Winter driving can be challenging and hazardous with heavy snowfalls, freezing rain, high winds, black ice and reduced visibility. Icy roads, in particular, present their own set of difficulties. Knowing how to react quickly and efficiently could save you and your passengers’ lives. Below are some tips on how to handle your vehicle when it skids:
How skids happen
Most of the time skidding happens when you are driving too fast in harsh winter conditions such as a wet, icy roads or roads covered with snow. Skidding can also happen when tires lose their hold with the road’s surface or any kind of overly assertive turning. Hard braking and overly aggressive steering can also affect your vehicle’s ability to skid.
What should you do if your vehicle skids?
Even the most experienced of drivers experience skidding. First things first, don’t panic and suddenly jerk the movement of the steering wheel. If you feel your vehicle skidding, it is possible to regain control. Gently ease off on the accelerator or brake and slip the transmission into neutral if you can. Continue steering in the direction you wish to go, though, be careful you don’t oversteer. When you have control again, brake gently.
Remember, when you feel the back end of your vehicle sliding, look where you want to go and not where you are afraid of driving into. Gently turn the steering wheel in the same direction the back of the car is headed in.
What to do if your vehicle has anti-lock braking systems
If your vehicle has anti-lock brakes (ABS), put your foot on the brake and apply even more pressure. The ABS will do its job and pump the brakes for you. If you are not familiar with anti-lock braking, you may be surprised by the pulsing movements in the brake pedal, which is the ABS engaging and disengaging your car’s brakes. Keep your foot off the brake once the pulsing starts.
What to do if your vehicle does not have anti-lock braking systems
For vehicles which don’t have ABS, use the technique of threshold braking. Brake as hard as you can, until one of the wheels on your vehicle locks up. Next, slightly release pressure on the pedal to release the steering wheel. Press down hard again on the braking pedal, without prompting a skid. If you feel any of the wheels begin to lock up, release the brake pressure again. Just be sure not to pump the brakes.
How to prevent skids
One of the main ways to prevent skidding is to watch your speed, especially in winter. Be aware of your surroundings and give yourself plenty of extra travel time. Watch out for black ice, which can easily be mistaken for new asphalt or large puddles of water. For more prevention tips read our skid control techniques post.
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