Oil vs. rain on the roads

Published: Oct. 7, 2019 at 11:20 PM EDT
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Every day, oil accumulates on the roadways all across the world - including right here in West Virginia, but what happens when it does not rain?

"When it has not rained, then we have a tendency where vehicles might drip a little bit of oil onto the roadways, and it's not being washed off. So now we get a little bit of rain...and they can make the road just a little bit slick," said Jay McCarty of Dan's Car World in Bridgeport.

Sparing you the molecular details, water and oil do not mix. The oil sits on top of the water, and if there is not enough water to push it off the roadways, then the oil sits between your car's tires and the roadway.

Even if the rain is heavy and does wash off the oil, the heavy rain can lead to another issue.

Hydroplaning, is a common cause of car accidents in the rain. It is caused by the tires being unable to funnel out the water from beneath it.

"And what happens is that the tire actually climbs up on top of the water and you don't have traction on the road." Mr. McCarty explained to me on Monday evening. He also says the knowing whether your tires have good treads is essential to combating hydroplaning. "If there's more tread on the tire it will do better." Mr. McCarty said.

Here is a little trick to check if your tire treads are deep enough to be safely driving in the rain: Take a penny, and put in your treads. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, then your treads are too low and you will lose traction on the roadways when it's raining. So, it is best to get them replaced.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when it rains and you are caught driving in it, is to drive slowly.