There are various times throughout the year when you could lose control over your car and skid. Skidding can occur in numerous conditions, not just during autumn and winter.
Car skidding occurs when the forces that affect the tyres are stronger than the grip of the tyres to the road surface. The grip itself is influenced by numerous factors, including road conditions, the condition of the tyres, the state of the vehicle and, of course, the driver.
Car skidding might lead to a car accident, but it doesn’t always have to end that way. Learning how to behave when a car skids is important to improve your chances of safely maneuvering out of a dangerous situation.
The basic method of avoiding skidding is to adapt your driving technique to the prevailing conditions.
Why does skidding occur?
Skidding happens when a vehicle slides or turns as a result of stopping too quickly. Sometimes, this can also be caused by accelerating too quickly. This often occurs on corners and turns, but a skidding car can also occur on straight lines. Sometimes, this can result in other driving phenomena, such as fishtailing, which is often the result of a driver’s attempt to regain control over the skidding car.
Although ice or black ice is often the main cause of skidding, it is not the only one. Aside from black ice, wet roads and other slippery surfaces can all cause the same effect.
How to reduce the risk of skidding?
Some of the most important factors, when it comes to avoiding skidding, are the driver’s skills and their imagination. It is far easier, as well as safer, to avoid skidding entirely, rather than trying to overcome it or improve your skid control. With this in mind, it also helps to properly align your imagination and skills with knowledge regarding the capabilities of your car, including your choice of car tyres.
If you are aware that a road surface is slippery, then you should assert due caution. Try assessing, analysing and anticipating the situation on the road in a calm manner.
Common changes in weather that you should watch out for include:
- The very first signs of snowfall
- A buildup of slush on the road
- A sudden rainstorm, especially after a long period of low humidity
- Morning frost
This can be a problem for even the most experienced drivers, if they choose to ignore the change in weather and road conditions.
Car tyres have a significant influence on safety so they have to be in a good condition.
How your driving technique affects skidding
To reduce the risk of skidding, adapt your driving style, applying a few rules:
- Rather than stopping abruptly, you should slow the car down gradually. Preferably, this should be done using motor braking (allowing the car to slow down naturally) as, this way, there will be no need for sudden braking and eventually there will be no slipping.
- If your car does not have an ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) you should pulse-brake, as this will help prevent a locked wheel skid. In an emergency situation, after braking hard at first, you should release the pressure on the brake and bypass an obstacle, or otherwise repeat the operation until the car stops.
- With a car with an ABS, you should press the brake pedal hard. The ABS will work in the same manner as pulse-braking, which was the initial prototype for the system, slowing down gently. An ABS won’t let your wheels become locked.
- You should refrain from moving the steering wheel suddenly.
- Likewise you should also change gears gently, to ensure the car doesn’t ‘jerk’ from rapid gear switching.
- When cornering, you should drive both in and out of it in the same gear. In short, change to a lower gear before entering the corner, rather than during.
- Except for extreme situations, you should not brake when turning.
- At low temperatures, you should be aware that black ice can form - this is a thin layer of ice that is invisible to the naked eye while driving.
- After it has rained, you should drive at a reduced speed as the road will still be wet. This also applies to melting snow, as the slush still is dangerous to drive in.
The higher the speed you are driving at, the higher the risk you have of losing control over your car. Tyres can’t expel all the water that gathers under the tyre - this depends on the water depth, tread grooves, crown ply width and, as already mentioned, the speed of the vehicle. Tyres can only do so much at once, so this leads to a greater risk of aquaplaning.
It is also worth remembering that, in difficult conditions, common sense and your ability, as a driver, to imagine the road conditions are just as vital.
How do car tyres influence skidding
When it comes to the technical condition of the car, the first thing you need to focus on are the car tyres, as this has a significant impact on the risk of skidding.
It is recommended that you choose a model that has a high resistance to aquaplaning and good response parameters across various road conditions. In addition, it is worth noting that the speed rating should be adjusted to the car’s power and your driving style. As we have shown throughout this article there are many parameters to consider so, if you have any doubts, it is better to ask a professional. Our customer service team is full of experts to help you make the best choice, whether it’s a summer tyre or winter tyre.
Of course, such tyres also need to be kept in good condition. When it comes to offering protection against slipping, the following factors are can deteriorate a tyre’s ability to do so:
- Low tread depths or so-called “bald tyres”
- Low tyre pressure
- Abnormal tyre wear of the crown ply, such as only having one side worn out
- Defective internal tyre construction, related to excessive loads or overheating
UK tyre tread law forbids driving with a tread depth lower than 1.6 mm. However, for safety reasons, we recommend driving with a tread at least 3 mm deep in the summer. In the winter, this should be at least 4 mm deep. Currently, many tyres are equipped with a tread wear indicator (snowflake with an arrow), which informs the driver when a tyre no ensures proper driving safety.
Likewise, it is also important to maintain proper tyre pressure. Ideally, you should check your pressure levels once a month, as well as before any long journey. This should be done on every tyre, to ensure that the pressure is balanced and complies with the car manufacturer’s guidelines. It is also useful to do this to the spare tyre, to ensure it is ready to be used at all times.
Furthermore, you should remember that the risk of skidding also increases when the suspension system, or car steering system, is faulty.