Practice Correcting from Skid, ABS Won't Help Once One Starts

Article excerpt

As you drive along an unfamiliar stretch of highway, you realize the exit ramp you want is right in front of you. There's still time to get off if you move quickly. This should be no problem if you can drop your speed as you go down the ramp.

The turn becomes progressively tighter, and you realize you are going too fast. To make matters worse, those snow flurries that were blowing around on the interstate have started to build up here on the ramp. You know you've made a mistake, and in a moment of desperation, hit the brakes and turn the wheel. The formula for disaster is in place.

All four tires begin to slide as the rear of your car swings out in a classic skid. Since you've already demonstrated your driving skill by getting into this mess, luck is the only thing that will get you out. But understanding how skids happen and improving your driving skills can take the place of good luck and keep you out of the ditch.

A skid occurs when a vehicle's tires begin to slide sideways. This can happen to either the front or rear tires. If the front tires lose lateral traction in a turn, the vehicle tends to travel straight ahead. The tires actually "plow" sideways in a condition known as understeer. Understeer simply means the car is not turning as quickly as it should. Front-wheel-drive vehicles are most likely to understeer.

If the rear wheels lose lateral traction, the rear of the vehicle tends to swing out. This sideways travel of the rear end causes the vehicle to turn more sharply than wanted. Since the vehicle is actually turning more than desired, the condition is known as oversteer. Rear-wheel-drive vehicles have the greatest tendency to oversteer. When both sets of tires break loose, a four-wheel skid results and the vehicle slides sideways.

Regardless of the type of skid, the technique for recovery is basically the same. Experts recommend easing off power while looking and steering toward the desired direction of travel. As the vehicle straightens out, don't forget to continue looking and steering in the direction you want to go. This requires gradually turning the steering wheel so the wheels are pointed straight ahead when the vehicle has straightened out. …