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Summary
  • Skidding occurs when the tires lose their traction on the road.
  • Driving on low-friction surfaces and failure to replace worn-out tires can cause a vehicle to skid.
  • Reaction is key to maintaining control over your vehicle when it’s skidding. If you’re oversteering, for example, you need to release the throttle slowly and adjust the steering towards the direction of the skid.

Riding a skidding vehicle can be quite unsettling, even if you only skid for a fraction of a second. If you’re unable to control your skidding vehicle, then you can end up in an accident. In this article, we’ll analyze skidding, its causes, and what to do if you’re in the middle of a skid.

What Is Skidding?

Skidding occurs when wheels lose traction with the road. A driver’s ability to steer or brake will be severely hampered when the vehicle is skidding.

What Causes Skidding In a Car?

There are several possible reasons why skidding may happen. It might simply be because of driving on a low-friction road surface like snow or wet pavement. The vehicle might also have worn tires that don’t grip the road as well as they used to.

Generally, the main reason why vehicles skid is because their tires are receiving more force than they can take. Force can be applied to tires in two ways. Longitudinal load is applied to tires when the vehicle is accelerating or braking, while lateral load is applied to the tires when the vehicle is cornering. Tires receive the most force when a vehicle brakes hard, corners fast, or accelerates quickly.

The amount of lateral and longitudinal load that the tires have to withstand also increases when a vehicle is carrying heavy loads or traveling at high speeds.

Once a wheel receives too much lateral and longitudinal load, the surface of the tire will start sliding across the pavement. This is when a tire starts to skid. A tire that’s sliding across the road will have significantly less grip than a tire that’s firmly locked into place. This is why drivers should only corner, brake, or accelerate when the wheels are in static contact with the road because this is when the wheels have the most grip.

What Should You Do If You Start to Skid?

There are multiple reasons why your vehicle is likely to skid. These include too much acceleration, too much braking, and or excessive turning forces.

To bring the car under control, you would need to react to whatever it is that caused you to skid in the first place. If you are oversteering, for example, you must gradually release the throttle and make quick steering adjustments in the direction of the slide. A good driver can generally control oversteer, but incorrect steering or throttle inputs can cause the vehicle to spin out of the road. You should never slam on the brakes in these types of skids because you’ll exert more longitudinal load on the tires. Your goal in these situations is to give the wheels the chance to regain static contact with the road. If your vehicle skids like this, stay focused, release the throttle, and steer into the skid.

Another instance where skidding can occur is during hard braking. If you slam on the brakes and your wheels lock up, your vehicle will end up skidding across the road. This can be especially prevalent on slippery road surfaces in a vehicle without anti-lock brakes. If your wheels lock up during braking, don’t press on the brake harder. Instead, press the brakes slowly and steadily while steering the vehicle. If you feel the wheels skid, let go of the brakes and repeat the process.

The best way to minimize the chances of your vehicle skidding is by taking into account the current road conditions and driving at the appropriate speed. Unless it’s icy or snowy, remember skidding rarely happens at low speeds.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Automotive Features Reviewer at CarParts.com

Lisa Conant grew up in Canada around a solid contingency of gear heads and DIY motor enthusiasts. She is an eclectic writer with a varied repertoire in the automotive industry, including research pieces with a focus on daily drivers and recreational vehicles. Lisa has written for Car Bibles and The Drive.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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