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Preface: I'm ok, no one was injured.

So on my way to work today, the weather was rainy. Near work, I got on the feeder road of I-35. Followed the curve to One Dell way... and then my steering wheel decided to stop working. It totally didn't respond to me at all. I kept trying to turn the wheel (yes yes, next time just follow direction of hydroplane and tap brakes repeatedly, heard this before but definitely wasn't going through my head at that moment) .. and finally, the car did a complete 360 and landed on the sidewalk. I didn't hit anyone... there was maybe one car behind me, who just sorta tiptoed by and turned into the Dell building. I got out, and looked. My car lost a hubcap. One rim was dented. I can hear air hissing out of a tire. A cop stopped by, and I didn't have a great impression of Round Rock cops, but he was extremely helpful. He called a towing company and even stopped traffic so I could cross the street. I took out my purse, dancing bag, and a bag that had wedding bubbles from my still full-of-stuff car, and I walked to work.

It took a while for the shock to settle in. But what really got me, wasn't the accident, or the damage to the car. It was that I lost complete control of it. Was it just normal hydroplaning? I was under the impression that hydroplaning would maybe take 1 or 2 seconds, not 3 or 4. Also, in the last 2 weeks, I noticed when I was first driving out from my parking spot and turned to the left, my wheel would act rather jerkily, but then it'll be okay for the rest of the drive. Has anyone else experienced this?

I'm worried that I've lost confidence in my car. Should I get a new car? If they check my steering system in the shop and pronounce it alright, should I trust them, and just go slower in the rain?

Sigh. I wish we had a subway system.

I'm glad I'm alright, my guardian angels were working extra hard today. I didn't hit anyone, and landed in a sidewalk not blocking the road, even if I was facing the wrong direction.

edit: I drive a 1998 Toyota Camry, my tires are 2 years or younger. And I was driving around 30ish mph, not sure. My car has about 140k miles on it.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 25th, 2006 09:54 pm (UTC)
Wow, I'm so glad you're alright. Losing control of your car is a scary thing. After my accident, it's on my mind all the time. I don't know what caused your car to act that way, but a mechanic should be able to explain things.
Oct. 25th, 2006 11:15 pm (UTC)

yeah. talk about scarrrrrry. Very scary, and even though mine didn't happen on I-35, it was still scary.

I feel lucky in some ways.
Oct. 25th, 2006 10:06 pm (UTC)
Unless your tires were bald, you should not be hydroplaning above 45 miles per hour. What make of car do you have?
Oct. 25th, 2006 10:08 pm (UTC)
I hydroplaned at < 20 a few years back and slid right through a red light.

It doesn't rain much here, and when it does, all kinds of oil and shit gets pulled out of the road. It may not have been "hydroplaning" in the literal sense, but it could have been a rain-induced oil slick. Fun!
Oct. 25th, 2006 10:11 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah, the oil slick. museofchaos is right, that could also explain it.
Oct. 25th, 2006 11:16 pm (UTC)
Toyota Camry, 1998. It has about 140k miles.
The tires were replaced about 2 years or less ago. And I was going maybe 30 mph.
Oct. 25th, 2006 10:06 pm (UTC)
How long have you had the car? More importantly, how long have you had the tires?
Oct. 25th, 2006 11:19 pm (UTC)
Toyota Camry, 1998. It has about 140k miles. I've had it for 5 years, this is the first time I've lost total control of the car.

The tires were replaced about 2 years or less ago. And I was going maybe 30 mph.

Should the wheels have felt so loose though? Like they weren't attached to the car??

How did it feel when you hydroplaned?
Oct. 25th, 2006 11:20 pm (UTC)
To clarify: Should the steering wheel felt so loose?
Oct. 26th, 2006 12:01 am (UTC)
Losing control of your car can an extremely scary experience. It's happened to me only a few times, and each time it freaked me the fuck out. One time I almost crapped my pants. I'm super glad to hear that you're okay, which is the most important thing.

Sounds like you should have gotten your tires checked a few weeks ago, when you first noticed that trouble. Getting your tires visibly checked is FREE of charge. I recommend Discount Tire. There's one on Burnet up north by your work too, by the McDonalds. Sure, their tires are cheap, but they get the job done. Also, for $12 you can insure the tire you bought, so if you ever need a replacement tire, it's 100% free. Then you could just pay $12 to insure the new tire. Cool, huh?

You should wait to hear about your car, though. If you need to put in a lot of money for maintenance, then I recommend not feeding the proverbial dead horse and buying a new car, which you may have to do sooner than later any way.

P.S. - buy an Aston Martin DB9!!!
Oct. 26th, 2006 12:13 am (UTC)
Man, that's a good point. I should've had my tires checked earlier.

*hugs* wish you were here.
Oct. 26th, 2006 03:31 am (UTC)
Not sure what you mean by loose, but I'm sure it felt strange because the steering wheel was not doing what you're used to it doing. I think I remember it feeling kinda loose though.

Make sure your alignment gets checked. And the wheels. There's a good chance one or more of them is bent.
Oct. 26th, 2006 12:07 am (UTC)
If you turn the wheel and nothing happens, you're slipping. Similarly, if you step on the brake and the speedometer goes down rapidly but the car doesn't slow down, you're sliding.

I've had the brake-doesn't-work happen, and it's weird. The length of time it happens for is determined by road conditions and driver action.

There's probably nothing wrong with your car or tires, though after 2 years you may have up to 40k miles on them based on the car's life and distance. 40k can wear down some tires significantly, especially if they're not rotated regularly. The front wear more than the back, and they're also what you need to steer.

Your mechanic can tell you what the tread depth is, though, and anything else that's wrong.

The nutshell is that no one reacts well to slipping the first time it happens, and usually never. There's not enough time usually to regain the presence of mind to do the right thing, and we don't get practice, sadly.

Oct. 26th, 2006 12:12 am (UTC)
yeah, i may just be freaking out.

Oct. 26th, 2006 01:47 am (UTC)
Something to have them check when your car's dented rim is being repaired is your power steering fluid. It unlikely has any bearing on today's incident, but the jerking of the wheel when the car is warming up is a potential symptom of low fluid. I had an old 84 jeep cherokee that I drove at the end of high school and through college (though it never came up to Ithaca with me, I just drove it when I was home) and it had a leak in the steering system, so I had to get it filled periodically, and when it was getting low, it would start to jerk a bit like that when it was warming up. Was my warning sign. We knew it was time to send the car to Salvation Army heaven when that finally seriously blew out (thankfully in the driveway just after starting the car. It was a musty old car with no air conditioning and a dead radio... but I remember it fondly...
Oct. 26th, 2006 05:40 am (UTC)
Low steering wheel fluid. I've got to get that checked then. Thank you.
Oct. 26th, 2006 01:03 pm (UTC)

GLad you're ok and that no one else was hurt. It is REALLY scary to lose control of a car. It happened to me once in Iowa (on some ice or slush that hadn't been cleared out yet after a big storm) and I never had the same confidence driving in cold weather again (which, of course, is why I then moved to Virginia--where they have the sense to cancel school and work whenever there is ice on the roads).

Hang in there, get your car checked, and get empowered on what to do if it ever happens again (all of which you seem to be doing) and let it be a lesson always to wear a seatbelt!
Oct. 26th, 2006 05:27 pm (UTC)
I'm glad to hear you're okay.

I would also say that you should do what you need to do to be confident in the car you drive. Ideally, the shop can identify and fix the problem with your car.
Oct. 26th, 2006 06:38 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you're okay! I had a minor spinout a few years back (oil and water on the road) and it freaked me out, too.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )


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