A skid may happen when one or more tyres lose their grip with the road’s surface.

  • Road conditions can have an impact on whether or not a vehicle skids:
  • Ice, snow, or frost.
  • Wet road, particularly when the road surface has drops of oil and particles of rubber – especially with the first rain after a long dry spell.
  • Mud on the road, which can be found near farm entrances, outside building sites, and truck crossings.
  • Packed wet leaves, which occur in the fall.
  • Broken or uneven road surfaces and sand/gravel commonly found on curves.
  • Adverse camber on curves (when the road is banked the wrong way on a curve) or when the curve is flat – loss of traction can occur even if the road surface is dry, but especially when the surface is slippery.

Most skids result from driving too fast for road conditions. Hard braking and overly aggressive turning or accelerating can cause your vehicle to skid and possibly go out of control.

To avoid a skid on a slippery road, drive at a reduced speed and operate the vehicle’s controls in a smooth and constrained manner. Increasing tyre forces, such as by braking or accelerating while steering may push tyres even closer to a skid condition. It’s essential that the vehicle’s speed is maintained at a safe level and that turns be made gently.

If your vehicle begins to skid, try not to panic — it is possible to maintain control of your vehicle, even in a skid. Ease off on the accelerator or brake and on a very slippery surface slip the transmission into neutral if you can. Continue to steer in the direction you wish to go. Be careful not to oversteer. Once you regain control, you can brake as needed, but very gently and smoothly.

Anti-lock braking systems (ABS)

If your vehicle is equipped with anti-lock brakes, practise emergency braking to understand how your vehicle will react. It is a good idea to practise doing this under controlled conditions with a qualified driving instructor.

ABS is designed to sense the speed of the wheels on a vehicle during braking. An abnormal drop in wheel speed, which indicates potential wheel lock, causes the brake force to be reduced to that wheel. This is how ABS prevents tyre skid and the accompanying loss of steering control. This improves vehicle safety during heavy brake use or when braking with poor traction.

Although anti-lock braking systems help to prevent wheel lock, you should not expect the stopping distance for your vehicle to be shortened.

Drivers unfamiliar with anti-lock braking may be surprised by the pulsations that they may feel in the brake pedal when they brake hard. Make sure you know what to expect so you will not be distracted by the pulsation or tempted to release the pedal during emergency braking manoeuvres.

Threshold braking

Threshold braking should bring you to a reasonably quick controlled stop in your own lane, even in slippery conditions. This technique is generally practised in a vehicle that is not equipped with ABS.

Brake as hard as you can until a wheel begins to lock up, then release pressure on the pedal slightly to release the wheel. Press down on the brake pedal, applying as much braking force as possible without inducing a skid. If you feel any of the wheels begin to lock up, release the brake pressure slightly and re-apply. Don’t pump the brakes. Continue braking this way until you have slowed the vehicle to the desired speed.

The term hydroplaning is commonly used to refer to the skidding or sliding of a car’s tyres across a wet surface. Hydroplaning occurs when a tyre encounters more water than it can scatter. Water pressure in the front of the wheel pushes water under the tyre, and the tyre is then separated from the road surface by a thin film of water and loses traction. The result is loss of steering, braking and power control.

Rubber tyres have tread (grooves) that are designed to channel water from beneath the tire. This creates higher friction with the road surface and can help prevent or minimize instances of hydroplaning.

Vehicles equipped with ABS should provide controlled braking on slippery surfaces automatically. Press the brake pedal hard and allow the system to control wheel lock-up.

The other factor to consider is the condition of your tyres and the condition of your brakes:

  • Brakes should be evenly adjusted so that on application of the brakes the vehicle slows down in a straight line. If the brakes pull one way or the other, a skid can easily occur. Front wheels being out of alignment also can cause a skid by pulling the vehicle one way or another when the brake are applied.
  • Tyres should have good tread, and preferably the front and rear pairs should be well matched, and the tyre pressure should be correct. If there is a different pressure in one tyre from that in the opposite one, the effect can be similar to that of unevenly adjusted brakes because one tire will drag more than the other tyres.

How to Prevent and Control Car Skidding

Whatever the reason for a skid, there are ways to prevent skidding, as well as control your skidding while it happens.

Slow Down

If the weather causes the road to be dangerous and slippery, slowing down is the smartest move. The faster you go on a slippery road, the more likely you are to slip and skid. Concentration is key during bad weather, so a slower speed will enable you to focus more on the road.

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