Winter driving: How to get out of a skid

Winter driving is very dangerous if you don't know how to handle your car

Winter driving is very dangerous if you don’t know how to handle your car

You know how to drive safely and you’ve read our article on how to drive defensively in winter weather. But it’s a Friday afternoon, you’ve just sat through an hour of torturous traffic, and you can’t wait another moment to get home to catch that football game. So you rev up the engine a little more than you should and push it on a curve.

Now here you are, spinning out of control in a blur of snow. You have two choices here: 1. Freak out and freeze, which will likely cause your car to spin into a tree (or oncoming traffic), or 2. Collect yourself and suavely maneuver out of the skid like a pro.

Don’t freeze up – we’re here to help. Whether you have a front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, manual, or stick shift, the technique for getting out of a skid is the same.

Consider this your worst-case scenario guide for skidding.

There are two ways to fall into a skid - the type of skid you're in determines how you get out of one

There are two ways to fall into a skid – the type of skid you’re in determines how you get out of it

Oversteering

This happens when you make a turn and the back wheels spin out to the outside of the curve, causing them to fishtail. To steer yourself out of this skid, look the way you want to go and countersteer. So if you’re making a right turn and the nose of your car is pointed too far too the right, look a little to the left and steer left. This is known as “steering into the skid.” Countersteering will bring your car back to the direction you wanted it to go in the first place.

While doing so, keep your foot off the brake (if you don’t have anti-lock brakes) and gas. If you have anti-lock brakes, brake firmly while steering into the skid.

Those with manual transmissions should let up on the clutch. Once your car is stabilized and has traction, countersteer to go in the direction you originally intended.

Understeering

When you go into a turn with too much speed, your car may not turn as much as you wanted it to, causing the front wheels to lose traction. The solution? Turn your wheels straight, even if that means turning them directly toward another car or a building.

Once your tires get enough grip, they will start rolling rather than sliding and you can steer properly again.

If you find yourself hydroplaning…

You could very easily throw yourself into a skid by braking or turning suddenly, so don’t do either! Ease your foot off the gas until you can feel the road again, and brake with light pumping motions. If your car has anti-lock brakes you can brake normally, since your anti-lock brakes will pump the brakes for you.

If your drive wheels hydroplane:

You will see an increase in your speedometer and RPM as your wheels spin. Release the gas, slow down, and steer your car straight on the road.

If your front wheels hydroplane:

Your car will slip towards the outside of the bend. Slow down and steer so your car can travel straight.

If your back wheels hydroplane:

Your car’s back wheels will veer into a skid. Steer into the skid and then steer in the opposite direction to straighten out your car.

Tips to avoid hydroplaning:

  • Keep your tires properly inflated with good tread depth
  • Replace worn tires – underinflated tires can deflect inwards, making the center higher and trapping water more easily
  • Drive slowly in wet conditions, and maintain mild pressure on your brake and gas
  • Try to drive in the tire tracks left by the car in front of you
  • Don’t suddenly accelerate, brake, or make sudden turns

References

http://www.wikihow.com/Stop-Hydroplaning

http://auto.howstuffworks.com/car-driving-safety/accidents-hazardous-conditions/how-to-steer-out-of-skid.htm

http://www.weather.com/activities/driving/drivingsafety/drivingsafetytips/hydroplane.html

If you need help getting your car through the winter, contact us at our website or call (806) 242-1073 to schedule an appointment today!

Aardvark Automotive

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6 fall and early winter car care tips from an ASE Master Technician

Wintery conditions put extra stress on your car.

Wintery conditions put extra stress on your car.

While you should keep your car up-to-date on maintenance year-round, November is a particularly important month because all the prep you do now will set your car up for impending harsh winter weather.

Nobody wants to be stranded on the way to a holiday party or family dinner, so do yourself and anyone who rides in your car a favor by following this checklist of fall care tips.

Car Care 101: Read your owner’s manual and follow the recommended maintenance schedule

While it may seem obvious to read your owner’s manual, many of us admittedly don’t. Your owner’s manual will let you know when you need to check your car’s tires, brakes, filters, and fluids. If you’re still confused, just visit us! We have recommendations for the best time and mileage intervals.

Oil and air filter changes are especially important for keeping your MPG high and your engine humming along. Most modern vehicles only need an oil change every 5,000 miles, while older vehicles may need an oil change every 3,000 miles.

Ensure your tires are in good condition

The weather here in Amarillo changes in the blink of an eye, especially in the fall and winter. We might get snow one day and 80-degree weather the next. As a result, our tires literally weather a lot.

In order for your car to survive an Amarillo winter, you will have to make sure your tires can take the chill. When tires are cool, check their pressure as well as the pressure of the spare. See if your jack is in good working condition.

Keep your tires properly inflated, since underinflated tires will make the engine work harder and eat up more gas. They will also be susceptible to road hazards (which increase in winter) and heat damage.

Simply look at the sticker on your door jamb to see the manufacturer’s recommended pressure.

If you come to the shop, have a tire tread depth inspection done with each oil change or before winter hits.

Have your battery tested and correct engine performance problems

Battery

Have you ever trudged through snow to your car on a dark winter morning, only to turn the key and feel your heart drop as you hear the dreaded click click click? Very hot summer weather can damage a battery, but this damage will not be noticeable until a big temperature change occurs. Because of this, the cooler months are the source of many a dead battery. Have a technician check your battery’s health during the fall. Your technician may clean away corrosion and re-tighten connections.

Engine Performance

Just as you’re more likely to get sick during the winter, cold weather can cause and aggravate engine problems. Correct drivability problems like stalling and idling at the shop. Fixing engine problems will give you better fuel mileage along with more reliability.

Keep your gas tank filled

Ice crystals look gorgeous outdoors, but are less desirable when they’re in your fuel. To ensure you don’t end up with a fuel popsicle, keep your gas tank filled.

Make sure your cooling and heating systems are running smoothly

Cooling

Check the condition, level, and concentration of your coolant.

We recommend a BG Cooling System Service every 2 years or 30,000 miles. At our shop we check the coolant level with every oil change, as well as your belts and hoses.

Heating

Get your heater checked in the fall so you can avoid the long lines of people waiting to get their heaters fixed in the winter. After all, the heater will be one of your most prized possessions when it’s 17 degrees outside and you still have an hour to go before you get home.

Extra Tip: Don’t forget an emergency kit!

Make an uncomfortable situation a bit more bearable by packing necessities like a flashlight, tire chains, boots, blankets, a shovel, gloves, and snacks.

 

Wishing you and your family a safe fall and a wonderful holiday season,

Robert

Aardvark Automotive owner and ASE-certified Master Technician

For more driving tips or questions about your car, feel free to contact us at (806) 242-1073 or visit our website.