What To Do If Your Car Skids

Posted on by Defensive Driving Team | in Defensive Driving Tips

Feeling your car suddenly skid out of control on an icy road can be a terrifying experience. Unfortunately, most of our instinctive reactions to such a situation, like braking suddenly, turning the wheel in the opposite direction, or staring at the target we’re about to hit, are not only ineffective, but can actually make the skid worse!
A skid occurs when there isn’t enough friction between tire and road. This can happen when driving in wet or icy conditions, stopping suddenly, or entering a turn at a high speed.

A few tips for preventing skids:
1. Make sure your tires have adequate treads. Tires are made with a “wear bar” in the treads; if the level of the tire reaches that of the “wear bar”, it’s time to get new tires. You can also check your tires by inserting a penny into the tread upside-down. Lincoln’s head should be at least partially covered.
2. Drive slowly in wet, icy, or snowy conditions.
3. Keep an appropriate distance between you and the car ahead of you. A general rule of thumb is four car lengths for every ten mph. If you are travelling 40 mph, keep 16 car lengths between cars. This way, you’ll have plenty of time to react if the driver in front of you stops ; trying to stop too suddenly can cause a skid.
4. Slow down before entering a curve or bend. Taking a curve too quickly or braking suddenly while going around a bend can cause skids.

There are two different kinds of skids: front wheel skids and rear wheel skids. We’ll discuss how to deal with these in turn. First, however, in dealing with any kind of skid, keep two basic principles in mind.

First, don’t panic! You need to keep your head clear when you go into a skid, because your “instinctive” reactions are likely to do more harm than good.
Second, keep your eyes focused on a target in the distance. Choose a point further down the road, in the direction you are headed, and stay focused on this object. With this target in view, you’ll be better able to redirect your car so that it is once again traveling in the right direction.
Now, on to different types of skids.

FRONT WHEEL SKID
A four-wheel skid occurs when the entire car starts drifting in a direction other than the driver’s intended course. This type of skid tends to occur when a driver enters a curve too quickly.
If your car enters a front-wheel skid, ease off the accelerator. If you are driving a car with manual transmission, depress the clutch. With your eyes focused on your “target”, try to steer the car back on course. If you don’t regain control of the car within 2-3 seconds, THEN depress the brake lightly. If your car doesn’t have anti-lock (ABS) brakes, pump the brakes lightly.
Braking will help to transfer power to the front of the car; braking too suddenly, however, can cause the wheels to lock, which will make the skid worse.

REAR WHEEL SKID
A rear will skid occurs when the back end of the car slides out to the right or left; this is also known as “fishtailing.”
At some point, at least one person has probably toward you to “turn into the skid.” He or she was talking about what to do if your car fishtails. However, this advice can be misleading. Say that the back end of your car suddenly slides out to the right; you don’t want to turn your wheel sharply to the right as well, especially if you are traveling at a high speed. You want to turn to the right JUST ENOUGH to straighten out the car, i.e. bring the front wheels back in line with the rear wheels. This is why focusing on a target is helpful: it prevents you from “over-correcting.”
As you turn, slowly ease off the accelerator. Avoid the temptation to brake suddenly.

To learn more about this topic, or a broad range of subjects from “How To Change A Tire” to “How To Jumpstart Your Battery”, visit DefensiveDriving.com’s Safe Driver Resources website!
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