What Causes a Car to Skid

by Frank Whittemore

What is a Skid?

A skid occurs when the front or rear of a car in motion suddenly and uncontrollably swings around in a circular movement. Depending upon the force of the skid, the vehicle may stop quickly or continue the circular path, turning multiple times. Knowing something of how a skid occurs, what causes it and what to do in the event of a skid may help you turn an uncontrollable situation into a minor occurrence.

Skid Mechanics

Skids usually occur while driving when the clutch is suddenly engaged or disengaged, the brakes are applied too hard, the vehicle accelerates too quickly or the steering wheel is turned too sharply. These can create a situation where power, either too much or too little, causes a loss of traction.

Causes of Skids

A combination of the relative speed of the vehicle, the actions of the driver and the physical conditions of the road will come together to produce a skid. Skids occur in slippery road conditions that prevent the vehicle from maintaining traction. These include wet pavement, roads with loose material such as sand or gravel, icy roads and situations where slippery materials such as oil are present on the road surface.

How to Avoid or Handle a Skid

To avoid a skid, drive to meet the conditions of the road. Don't drive too fast. It is not necessary to drive at the posted speed limit if conditions make that speed unsafe. Learn to feel the road through the steering wheel by detecting how your steering affects your vehicle in different situations. Above all, be aware of your surroundings and any potential situations that could cause a skid. If your car begins to skid, don't panic. Keep alert and look ahead. Do not overcorrect your steering. This can cause you to skid in the opposite direction even more uncontrollably. Try to avoid applying the brake. Carefully turn your steering wheel, pointing the front wheels in the direction you want to go on the road and slowly accelerate. This should bring your car back in line with the road and counteract the skid.

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera FLickr - Emdot - http://www.flickr.com/photos/emdot/50148025/