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Jan 7, 2021

5 min. read

If you drive in the winter, you’ve likely experienced at least one skid in your motoring lifetime. Even high-tech features like all-wheel drive and electronic stability control cannot completely guarantee that your vehicle won’t lose traction on an icy road. The good news is that recovering from a skid is relatively straightforward. Just remain calm and follow these steps.

  • Know your skid types

  • How to get out of a skid

  • Steer in the right direction

  • Taking control of the steering wheel

  • Prevent a skid


Know your skid types

There are two main types of skids: front- and rear-wheel.

In a front-wheel skid, front tires lose traction due to excessive speed or hard braking through a corner—so the vehicle turns less than you intend. It is also called an understeer skid.

A rear-wheel skid is also known as an oversteer skid—and more common to rear-wheel-drive vehicles. It happens when back tires lose grip when turning and the tail end drifts sideways.

How to get out of a skid

How to correct the situation will depend on how you got into it in the first place.

Did you brake too hard? If so, take your foot off the brake. Your tires need to start rolling again to regain traction.

Or, if you accelerated too quickly, ease off the gas pedal (but don’t brake). Your tires need to spin less quickly to regain traction.

Alternatively, if you’re in a manual transmission vehicle, disengage the clutch to take power from the drive wheels—but, as above, don’t brake.

Steer in the right direction

Look where you want to go, as you’re more apt to steer in that direction—rather than into a hazard you’d prefer to avoid.

Take control of the steering wheel

Stay calm and make small, controlled steering adjustments; otherwise, you risk over-correcting.

If you were turning when the skid started, as in a front-wheel skid, ease off the gas and straighten your front wheels. When traction returns, steer gently in the direction you want to go.

Look and steer where you want to go in a rear-wheel skid. As tires regain grip and your vehicle straightens out, counter-steer slightly to avoid fishtailing.

Prevent a skid

Reduce your chances of skidding by following these four steps.

1. Slow down and be aware of road conditions. After a snowfall, ice can form at intersections due to vehicles braking and accelerating.

2. Anticipate curves, turns and lane changes. Steer smoothly and precisely, with your hands on the wheel at the 9 and 3 o’clock position.

3. Put winter tires on all four of your vehicle’s rims. Winter tires are designed to offer better traction when temperatures dip below 7°C.

4. Don’t depend on your vehicle’s high-tech components, like anti-lock brakes or all-wheel drive, to keep you from skidding or bail you out.

Get more with CAA

Before you head out, take this winter driving quiz to see if you’re ready. If you find yourself in need of roadside assistance this winter, download the CAA Mobile App for real time tracking of your service call, and to share the status with family and friends. Members can also access the balance of their CAA Dollars® as well as discover exclusive deals directly from their account on the mobile app.

Image credit: Design Pics/Alamy Stock Photo

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