Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show


The other day we had rain, my wife put on the brake, and the car went sliding. She says she wasn’t driving fast and hit the brake several times.

I live in Las Vegas. It doesn’t rain often, but when it does the streets get slick fast because the accumulation of oil rarely gets washed off?

I don’t know if she lost control of the car because of the mixture of oil and water on the street, or was is something else. She drives a Honda CRV, and was going down a slight grade at the time. The brakes work fine when its dry.

Other than a slick street, could there be another problem with the brakes. Do some brakes quit working when its wet? Can water get into the rotors on old or faulty brakes preventing the car from stopping?


“…wasn’t driving very fast…”

“Fast” is relative. If you hit the brakes hard enough to stop where you want to but the car slides then it is too fast.

Anyway, if you hit the brakes and the car goes sliding then isn’t a problem with the brakes - its a loss of traction which makes it a problem of speed + road + tires + hardness of braking. What kind of shape are the tires in?

Doesn’t this car have ABS? And are you sure that she wasn’t just feeling the ABS kicking in? It feels and sounds really weird and can provide the sensation that the brakes are not working well even though they are doing what they are supposed to. If the weather is mostly dry, as you say, this might have just been her first experience with the ABS system.

If it was a case of the ABS kicking in, then it is best to just keep the brakes on full. You will stop sooner and with better control. It just feels wrong, but it is right.

If it was not the ABS, then it was likely a combination of the road conditions and maybe old tyres. Even with sufficient tread, tyres can get old and hard meaning less traction. The ozone and heat in LasVegas can help age the tyres. It may be time for new tyres.

What year CRV? Does it have ABS brakes? If it has ABS brakes your wife didn’t know how to use them effectively. With ABS brakes you hold the petal down hard and let the ABS brakes moan, groan, and you feel the breke petal pulsating under your foot. That noise and feel is normal and you should keep the pressure on the brake petal.

Some people feel it and hear it and think something is wrong with the car and let off the brake, wrong move. In snow country I find some slick roads and test my ABS brakes to make sure they engage and learn what the ABS feels like and sounds like. In Las Vegas it would be harder to find conditions for a suitable test.

My guess is she was driving too fast and didn’t anticipate the “greasy” roads. When the car got a bit squirrely she hit the brakes and either the ABS kicked in or the brakes locked up and she lost it.

Check the brake function. Check your tires, if one is underinflated or has low tread compared to the others such a skid out is entirely possible at pretty slow speeds.

find a dirt road and test the brakes yourself before you do anything else…

How Are The Tires ? Well Worn Tires Get Excellent Traction On Dry Pavement, But Poor Traction On Slick Wet Roads. Hydroplaning Can Result In Loss Of Control.

Based on provided information, it’s difficult to say whether or not there’s a problem with the car because of the unusually slick roads or whether or not there’s a brake problem or tire problem. The problem could be the roads and or the tires. Some tires don’t work as well on slippery surfaces and any worn out tires definitely don’t.

Worn down tires no longer have grooves in the tread deep enough to channel water so that the rubber can meet the road and the result is the tire being held off the pavement while hydroplaning on a film of water.

Where I live I can easily slide my cars (even with exellent tires) on ice and slush during the winter while the ABS brakes are perfectly doing their thing. It’s the tires that can’t cope with slick ice or hydroplaning on water, slush or snow.

Posted speeds are maximum speeds one should travel “when conditions permit”. Often people
need to reduce speed when conditions don’t permit travel at posted limits and if that doesn’t work sometimes one must slow even more, but many don’t. As you pointed out there were unusual circumstances the other day.

Can you tell by your wife’s account of the incident whether or not it’s a brake problem ?

How are those tires ?


We need more information. How much tread is left on your tires? How old are they? What brand and model are they? Do you see any type of fine cracking or other signs of aging?

I was in LA one afternoon on a surface street when a sun shower started. A car in front of me spun out. He couldn’t have been going faster than 35 MPH; probably more like 20-25 MP. I tried to stop and slid - into him. It’s a good thing my car was a rental. It certainly could be slick roads.

Summer tires along with the greasy roads are not a good combination, and I’d suspect that you’re using summer tires in that climate. Wear makes them even worse.

Yes, water can get into brake drums (you don;t say the year of your CRV, but you probably have drums in the rear) and cause them not to work. The water can stay in the drum as a wet layer, held there by centrifugal force. Back when most cars had drums on all four wheels, we sometimes had to “dry” the brakes by dragging them while running after going through puddles.

I’ve had bad experiences with bald or under-inflated tires. Bald ones will loose traction quickly on even moist roads if you are going over a certain speed. My deduction over time is that tread height allows water to pass, so less tread means a lower speed is required to hydroplane. Under-inflated tires also seem to get ‘squirly’ at high speeds or on rough roads. They get even worse on wet roads. They can actually cause you to sway side to side which helps in breaking static friction with the road, which in turn leads to hydroplaning.

Check the condition of the tires.