The automobile is one of mankind’s greatest inventions. But they are still far from perfect. Whether it’s snow, rain, or just bad luck, car skidding happens to everyone. It doesn’t have to mean disaster, though. With the right knowledge, anyone can recover. Here are the five most common vehicle skids and how to recover from them.
Generally speaking, the ideal way to deal with car skidding is to not let it happen. They can be prevented from a combination of attentiveness, situational awareness, and taking the necessary caution. If it’s snowy or raining, don’t drive the same way you would on dry pavement.
Another piece of advice is to have the appropriate tires on your car. Winter tires should be installed in the winter and summer tires in the summer. BMW released a video not long ago where they showed us exactly how big of a difference it makes having the right tires.
But being prepared means knowing what to do when things go poorly anyway. Skidding isn’t easy to recover from, even with the knowledge. So don’t feel too bad if you can’t fully recover from a skid and need to stop and reorient yourself. With that said, let’s dive into the skids.
One of the most common types of skids, wheelspin is when your tires are spinning faster than the car is moving. You likely have seen this happen in racing movies when they mark “GO” and everyone hits the gas. Normal folks will experience it when trying to press the gas after a stoplight, for example.
To recover, simply ease off the gas. The wheels are trying too hard and you can regain traction by reducing that torque. Pull off the gas until you feel the car catch the road again.
2. Wheel Lockup
Wheel lockup is, in a sense, the opposite of wheel spin, and another common skid. This occurs when your wheels are moving slower than the car is. This is mostly seen when someone tries to slow down too hard on slippery conditions, like hitting the brakes on an icy road.
Another form of this is called Hydroplaning. This is when you hit a patch of snow or water on the road that causes your car to move a bit faster than the wheels are moving.
Most cars have Anti-lock Brake Systems, (ABS), which controls how your brakes are applied in order to prevent locking up. This prevents skidding but may reduce how fast you can slow down.
To recover from this, you should slowly take your foot off the brake pedal. Your tires are spinning too slow, so you need to make them go a bit faster to catch traction again. Once you feel the car regain traction, carefully reduce acceleration until you’re at your desired speed. If hydroplaning and you don’t actually want to slow down, apply slight pressure to the gas pedal. Do this carefully, as to not cause a surprise burst of speed.
Understeer skids are when your front tires, which control steering and direction, lose grip with the road. This causes the vehicle to continue straight when you’re trying to turn. It happens most frequently when a vehicle tries to take a sharper turn than they should have. Sometimes its called “pushing.” This can also happen in conjunction with a lockup since the driver would be applying the brakes when trying to turn.
To recover from this, reduce speed and make gentle, mild turns. Avoid any sharp turns. You may be tempted to turn harder to compensate. This will only make it worse.
On the other end is Oversteer. This is when your back tires lose traction, causing your tail end to swerve too far coming out of a turn. This results in the car spinning around too far. Ever faced oncoming traffic? This will do that to you. This occurs mostly when going too fast and trying to decelerate. Braking will shift weight forward, reducing how much weight is on the back wheels and losing traction.
To recover from this, take your foot off the gas and use gentle, mild turns, same as with understeer. If you have front-wheel drive, you can actually do the opposite, stop braking and apply mild pressure to the gas pedal.
Fishtailing, also known as counterskidding, is one of the most recognizable types of skids. This is when the vehicle’s tail end has lost traction and is wagging back and forth, similar to how a fish swims. This happens when someone overcorrects themselves after oversteer, causing the tail end to swing the other direction after.
To recover from this, DO NOT OVER CORRECT. You will be tempted to steer the other direction in order to recover. If you overdo it, you will only make the fishtailing worse. The general advice is to keep your front tires pointed straight toward the road, no more. Like with oversteer, rear-wheel-drive cars should ease off the brakes while front-wheel-drive cars should gently apply the gas.