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Do you know how to handle a skid?

December 10th, 2020  |  Auto

An important winter driving rule is to never slam on the brakes on snow- or ice-covered roads.

That may seem like a no-brainer but when the snow starts flying again it seems as if many drivers need a refresher. Braking hard or accelerating on a turn in winter-driving conditions can cause you to skid. Do you know the different types and how to react to them?

Rear-wheel skid

A rear-wheel skid – also known as an oversteer - happens when you apply the brakes so hard that one or more wheels lock or if you accelerate hard and spin the drive wheels. This type of skid can also occur when you are travelling too fast on a curve or encounter a slippery surface, such as ice.

How to get your vehicle under control:

  1. Take your foot off the brake if the rear wheels skid due to hard or panic braking. Ease off the gas if the rear wheels lose traction due to hard acceleration.
  2. Shift to neutral (automatic) or push in the clutch pedal (standard).
  3. Look and steer in the direction you want to go. Be aware of how your vehicle is responding to steering.
  4. Once the vehicle is straight, release the clutch or shift to drive – depending on the type of vehicle you have – and gently accelerate to a safe speed.

Note: In a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, if you over-correct, be prepared for a rear-wheel skid in the opposite direction.

Front-wheel skid

Front-wheel skids – also known as an understeer ­– are often caused by hard braking or acceleration in a front-wheel-drive vehicle. When the front wheels lose traction, the driver cannot steer. But the good news is these types of skids are easier to correct because the vehicle cannot skid in the opposite direction.

Regardless of whether the vehicle has front-, rear- or four-wheel drive, the best way to regain control in this type of skid is:

  1. Take your foot off the brake if the front wheels skid due to hard or panic braking. Ease your foot off the gas pedal if the front wheels lose traction due to hard acceleration.
  2. De-clutch on a standard vehicle or shift to neutral on an automatic vehicle.
  3. If the front wheels have been turned prior to the loss of traction, don’t move the steering wheel. Since the wheels are skidding sideways, a certain amount of braking force will be exerted.
  4. Once the front wheels grip the road again, steer gently in the direction you want to go.
  5. Release the clutch or shift to drive and slowly accelerate to a safe speed.

Four-wheel skid

Sometimes all four wheels lose traction - generally at high speeds or under poor road conditions.

How to regain steering control:

  1. Remove your foot from the brake or accelerator.
  2. Shift into neutral.
  3. Look and steer in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go.
  4. Wait for the wheels to grip the road again.
  5. Return to a driving gear.
  6. Resume driving at a safe speed.

During winter, always remember to drive more slowly and give yourself more time to arrive at your destination. (Or stay off the road completely in poor conditions) Leave more distance than normal between your vehicle and the one ahead and look as far ahead as possible.

Should you find yourself in a skid, remain calm. Don’t panic! Avoid forceful braking or sudden, jerking movement of the wheel.

Consider taking a winter driving course so you can develop your skills and increase confidence when driving in challenging weather.

RELATED READING: Drivers unprepared for winter: Survey

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