To find out how to avoid a skid, you should familiarize yourself with the types of skids and their causes. It’s also worth knowing how to recover from a skid when it’s already too late to prevent it.
Recovering from a skid is one of the most difficult maneuvers you can be forced to perform while driving. Unfortunately, most drivers decide to not participate in special skid-recovery classes taught by professional instructors. This’ll change soon because according to the new regulations, novice drivers will be obliged to take part in such classes within 4 to 8 months since getting a driving license. However, several dozen years will pass before the majority of drivers will have participated in such classes. If you didn’t participate in such trainings, read our tips below to learn how to avoid a skid and how to recover from it. Let’s begin with defining two types of skids: understeer and oversteer.
How to avoid an understeer skid?
If you turn the wheel but the car still sledges straight ahead, which can make the vehicle go off the road or into the opposite lane, it’s an understeer skid. The drivers commonly describe an understeer skid by saying “the front did not turn”.
You can get into an understeer skid on a wet or icy road, especially on black ice. Black ice results from rain or snow falling on a road surface at a temperature below 0 °C and forming a transparent, smooth layer of ice. Black ice is very dangerous because it’s practically invisible at first sight.
It would seem that you can get into a skid only in late autumn or winter; however, this is not entirely true. You should always drive carefully because your car can get into a skid on an oil spill, and this can happen all year round. Carrying a heavy load increases the risk of skidding (it stresses the rear axle and relieves the front axle, which in most cars is responsible for the drive), just like driving too fast, not adjusting speed to the road conditions, and worn tires or shock absorbers.
How to recover from an understeer skid? First of all, let stop accelerating and press the brake pedal while steering gently with the wheel. Under no circumstances should you step on the gas or steer nervously, as this will only make the situation worse.
How to avoid an oversteer skid?
If you try to turn the car and the rear of the vehicle starts to slide in the opposite direction, this is an oversteer skid. This can even make the car turn around. The drivers commonly say “the rear started skidding”.
You can get into an oversteer skid and an understeer skid in the same situations, with one difference: if you drive a car with a front-wheel drive and the rear end is overloaded, falling into the former is hardly possible at all. Instead, an oversteer skid can happen to rear-wheel drive cars if the driver makes the mistake of releasing the gas pedal when turning. This causes the centre of gravity to shift to the front axle and as a result, makes the rear axle lose grip.
To recover from an oversteer skid, stop accelerating and steer in the opposite direction: if you are turning right, and the rear goes to the left, gently move the steering wheel left and, when the car regains grip, continue turning right.
How to avoid a skid: general advice
When thinking about how to avoid a skid, one usually focuses on road behaviour. However, it’s worth remembering that safe winter driving requires, above all, preparation. Remember to change tires for the winter ones when the temperature drops below 7 degrees at the time you’re driving. This of course applies to all four tires. If you only replace front tires, the risk of an oversteer skid will increase, and if you only replace rear tires, you’ll increase the risk of an understeer skid.
Let’s also note that the tread of a winter tire shouldn’t be less than 4 mm deep; think about buying new tires if the depth gets close to these 4 mm. At the end of the season, the tread depth may already be below the common-sense limit of 4 mm, especially if winter was longer than usual.
It’s also worth thinking about safety as early as when purchasing a car. Nowadays, it is difficult to find a vehicle that does not have the ABS system installed, even on the secondary market. It operates by “pulsing” the brake pedal, which prevents the wheels from losing grip in the event of sudden braking. As we’ve already mentioned, nowadays ABS is a standard. On top of that, it is worth looking for cars with ASR and ESP systems. ASR prevents the wheels from slipping when starting the car, and ESP improves vehicle stability when driving. The newest ESP systems come with the crosswind stabilization assistant, which can also help you avoid skidding.