor improvement in the hydroplaning issues.
  2. Careful tire selection. It seems like the GMC Suburban/Yukon is overly sensitive to tire selection. My worst hhydroplaning was with Firestone LT tires that it had from the factory. When I switched to M + S rated LT tires for the Suburban the hydroplaning issue disappeared and hasn't been back since. I have been utilizing Michelin tires since replacing the OEM Firestone tires.
Kevin
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Old 05-18-2009, 03:16 PM   #3
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Laura,
Glad to hear you were successful at avoiding a crash.My advice when towing in rain,reduce your speed,have good rubber on all wheels,if a skid does start while towing,lift off the gas,steer in the direction you want to go,don't touch the brake pedal unless a crash is near,only use the trailer brake if a jack-knife has already begun.
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Old 05-18-2009, 03:30 PM   #4
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Greetings Laura!

While my GMC Suburban pre-dates your Yukon by several years, I had hydroplaning and directional stability issues from the factory. In my case there were two steps that resolved the situation.
  1. Locate an alignment shop that is accustomed to dealing with GM light trucks and sport utilities. I found one that would work with the truck until the settings were right on factory specification and not off by the allowable +/- amount. This made a tremendous difference in the directional stability and some very minor improvement in the hydroplaning issues.
  2. Careful tire selection. It seems like the GMC Suburban/Yukon is overly sensitive to tire selection. My worst hhydroplaning was with Firestone LT tires that it had from the factory. When I switched to M + S rated LT tires for the Suburban the hydroplaning issue disappeared and hasn't been back since. I have been utilizing Michelin tires since replacing the OEM Firestone tires.
Kevin
Thanks Kevin --- I'll see what I can find. I believe there's a good alignment shop near me! I recall thinking the tires looked like the tread was worn but the GM shop that I took it to for a complete inspection (and a couple salesmen - not from the place I purchased it) all agreed that the tread was still good. Though one mentioned that the tire brand wasn't what he'd choose .... I'll check out new tires too. And the cash keeps flying.
Laura
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Old 05-18-2009, 04:50 PM   #5
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Oh, and I'm running Firestone Wildnerss LE's. Came with the truck...
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Old 05-18-2009, 04:55 PM   #6
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Quote:
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Today I had a good, long hydroplane in the Yukon. First time that I've ever experienced this - at least, to this extent. It hadn't been raining for a very long time - or for very hard.
Laura
I'd call that a BAD scare... and a really bad scare if I'd finished a venti non-fat latte about half an hour earlier

Glad you're ok - and yes your tow vehicle can be an anchor that keeps you straight - I blew a tire at speed while towing with my old Suburban - actually kinda boring when it could have been a rollover and Ms. Toad's Wild Ride!

Paula
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Old 05-18-2009, 05:13 PM   #7
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Been there, done that ...

Didn't like it at all. Early in a rainfall is a bad time. Oil, grease, and tire debris / dust are floated out of the "pores" of the road surface and can contribute to loss of control incidents. I "learned" about this in Motorcycle Safety Foundation classes and in flight training, but I got the most long-lasting lesson one day driving home from work.

Was driving a BMW with almost new high performance Michelin tires, etc. around a curve I'd driven literally thousands of times, and for certain hundreds of times in rain and snow both. But rain had JUST started maybe two minutes beofre I came into the curve at a prudent (and slower than usual) speed ... and I just glided sideways across three lanes of traffic, over a gentle curb, and stopped sideways motion (but not forward motion) about five inches from a concrete retaining wall. I had absolutely no control at all. Then traction resumed and off I went, scaring the bejabbers out of a bunch of commuters who probably thought I was drunk or crazy ... and increasing my pulse rate quite a bit. No damage done except to ego and pride.

So: watch those newly wetted road surfaces and slow down for sure at the onset of rain. After a downpour has cleansed the road surface a little, traction gets better.
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Old 05-18-2009, 05:20 PM   #8
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Laura,
I am glad to hear you made it through OK.

Yes It can be a bit hairy. I was coming home in my VW Jetta TDI with brand new tires and "floated" across a lane of traffic when I didn't want to . Luckily I never really lost control, it just looked like a lane change, though I never turned the wheel.

I hope I never experience it when I am towing.
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Old 05-18-2009, 05:23 PM   #9
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I've always thought that tire tread design had the most effect on hydroplaning...a design that sheds water efficiently and quickly would be the best for vehicles subject to hydroplaning areas of operation...

Of course the vehicle's axle width (tread), wheelbase, and gross vehicle weight would effect it's reaction to a flooded roadway situation, but the tire size and design would carry the brunt of the blame for a bad hydroplaning event...along with actual road speed, of course.

I've always used Mud + Snow tread designed tires for my road vehicles, and yet I've experienced some hydroplaning during a downpour on the Interstate...solution...SLOW DOWN if you find the roadway flooded!
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Old 05-18-2009, 07:23 PM   #10
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Oh, and I'm running Firestone Wildnerss LE's. Came with the truck...
The Wilderness LE is a soft, cushy tire. They are great for Granny to go to the hairdresser, but not so good for anything resembling performance and control. Many Michelin tires have good tread life, and good traction, but the sidewalls are not very stiff, creating potential sway issues when towing. A friend with a Yukon totalled a brand new Airstream due to sway, and his truck tires were the factory Michelins. I have Firestone Transforce HT tires on our Silverado, and have never felt a wiggle. Not necessarily a "buy these" endorsement, but they do work well for us.
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Old 05-18-2009, 08:04 PM   #11
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One other tip, never use the cruise control on a wet road.

Also when the rain first starts, the roads are the worst. The rain mixes with all of the oil that has accumulated on the road since the last rain and it can get very slippery. Where I live it can be several months between rain storms.
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Old 05-18-2009, 09:14 PM   #12
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You actually have two different scenarios going on here...hydroplaning and slick road surfaces. There is a difference, hydroplaning or lack of is in direct correlation to tire pressure, the higher the pressure the higher the speed it will take to hydroplane. Formula is: Speed (in knots) = 9 X the square root of the tire pressure (in psi.)

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Old 05-18-2009, 11:22 PM   #13
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Big fat tires also hydroplane more than skinnier tires.. the surface acts like a waterski on water... it just planes on top of the water surface. Tread design helps push that water away.. we did hydroplane once on the way to a rally, going 62, and hit a BIG puddle... right next to a semi... I found the whole rig slowly drift towards the semi.. when we got out of the groove where the water was collecting, and we regained control... that was enough to wet my pants, but noone in the van noticed.

Don't over steer, more steering won't make the situation better.. just lift off, and eventually you'll regain control.. hopefully straight ahead!

I run BFG Commercial T/A's.. M/S rated as well. Great tires. In the NW, you need to replace tires even before the wear bars show up to help with traction in the rain. The grooves just get get too shallow to work well.
Marc
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Old 05-19-2009, 06:24 PM   #14
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Gee guys - I thank you for all the information! I plan on looking for new tires next week. Until then, I'll take it much more slowly - as the weather appears to be wet for a few days.
Laura
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