How to avoid skidding?

Image

In order to learn how to avoid skidding, one has to make themselves familiar with the types of skidding and what causes them to occur. It is also a good idea to learn how to get out of a skid once it does happen to us.


Getting out of a skid is one of the most difficult manouvers one might have to perform when driving a car. Unfortunately, most drivers don't participate in special trainings where professional instructors teach how to get out of a skid. It is going to change over time, since in accordance with new regulations beginning drivers will be obliged to participate in such course between the 4th and 8th  month of having their licence. Before most motorists have finished such course, though, few decades is going to pass. If someone hasn't participated in this type of training, it is a good idea to read how not to get caught in a skid and how to get out of it. Let's start by pointing out that there are two types of skids that might happen to us on the road – understeer and oversteer.

How to avoid an understeer?

An understeer type of skidding occurs when, despite turning the steering wheel, the car keeps going forward. The consequences include ending up on the opposite lane or going off the road. Drivers informally refer to the understeer with the words „the front didn't turn”.

We might get caught in an understeer on a wet or ice-covered pavement, especially during a dangerous phenomenon called black ice. Black ice occurs when rain or snow land on the pavement in temperatures below zero and settle on it in form of a transparent, smooth and even layer of ice. Black ice is especially dangerous because at first glance the pavement looks normal.

It might seem, therefore, that we could only end up skidding during fall or winter. However, that's only half-truth. We have to be careful all year round, because skidding can also be caused by spilled oil on the road, which is something that might happen any time of the year, after all. An understeer is more likely to happen when carrying heavy cargo (more pressure on the back axle, less pressure on the front one, which in most cars is the one the engine spins), driving too fast relative to the road conditions and when tyres or shock absorbers are in bad condition.

How to get out of an understeer? First of all, get your leg off the gas pedal, step on the brake and turn the steering wheel slightly. Do not, under any circumstances, step on the gas pedal or make violent turns with the steering wheel. It will only make things worse.

How to avoid an oversteer?

An oversteer type of skidding occurs when the back of the car „slips away” in the opposite way to the direction of the turn. The consequence might be causing the car to spin. Drivers informally refer to the oversteer with the words „the back slipped away”.

We might get caught in an oversteer in the same situations as with the understeer except with one difference – it is not likely to happen to us if we drive a front wheel drive vehicle and there's more pressure on the back. On the other hand, oversteer is something common among the drivers of back wheel drive vehicles, who make the mistake of getting their foot off the gas pedal when turning. It causes the center of gravity to shift to the front axle, resulting in loss of  traction in the rear axle.

Getting out of an oversteer should also start with getting foot off the gas pedal followed with moving the steering wheel. Which means that if we're turning right and the back of the car is slipping away to the left, we should gently turn the steering wheel to the left, and when we regain the grip we should continue turning right.

General tips on how to avoid skidding

When we're thinking about how to avoid skidding, we usually concentrate on our behavior on the road. However, one should remember that safe driving during winter is mostly preparations. So we should remember to put on winter tyres when temperature drops below 7 degrees during our driving hours. Of course it concerns all four tyres. If we only change the front ones we're at the risk of oversteering. If we only change the back tyres, on the other hand, we have to face the risk of understeering.

We should also note that the thickness of the tread on winter tyres should not go below 4 mm. If our tyres are close to that threshold after changing them, it's a good idea to consider buying new ones. At the end of the season the thickness might already be below the healthy 4 mm, especially if the winter was longer than usual.