Travelling on I-95 in Vermont at about 45 mph, right after a 10 inch snow storm on a straight section, my car began to fish tail…and these got worst.I countered by quickly trying to turn the wheels in the opposite way. Somehow I came out of it,but before I did, I went from one side of the road to the other several times… Did I do the correct thing…if not what is the correct move? The experience took 5 years off my life…!!! My car is a front wheel drive.
What kind of car and tires? Do they use chains or tacks there like in Washington state? I have heard to steer in the direction of a skid. Check this out:
Also if you have a wide open space like a level empty parking lot - it may be a good idea to practice in the snow. Yes that can be extremely scary. Hope no one else was coming.
“The opposite way” of what? The front of your car or the back? Fishtailing sort of implies that whichever way the car was waggling (2 ways, right?) you were doing the wrong thing, so whatever you did, do the opposite. Practice in a school parking lot with snow on a weekend. Or, if you have a computer, google it.
When driving a front wheel drive car when the back end gets loose and fish tails there isn’t too much you can do. First, ease off the gas just a bit as you turn the wheels in the direction of the skid. The idea is to keep the front wheels in front of the rear ones. Don’t overreact and turn the steering wheel only a little and do it gently. What happened to you is you moved the steering wheel too far and the back end came around past center and you were skidding on the other side.
My guess is you were going a bit too fast as you hit a patch of deep, slushy snow. This can slow the front wheels and put the back wheels into a skid. If this happens again it is your signal to slow down after you get the skid under control.
45 mph in 10" of fresh snow was driving too fast for the conditions. Do you have four good winter tires?
The rear tires should have the best tread (does not matter if the car is FWD, RWD or AWD). Many FWD car owners mistakenly put the best two tires on the front for traction. What happens in a “fishtail” situation is you instinctively take your foot off the gas. Engine braking works the front tires and the worn out rear tires have less traction making the car want to switch ends. Whenever I buy a new car (or new tires) I’ll take it to an empty big slick parking lot and practice skids and recovery – highly recommended.
I-95 is in New Hampshire along the coast. The I-95, no matter where it is can be a tough place to drive in the Winter. Just be aware of that. When the speed limit is 45 MPH, It doesn’t mean you can’t go slower.
I’ve seen people in Maine, I-95, trying to do 55 on slush. SUV’s and vans are the only vehicles I usually see stuck off the road. Some of us need better tires, because of when we have to drive. I’m retired so I can usually wait for better days.
When a rear wheel drive car starts to fish tail, the best thing to do is hold the throttle steady, and gently steer in the direction that you ultimately want the car to go in. When the rear tires gain traction again, the car will correct itself, and straighten out.
When a front wheel drive car fishtails, that is caused by the rear tires completely losing traction. In this instance, you want to also steer the gar gently into the direction you want the car to go, but at the same time, accelerate the car to prevent the car from spinning out.
You do not want to either release the throttle or hit the brakes in a front wheel drive car that is fishtailing, nor do you want to just hold the throttle steady. Think of it like trying to bring a jack knifing trailer back into control - you hit the gas.
Usually, the rear tires on a front wheel drive will only lose control like that if you hit a rut in the road, and the low traction conditions force the bulk of the tread to lose contact with the ground.
The main thing you should take from this is that either your tires are not up to driving in the winter, or you were going way too fast for the conditions.
The I-95, no matter where it is can be a tough place to drive in the Winter.
Worse road to drive in the winter I-81 between Syracuse and Watertown NY. It’s directly East of Lake Ontario. It’s not uncommon to have a very localized 20" snow storm covering just a 1 mile section of the road due to lake effect. Part or all of that section of highway gets closed at least 5 times a year…
Travelling on I-95 in Vermont at about 45 mp
I-95 doesn’t go through Vermont. I-91 does…right along the NH border.
Please check to be sure your rear tires have at least as much tread as the front tires. If the fronts are better than the rears, this situation is much more likely to occur.
I had a front wheel car that began fish tailing on me and I turned into the slide and lost total control. I was later told that with a front wheel drive car, when you fishtail you want to keep the wheel straight and slowly excellerate a bit and it will pull you out of the slide, that by turning into it only makes it worse.
Thanks…You described exactlt what happened…I over-reacted, and turned the steering wheel too hard, too fast in the direction that I wanted to go…and the back end came around, and I was headed in the opposite direction, but again in a skid…then again, I over reacted, and back I went again…back and forth…back and forth. I guess by not touching the gas petal, the car slowed down and I came out of it…BIG lesson…I was going too fast…!!! And I can understandnow how the back end wants to go faster than the front end, and then it skida out, etc… Thanks again…
It sounds like you swerved and over-corrected. You were lucky to get out of it without wrecking the vehicle.
Automatic stability control would have prevented this from happening. Your car must not have it.
The best way to prevent this from happening is to drive on good winter tires and steer gently. Jerking the wheel can make things worse.
The correct method of controlling any skid is to try to keep the front wheels aimed in the dierection you want to go. Sometimes easier said than done. Overreacting (and thus overcorrecting) is a common mistake.
I agree with others here that you shoudl DEFINITELY check your tires. You need good winter tires on all fours. By good, I mean with most of the rubber left. Even the best winter tire is useless if 70% of the rubber is worn off.
I never start the winter with less than 50% of the tread left. Do I discard a few hundred bucks worth of good tread every year? Perhaps. Do I prevent myself from getting in accidents? I’m positive of it.
And keep the speed way down.
I will say that WINTER tyres are the best suggestion. FWD cars vary in their handling in ways that RWD cars seldom did. I suggest some time on a local parking lot in the snow when no one and no light polls are around. Get the fell of YOUR car.
Also as well noted above, put the best tyres on the back.
Had a front drive car fish tail on me as well one time. I was driving too fast for conditions with non winter tires. Everyone is right here. And it is worse than fish tailing in a rear drive car which one, it’s expected, and two there is usually some warning. You must have ultimately done the right thing, cause you’re posting us in good health.
Take care the rest of the winter
Its tough this time of year. My suggestion if you normally drive this car alone is to add 100 lbs of sand or gravel to the trunk. These cars have front loaded power and weight distribution. A larger fwd like a taurus has a bit more wheel base, so i am assumeing a shorter car with a bit less weight? Is that about right? You should “feather” the throttle as you correct in this situation. Its not really acceleration since you dont have good grip. But the slightly faster front tire movement tends to pull the rear into line. Otherwise turning is correct just in small steps. The car with only a driver is loaded for traction on the front tires. A bit of weight on the rear can help settle this behavour before a full fishtail happens.
Stability control in general does not help in this four wheel traction loss. It was invented to prevent high center of gravity vehicles in tight swerves on dry pavement that caused rollover accidents.
“Its tough this time of year. My suggestion if you normally drive this car alone is to add 100 lbs of sand or gravel to the trunk. These cars have front loaded power and weight distribution.”
Theoretically, I can agree with this. A well balanced car is usually better handling wise regardless of it’s drive train. Practically, running around with extra weight in trunk is counter productive to traction on hills and start up. Any added weight MUST be in front of the “rear axle” line and maybe best in the rear seat. FWD is a contradiction in good automobile dynamics IMO and adding weight to the rear to help handling and decrease but balance traction is an example of how much so it is. Stability control/traction control has a place for these compromise drive train systems; along with appropriate tires that are fastidiously rotated.