Churchill magazine

What to do if your car goes into a skid

Updated on: 27 April 2021

car skid

A skid is a loss of traction from a vehicle’s wheels, which can cause it to move uncontrollably. Find out what skids you could face as a driver, and how to combat or prevent them.

Front-wheel skid

A front-wheel skid (more likely in a front-wheel drive car and also known as understeer) either occurs under heavy breaking, where the front wheels lock up, or when trying to take a corner too quickly for the road conditions.

The steering wheel may also feel strangely light. When this happens, the car will typically carry on in a straight direction, rather than following the direction of the wheels round the corner.

How to react

If you experience a front-wheel skid, it’s important to keep the wheels in the direction of the skid. Take your foot off the accelerator and let the car slow without applying the brake.

Rear-wheel skid

A rear-wheel skid  - or oversteer - can occur under heavy breaking in both front- and rear-wheel drive cars, especially if there's a fault with the rear brakes. It’s more common when driving round a corner too quickly. In this case, it’s likely to happen in rear-wheel drive cars. It may feel like the car is going to spin round, but unlike in a front-wheel skid you have the ability to control the front wheels.

How to react

With a rear-wheel skid, you need to steer into it. For example, if you go round a corner and the car slides out to the right you need to carefully steer right towards the skid to counteract the effect. Don't brake as this can make the situation worse.

Source: Auto Express 

Bad weather conditions

Brakes and tyres are less effective on wet or icy roads, so bad weather conditions dramatically increase your chances of skidding. Avoidance is your best plan. If a forecaster predicts extreme weather conditions, don’t travel unless it’s absolutely essential.

The dangers of driving through standing water

If a layer of surface water prevents a car’s tyres from being able to grip the road, the car ends up ‘floating’ on this water, taking control away from the driver. This is known as aquaplaning.

The driver won’t regain control of the car until the tyres begin to grip the road, best done by easing off the accelerator and trying not to turn or brake.

Effective maintenance

Keeping your car in a top mechanical state will help guard against skidding. Don’t allow your tyres to become worn, do ensure your brakes are working effectively and check the tyre air pressure weekly.

A vehicle fitted with an ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) or ESC (Electronic Stability Control) system will help prevent skidding, but you should also fully understand how to control the car yourself. Gentle manoeuvres, with smooth movements and no sudden braking, acceleration or sharp steering are the key to safe driving.

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