Put these tips into practice the next time your car needs to gain traction to get going, make a turn, or stop.
It's happened many times. Especially in bad weather, your car doesn't seem to head where you'd like it to. When you're sliding, it can be tough to remember if you should turn into the slide, apply brakes, or accelerate.
Regardless of the cause or urgency of the situation, it's important to remain calm while finding a solution. It's terribly frustrating to not have enough traction to get your car moving. It's also scary when your car lacks the needed traction to make a turn or come to a stop. Allowing emotions to override your decision-making skills will only complicate the situation.
Traction to Get Going
Your vehicle can experience a wheel spin when you press on the accelerator, and your car stays in place. The wheels simply spin around without any forward movement. This happens when you're attempting to accelerate too quickly for the road conditions.
As this is occurring, you will need to attempt to accelerate at a much slower rate. Repeat if necessary as if you're rocking your car back and forth. You can also keep a container of sand or dirt in your car. Sprinkle some sand/dirt in front of each tire (especially the front tires for front-wheel drive and back tires for rear-wheel drive). Your tires can better regain traction on sand/dirt than on snow and ice.
Regain Traction from a Rear-Wheel Skid
A rear-wheel skid (or fishtailing) occurs when a car's front wheels lock up. The rear tires are loose and cause the car to spin. Be sure to reduce your speed overall, especially when turning and in poor weather conditions, in order to help prevent a rear-wheel skid.
Pay attention to what your car is doing in response to how you're handling the controls. Oftentimes, the car will attempt to turn more tightly than you're steering when you're in a rear-wheel skid.
In the moment, remove your foot from the accelerator or brake. Resist the urge to slam on the brakes as sudden movement can make matters worse. Turn the steering wheel towards the direction you want the car to go. You may have heard the advice to turn into a skid, but this only creates a more unpredictable situation for you and your vehicle. Allow your vehicle to slow naturally and regain control. If you have a manual transmission, press in the clutch to disengage the engine propulsion.
Regain Traction from a Front-Wheel Skid
Plowing, or a front-wheel skid, happens when the front wheels lock up. During a front-wheel skid, a vehicle continues straight ahead when you have turned the wheel in either direction.
While this is happening, press on the brake pedal gently. If you don't have anti-lock brakes, pump the brakes slowly to help regain traction. (If you do have anti-lock brakes, keep the brakes pressed in firmly and gently.) Similar to a rear-wheel skid, turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the car to go.
Regular Maintenance and Practice
You can avoid many traction issues by keeping your car well-maintained. Replace tires as recommended and especially before winter and snowy months. Traction issues can also be attributed to other parts of your vehicle than your tires. Wheel alignment, suspension, torque distribution, and even weight distribution from other car components can all be related to challenges with traction.
Especially if you're not experienced at driving in winter conditions, take some time in the fall to practice driving on slick surfaces. Take your car to an empty parking lot after a snow shower and drive around (speeding up, turning, stopping) to learn how your vehicle handles when it loses traction.
Have you experienced your car losing traction? What tips can you add? Share in the comments below.