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Old 4th October 2012, 13:46   #1
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Default Diesel on tarmac - unbelievably slippery!

I am still coming to terms with what happened this morning on my 11km commute to work.

About 2-3 km of my journey is in stop-go bumper to bumper traffic.

OK, so I am crawling (like the rest of the traffic) at around 5-10 kmph. I can see some sort of liquid spilt on the road in my lane. I assumed that it will be water from a water tanker because it was a steady stream with an occasionally larger pool where the tanker might have stopped. 6 car lengths ahead is a dilapidated truck carrying what looks like wheat/rice.

Moment of inattention at 5kmph, I am changing tracks on my stereo. I look up, see that the car ahead has stopped, and I hit the brakes. I am thinking - its OK, I have left enough gap to be able to stop. Then, ABS kicks in! My car manages to stop a few millimeters from the car in front. And I am thinking - "ABS? At 5kmph? Need to get my brakes checked. And pay attention man, stop fiddling with the stereo!"

And then it happens again. ABS kicks in at 5kmph. And again. Now, I am convinced that I am driving a car with defective brakes. So I start leaving extra gap from the car in front, drive very carefully, as there is no way I can pull over in this kind of traffic.

2km down the road, I am now directly behind the truck carrying wheat/rice. It seems to be dumping some sort of liquid onto the road from its engine bay. I can see it from my car. Traffic is flowing smoother now.

Now it strikes me. The truck is leaking diesel. LOTS of diesel. I move a lane to the left. An auto takes the space I just vacated. Traffic stops, and starts moving again. I can see the auto next to me hopelessly spinning its wheels on the diesel spill! The poor auto driver is just half-releasing the clutch in 1st gear and not even giving full throttle. And his tyres are in decent shape! I can see people in bikes and other cars wildly gesticulating and shouting at the truck driver.

I overtake the truck, move ahead, turn right into a relatively empty stretch of road leading to my office and slowly begin testing my brakes. Nothing wrong, they are just as they were from the past 2 years. I even took 2 rounds in my office on clean dry concrete testing my brakes. Nope, nothing wrong.

Lesson learnt. Diesel on tarmac is very slippery!

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Old 4th October 2012, 13:55   #2
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Default Re: Diesel on tarmac - unbelievably slippery!

Diesel is an oil and it would reduce the traction between the road and wheels. As I was reading, I thought you banged the car in front of you. Good to learn that nothing bad happened to any one. Most of us would mistake the diesel or any other fluid on the road for water as you did. The good thing is that, The traffic was slow and you had ABS in the car. So one more reason to buy a car having ABS - To counter diesel spillage on roads


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Old 4th October 2012, 14:19   #3
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Arrow Re: Diesel on tarmac - unbelievably slippery!

Thanks for sharing. One lesson learnt, if any fluid is spilt on the road, then drive very very carefully. Thankfully no one was hurt in this, but I believe after you overtook the truck there must have been at-least a few skidding incidents.

But doesn't diesel evaporate quickly like petrol? And didn't the truck driver pay attention to everyone?
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Old 4th October 2012, 14:40   #4
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Default Re: Diesel on tarmac - unbelievably slippery!

I've had a very bad experience riding my bike due to the same reason. This was around 2002, when I was returning home on my Suzuki Fiero after dropping mom at work. Those days, the Vashi toll naka used to be much ahead (towards Vashi) than it is today. As I entered one of the lanes to pass through, I felt my rear wheel going sideways and the bike tilting heavily to the left. Next moment, I knew it is too late to recover and I let go of the handlebar. As I hit the tarmac, I bruised my calf, elbow and rolled over a couple of times. My white T-shirt had turned black and I smelt a weird odour on me. The bike meanwhile kept skidding a good 10 ft, before hitting the rear tyres of a truck (that was paying toll) and then coming to a stop.

The toll naka employees ran to my rescue and helped me back on my feet. My elbow had meanwhile started bleeding. It was then that they realized there is diesel/oil on the track and they closed the track.

