Stage 4: Skidding – Part 2

If you need a little background on skidding, check out <Skidding Part 1>.

Step 2: Learning what to do

Note: The process for recovering from a skid is exactly the same whether you have a rear-wheel or front-wheel drive vehicle.

I will try to explain some broad points regarding skidding, but to truly understand what to do, you must head out to a parking lot and experience it firsthand. You cannot simply talk about this with your teen and feel that you’ve “covered” skidding. You do not want your teen’s first experience with skidding to come while exiting a highway during a snow storm.

Take your feet off the pedals

The first thing to do whenever you feel your car beginning to lose traction is to get your foot off the accelerator. If your foot happens to be on the brake, get your foot off it, too! Your accelerator is probably what got you into this situation in the first place and your brakes are useless right now.

You want the car to slow down and recover some traction so that you can regain steering control. Applying the brakes to tires which are sliding across the road isn’t going to do anything. Unless your tires are gripping the road, your brakes are useless. Your skidding tires will slow your car down until your tires can regain some traction.

Gentle steering input

So, which direction should you turn the steering wheel? We’ve all heard the advice that you should “steer into” the skid. Forget that because it’s patently stupid advice. When you’re actually skidding, it’s silly to believe that you’re going to think to yourself, “OK, which way is the car skidding? It feels like I’m sliding to the left, but I’m sort of spinning to the right. So, am I skidding to the left or to the right?” Confusing, right?

Thankfully, the answer is simple. Always steer in the direction you want the car to go. When the car starts skidding, teach your teen to look directly at where they want to go. Do not look at what you want to avoid. Your hands will follow your eyes, so if you stare at the tree on the side of the road, that’s where you’re going to end up.

So, what is the “steer into the skid” advice based upon? Stupid driving instructors wanting to come up with a simple saying for a complex problem.

Whether your rear wheels or your front wheels are skidding, the correct direction to steer is inevitably in the opposite direction that your front end is headed. OK, now that you know which direction to steer, make sure that your steer gently! Most skids become worse when the driver severely over-corrects…or slams on the brakes…or does both wildly while screaming.

Slight re-distribution of vehicle weight

As you begin to regain traction and steering control, you may find it necessary to gently apply the brakes or the accelerator. This depends on whether or not you’re experiencing rear-wheel traction loss or front wheel traction loss. The point of gently braking or accelerating is to redistribute some of the car’s weight to those wheels, which will help them gain even more traction. So, if your front wheels are skidding, you’ll want to brake gently. If your rear wheels are skidding, you’ll want to gently accelerate.

To summarize, when you car begins to skid:

  • Get your foot off the accelerator and the brake.
  • Steer gently in the direction you want the car to go.
  • As you begin to regain control of the car, gently apply the brakes (assuming you have anti-lock brakes) or the accelerator depending on the type of skid. This will help redistribute the weight of the car to the appropriate wheels, which will help regain some traction.

Check out Skidding – Part 3 for some advice on practicing skidding with your teen.

All information and advice contained within this website is to be taken at your own risk. Nothing contained within this website should be misconstrued as professional driving instruction.