Stage 4: Skidding – Part 1


Location: Snowy, icy, or rain-slicked empty parking lot
Length of Lesson: 30 minutes

Losing control of your car is a scary experience. Hitting the brakes or turning the wheel and not having the car respond as it should makes you feel helpless. But, simply hoping that your car will never skid is not the answer to feeling more in control.

Understanding what makes your car skid and learning how to prevent it are the first steps. You must also learn how to steer out of skid. Finally, you must practice. You cannot hope that your teenager will be prepared to handle a skidding situation just by talking about it.

Step 1: Understanding the Skid

A skid occurs when either your front wheels or your rear wheels lose traction. Instead of gripping the road, your tires are sliding across the ground. Thus, applying the brakes or turning the wheel do not have the desired effect. Remember, if the tires can’t grip the ground, it’s like trying to drive on blocks of ice.

Front wheel traction loss

“Understeer” occurs when your front wheels lose traction while cornering. This means that your car travels a wider curve than your intended path of travel. Your car is sliding away from the center of the curve and possibly into oncoming traffic. This is usually the result of taking the turn too fast for the road conditions.

For example: As you make a fast right turn, the weight of the car shifts toward the left side of your front tires. If turning too fast, weight moves to the sidewalls of the tires. At this point, they no longer provide any gripping or turning force. Basically, the tires are turned to the right, but the force of your rear tires pushes your car in a straight line away from the curve of the turn.

Rear wheel traction loss

“Oversteer” occurs when your rear wheels lose traction while cornering. Your front end will point either to the left or to the right of the intended path of travel despite your steering input. Oversteer is how a car “spins out”. Typically, this happens on slippery surfaces when driving too fast or braking or steering erratically.

Step 2 describes how to recover from a skid.


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