|So you´re driving on slick roads and the rear end begins to slide to the left, what do you do? What have you been taught? Counter-steer? Steer into it? OK. Chances are that if you follow this time-honored advice, when you steer to the left, you´ll soon start to slide to the right… only a little harder. Now what do you do? Steer into it, right? OK, you steer to the right but now the rear end slides around to the left… only a little harder. Now, continue to do this until you eventually swap ends and you get to see where you came from.
So what went wrong? Well you received some bad advice. Though well intentioned, the advice is lacking because it fails to answer some simple questions. How much do you steer? How hard do you steer? How long do you hold the steering?
In order to determine how to control, or better yet, avoid sliding, we need to look at what is happening. You have only three ways to control a car: brake, accelerate, or steer. A car is most stable when it is at rest. By that I mean 25% of the weight is on each wheel. When you brake, the weight of the car shifts forward. When you accelerate, the weight shifts to the rear and when you steer the weight shifts left or right and forward. When the weight shifts, the stability of the car is diminished. That´s a law of physics and we can´t beat it. But we can control it. This is how:
The harder you brake, accelerate or steer, the more violent the weight shift. On a slick road you need all the stability you can get, so ease on the brakes, gently squeeze the accelerator and slow down your steering. Remember, the earlier you start, the less you have to use. That´s true whether we´re talking brakes, gas or steering.
Here´s the real secret to avoid skidding:
When you´re driving in inclement weather, you must slow down.
OK, so you´ve done all that and the car still tries to slide off the road. Now what? Let´s start with the basics. The first thing is keep your eyes up, looking forward. Where the eyes are looking, the car will follow. (Like when you stare at something off the side of the road and you start drifting over the fog line).
The advice for the steering wheel is very simple. Point the wheels in the direction you want to go. When you´re sliding, you´re losing speed and eventually you will slow down enough to regain traction. When that happens, your car will go in whatever direction you´ve pointed it. (That´s why people who run off the road to the right often cross back over the road and end up upside down on the left side).
OK, we´re looking where we want to go, we´re pointing the wheels in the direction we want to go, so what do we do with our feet?
To answer that; a little elementary physics. In order to change speed and/or direction, you must have rolling friction. When tires begin to slide it´s because they have lost friction.
Question: What makes tires work? Answer: Weight.
Now let´s think in terms of weight shift. If the rear end begins to slide and you´re on the brakes, where is the weight? It´s shifted forward, right? So, what makes tires work? Answer: weight. So how do we put more weight on the spinning rear tires? We ease off the brake pedal, weight shifts to the rear tires and we regain rolling friction, thus enabling a change of speed and/or direction.
OK, what if we´re on the accelerator and the rear end begins to slide? We want more weight on the rear, so we push the pedal to the floor, right? WRONG! If the rear tires are already spinning and we try to accelerate, it only makes the tires spin faster. What if we brake? The weight shifts forward and takes more weight off the rear tires. What makes tires work? Answer: weight. So braking won´t work, either. Here´s what you do. If you´re on the accelerator, maintain a neutral throttle and then ease off slowly. Remember when the tires are spinning, you´re gradually losing speed and eventually you´ll regain traction.
Ok, now to recap, when the rear end begins to slide:
KEEP YOUR EYES LOOKING UP;
POINT THE WHEELS IN THE DIRECTION YOU WANT TO GO;
IF YOU´RE ON THE BRAKES, EASE OFF GENTLY; AND
IF YOU´RE ON THE ACCELERATOR, MAINTAIN A NEUTRAL THROTTLE.
Up to now, we´ve been talking about rear end slides. What about when the front wheels start to slide? Ever turn the wheel and nothing happens? This can happen on snow and ice or in the fall when the leaves on the trees turn to beautiful shades of red and orange, fall to the ground and become very slick. The natural response when this happens is to turn the wheel even more. (Sorry, that doesn´t work) In order to change direction, you have to have rolling friction and your steering wheels are sliding. In order to regain rolling friction, you have to take out a little steering, that is, straighten the wheel, then when the tires start rolling again, turn back into it.
If you´re on the accelerator, let off the gas. That will shift weight forward onto your front wheels. (What makes tires work? Weight)
If you´re on the brakes, gently ease off the brakes to allow the wheels to roll again.
So…when the front wheels begin to slide:
That´s all there is to it. Now if you panic and forget all this, remember one thing:
TAKE OUT A LITTLE STEERING, THEN STEER BACK INTO IT;
IF YOU´RE ON THE ACCELERATOR, LET OFF THE GAS; AND
IF YOU´RE ON THE BRAKES, GENTLY EASE OFF THE BRAKES.
Whatever the last thing was that got you into trouble, do less of it.