I'm very thankful that the accident occurred near the toll naka where my speed was relatively low and even vehicles behind me were quiet slow. If this spill had been somewhere on the highway, the results would be been quiet worse.

Cheers!
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Old 4th October 2012, 14:48   #5
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Red face Re: Diesel on tarmac - unbelievably slippery!

Quote:
Originally Posted by W.A.G.7 View Post
But doesn't diesel evaporate quickly like petrol?
No diesel does not evaporate as quickly as the petrol, hence the skidding effect is bound to be there for some time around the spill area till it gets dried off or is washed off with water. Diesel when spilled makes the bitumen dissolve and in turn causes the stones to be thrown about and voila you have a pothole in place.

@kiloapha - Did you manage to warn the truck driver so that the diesel spill could have been stopped to prevent any further skidding incident.
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Old 4th October 2012, 14:48   #6
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Default Re: Diesel on tarmac - unbelievably slippery!

Quote:
Originally Posted by KiloAlpha View Post
Lesson learnt. Diesel on tarmac is very slippery!
Any fuel spilt on tarmac will make it extremely slippery and here is the reason why.

Tarmac is an oil-based product; the binder is a heavy tar or bitumen and as such, it can be 'thinned' by the addition of a lighter oil, such as paraffin, petrol or even turpentine. Many automotive oils, such as petrol, diesel or even brake fluid, can 'dissolve' the binder of a tarmac and there's no way of 're-sticking' the aggregate back together. Further, the contaminating oil will seep and spread, degrading all the tarmac that it contacts.

Source: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Can_diesel..._or_a_pavement

Edit: Adding to what the article above says. If the thinned bitumen cannot sink into the ground, it will start floating onto the aggregate and this is what makes such a thing especially slippery.

Last edited by vikram_d : 4th October 2012 at 14:51.
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Old 4th October 2012, 14:53   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ghodlur
@kiloapha - Did you manage to warn the truck driver so that the diesel spill could have been stopped to prevent any further skidding incident.
I did not, because I saw a lot of other people already doing that.
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Old 4th October 2012, 23:24   #8
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Its horrific if your vehicle suddenly turns into a sled. Lack of traction, unresponsive/erratic brake and steering function renders the driver incapable of averting an accident.

In the worst case scenario, the driver is not conscious of such a tarmac and applies his standard sense of momentum(mass and velocity) to brake/steer the vehicle. What happens next is a no brainer.

What can adversely affect the traction without apparent indications to the driver?
1. Diesel/lubricating fluids: While Petrol is a solvent, Diesel is a lubricant. Diesel is not as vulnerable to sublimation as Petrol, therefore, stays on tarmac for a longer duration.
2. Aquaplaning: Film of water that forms between Tires and tarmac.
3. Black Ice: Transparent, invisible layer of ice that forms on the road in sub-zero temperatures.

ABS/EBD/Traction Control/Brembo brakes et cetera all combined, although helpful, do not guarantee full proofing of the vehicle control, on the other hand, distance between corresponding vehicles/curb determines the outcome.

Also in my opinion,
1. Steering away from such a trouble is better than trying to slow down by braking.
2. Staying in the right gear helps in countering the momentum more than friction braking.
3. A vehicle that has turned into sled, can be brought back into control by aggressive steering and throttle maneuvers, brakes should be used, sparingly at best.
4. Front wheel/All wheel drives are better equipped than Rear wheel drives to tackle such conditions.
5. Steering while braking only helps in a vehicle installed with ABS. A locked tire, if steered, may jeopardize the vehicle control.
6. Tire pressure determines the surface area in contact with tarmac and subsequently traction(inversely proportional).

There is a sense of understanding of the grip levels of a vehicle that only develop with experience. A vehicle traveling at a high speed suddenly approaches undulations(example: gravel stretch), the experienced driver stays conscious of the changed grip levels and uses controls wisely and patiently to slow/steer the vehicle. An inexperienced driver, recalls his standard braking distance while on a smooth tarmac and applies the same, turning the vehicle into sled.

Snow in Vancouver causes a lot more accidents than snow in Toronto, Vancouver populace not being used to snowing.
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