With the weather getting more wintry by the day, it won’t be long before ice and snow make their appearances, a fact that means many motorists will be conscious about skidding. Skidding has a number of causes, and knowing these will help you take the necessary steps to avoid skidding and reduce your risk of being involved in an accident.
In this blog post, we take a closer look at the main causes of skidding, what you should do to regain control of a vehicle in a skid, and how you can prevent skidding in the first place.
What causes skidding?
The sudden loss of wheel traction during a skid can be a harrowing experience. The most obvious cause of skidding wheels is the weather conditions, with snow, ice and heavy rain all making the likelihood of skidding much, much higher. Your tyres and brakes after all become less effective on roads affected by bad weather conditions.
In icy or snowy weather, your wheels are also prone to locking, meaning they won’t provide sufficient grip to the road. This can make braking either very difficult or even impossible.
What is black ice?
Black ice is weather-dependent threat that can cause issues with skidding on the road during winter. These difficult-to-spot patches of ice are almost undetectable to the naked eye. Whilst regular ice looks white in appearance, black ice is completely clear and forms without the tell-tale bubbles that normal ice consists of. The presence of black ice catches many drivers off guard and can leave them skidding into some very treacherous situations.
Driving through standing water causes skidding too, with the floating sensation known as ‘aquaplaning’ causing a lack of control and increasing your chances of skidding wheels.
Your driving style is another primary cause of skidding. Oversteering, attempting to make a sharp turn or straighten up too quickly, excessive use of your vehicle’s brakes, or accelerating during turning will increase the likelihood of car skidding.
How can I regain control of my vehicle in a skid?
If you experience car skidding, don’t panic. Keeping a cool head and steady hands are the keys to regaining control of your vehicle.
How you react does vary depending on the type of skid you are experiencing. For rear wheel skids, you should aim to steer into the skid rather than against it. Avoid applying the brakes as this will worsen the loss of traction. For front wheel skids, steer in the direction of the skid and ride it out until you gain traction once more.
Most people think that sudden braking is the best option for regaining lost traction, but this simply isn’t the case. Whether experiencing a rear wheel or front wheel skid, you should try to let the car slow without applying the brake where possible. If you need to, apply your brakes gently and cautiously to reduce your speed and remove your foot from the accelerator and/or clutch.
What steps can I take to prevent skidding?
Adapting your driving style to the weather is the first step to minimising the risk of car skidding. You should avoid driving at excessive speeds, and ensure full control of your vehicle at the most appropriate speed before performing a manoeuvre, such as a turn.
Remember, your braking distance will also be affected by adverse weather conditions, so you must account for this too. Always leave a good amount of space between you and the vehicle in front to ensure sudden braking isn’t required. Sudden braking can cause your vehicle’s wheels to lock up, increasing the likelihood of car skidding. Adding an extra two seconds to the usual two-second gap should give you plenty of time and space to react safely without skidding in wetter weather conditions.
Your vehicle should also be primed and ready to drive safely and avoid skidding. Make sure your tyres are in the very best condition, free from damage and above the minimum tread depth to guarantee safety at every turn. You should also check that the air pressure of each tyre is correct for your vehicle every week. Under or over inflated tyres cause reduced traction and diminish brake performance.
The condition of your brakes should be checked on a regular basis too. Brake pads should be replaced every 25,000 to 65,000 miles, but there are some tell-tale signs you can look out for to spot whether your brakes require attention. Squeaking, squealing, grinding and vibration when braking should all be investigated and rectified. If you find that it takes you longer to come to a stop, your brakes may also need replacing.