Could anyone tell me exactly what to do if I find myself skidding while driving on snow or ice? Thank you very much. Al Brown

First, you should realize that the prime consideration is to PREVENT skidding, and that is possible to do by simply:

*Drastically reducing your speed during snow/ice conditions

*Using a set of 4 winter tires on your car (they make a major difference!)

*NOT tailgating the car in front of you

*Doing everything in slow motion when driving on a wintery road surface

*Buying a vehicle with both ABS and a skid-control system (known by various monikers, including VSC, VDC, etc.)

*Remembering that having 4wd and AWD are not substitutes for the items listed above. (After all, most of the vehicles that are upside down in ditches during a snow storm are Jeeps, Blazers, Explorers, etc, whose drivers thought that they were immune from the laws of physics)

As to what to do once a skid begins, the techniques are somewhat different for front-wheel drive vehicles and rear-wheel drive vehicles. Unless you want to take a Winter Driving Course (they are available in some parts of the country), your best bet is to go to a very large snow-covered deserted parking lot (without light poles!), jam on your brakes while turning the steering wheel, and get a feel for driving on snow and ice.

Essentially, you are supposed to look in the direction in which you want the car to go and to steer in that direction without applying the brakes. However, describing this is very different from being able to do it, and practicing on a slick parking lot is one of the only ways to learn this, short of taking a winter driving course. And, by practicing in a deserted parking lot, you will see just how little control you have under those conditions, and this might make you more likely to do the things that I enumerated above!

ABS is your best tool. This points out why I think ABS should be standard for all vehicles. Without it touching your brakes could worsen the situation; with it you can brake without concern that the brakes will cause you to lose control. It is hard to keep your head clear during a skid and the ABS just makes things easier.

Look and steer in the direction you want the car to go. Rules change with FWD or AWD vehicles. Ice is another story.

Depends on what you’re sliding towards.

Seriously though, I recommend a winter safe driving course to any driver that feels like do now.

Some good suggestions here.

If you go into a skid on ice, you are pretty much along for the ride. Counter steering and such are ok to try, but all too often its just too late. If you have a RWD vehicle, letting off the gas and steering into the direction of the skid might help, in FWD, that only makes it worse. Keep you speed down, period.

In snow, if you can get out of the track and into some deeper snow, the resistance of the snow will slow you down rapidly. For example, you are traveling in the ruts of all the cars ahead of you, and suddenly you have to stop, if you try to stop in the ruts, you will skid for quite a distance, but move a foot or so to either side of the ruts and hit the deeper stuff, you can stop a lot faster. So instead of hitting the car in front of you and in turn being hit by the car behind you, you will be hit by the car behind you and then shoved into the car in front.

I need to make sure I understand this “steer in the direction you want to go.” And I have to make sure I’m giving my children proper advice.

I learned to drive with RWD, and I was taught “steer in the direction of the skid”, and that seemed to work the few times I needed it. I thought the idea was to give the steering wheels (i.e., the front) a chance to regain traction so you could get control(like you might do, absent ABS, if you were skidding straight while trying to stop; un-brake to let the tires recover their traction). But now all our cars are FWD (Taurus, Escort, Camry).

So, let’s say I want to be going straight down the road, and I notice that I am crabbed slightly left (that is, the car is pointing a bit to the left, skidding to the right). Both algorithms tell me to steer (slightly) to the right.

But what if I were trying to follow a road curving to the right, and I find myself sliding off to the left? “Direction you want to go” tells me to keep steering right. “Direction of the skid” tells me to steer left.

Does the answer really change between FWD and RWD?

(I have restrained myself from telling the real-life experience that prompts the question. But Keith is absolutely right: on ice, there is little you can do. From being slightly crabbed at 30MPH on the clear-looking interstate, I wound up going sideways down the road, drifting slowly backwards toward the center wall. All I could do was say “I hope it stops before it hits the wall.”)

You must be able to cut the power to the drive wheels when skidding on glare or black ice. It doesn’t matter FWD or RWD. I’ve never driven 4WD or AWD so can’t speak with authority to those configurations. I’d expect it’d be logical that it is the same with them.

50-60 years ago when most cars had standard transmissions this was second nature to most drivers; simply push the clutch in. Since then the automatic transmission has become ubiquitious and drivers no longer know how to interrupt the power to the drive wheels. Simply move the shift lever to neutral.

This technique is necessary when descending a hill or an off camber at low speed. If the car is in gear the drive wheels will fight the brakes at the one end. At the other end, the brakes don’t have drive wheels to interfere with their operation. When the driver puts his foot on the brake pedal he is not able to balance braking distribution between the drive and non driven wheels. The only way to get good control is to declutch (or put auto in neutral).

I rarely find anyone who agrees with me about this. What a shame. This is one of those pieces of knowledge that has disappeared through the passage of time.

Absolutely 100% correct. Once moving slow enough that idle’s PULLING the car forward vs. engine braking (5mph or so), failing to take it out of drive is like always having to stop on an additional 2% decline.

Some of my own experience: 1. if you happen to get a wheel on the shoulder (so snowy the road edge is undefined) DON’T try to get the wheel back on at speed–you’ll go into a skid. Slow down (pulling off if necessary) and then get back on. 2. Cruise control is meant for smooth, dry, debris-free roadways ONLY!

Could anyone tell me exactly what to do if I find myself skidding while driving on snow or ice? Thank you very much. Al Brown

This is a easy one…SLOW DOWN…If you’re skidding when driving in snow it means you are driving way too fast.

Regardless of all the advice you have received the only way you are going to learn how to react is to go into a large parking lot and practice. The problem with being in an emergency situation is that it is rare and have no experience…practice skidding and braking and steering and find out how it feels to go through the motions.

I don’t know how I learned this, but I have developed my own way of driving in ice that seems to create enough friction that I rarely skid. You need to drive in a way that your tires are gripping the road. Sort of driving over the ice and not in the ice. No sudden shifts in speed because this might create the skid and you cannot apply the breaks unlss you absolutely must. I drive a slow, even speed and seem to pass everyone else who is skidding. When I see a traffic signal that is red I slow way down so hopefully it is green when I get to it. I just tap the breaks very gently too. You also need tires that give a lot of traction.

Steering in the direction you want to go works for both FWD and RWD. Here is why I say this. In RWD the typical skid puts the back wheels off to to one side and turning “into” that skid is steering in the direction you want to go, because the front of the car is pointing either too far or not far enough into the turn you are making. Keep concentrating on where you want the car to go. With FWD a skid is typically understeer, which means you aren’t turning enough and turning the wheel further in the same direction is still steering in the direction you want the car to go.

In the situation you described, road bears right and rear of car slides left, steering in the direction you want to go means turning the wheel back to the left because your car has turned too far right. If you are sliding completely sideways with all 4 wheels, you really have lost control, but be aware that as soon as your tires hit some snow or gravel or anything other than glare ice you will get some control back.

As others have suggested. Playing around in an empty, snow covered, parking lot can really help you understand the dynamics of controlling a car that is sliding. Some times it’s hopeless, but whatever happens don’t quit trying.