Drivers: do you know how to recover from a spin?

ABC News opened their show last night with a short video clip of a car spinning out of control on an icy highway somewhere in the south, where the latest miserable snow/ice storm struck yesterday. The video showed that the driver had done absolutely nothing to try to recover from the spin. Possible he/she didn’t know what to do, which is a shame; that lack of knowledge cost them a tow and possibly some vehicle damage.

Do you know how to recover control if your car loses traction and starts spinning?

The short answer:

get off of the gas (and brake) and turn the steering wheel in whatever direction the back end of the car is sliding. Example, the back end is sliding out to the right, turn the steering wheel to the right. Once the back end recovers grip, the car will want to turn in whatever direction your front wheels are now pointing, so be ready to move the steering wheel back toward center again.

Now that electronic stability control is mandatory, and most cars are front- or all-wheel-drive, do they even teach spin recovery in driver’s ed anymore?

It was something my dad taught me by demonstration then got me to do it. In the countryside, I hasten to add, not a busy city road!

I take the opportunity to practice as often as I can in empty parking lots after winter storms. Guess what I’m doing later today. :smiley:

Don’t think so. My kid just went through driver’s ed and it wasn’t part of the training at all. I think that’s part of the more advanced defensive driving school programs.

That’s how I learned. When I was 16 took my car out in the snow and screwed around for awhile. The next day I hit some ice, didn’t panic and kept from sliding too bad.

Done it tons of times in simulators, but not in real life-no, once when I had just started driving, my mom’s station wagon lost traction in a rainstorm, and I remembered (race telecast?) that keeping the brake pedal down would lose me any remaining traction, so I lifted off of the brake, and regained control.

I’ve started to go into a spin many times and recovered. Its second nature. One time I hydroplaned on an unexpected puddle in the highway. Didn’t recover from that one and hit a guardrail. I knew what to do but my tires were too bald to cooperate. I was young and unemployed and trying to stretch my tires life way too far.

I’ve spun out a few times. I’ve never been taught exactly what to do but, as Loach says, it is second nature. Laying off the gas and brake is a no brainer. Turning the wheel so that your ass end isn’t slipping away is also quite intuitive.

I’ve recovered with no damage the few times it’s happened to me.

Yep. Despite currently living (and having grown up) in the Southeast, my 4 years in Maine and 3 in NE Ohio meant that there were skills I had to learn.

(that doesn’t mean I LIKE it and the first time I had to deal with it I showed up at work ready to cry from how freaked out I was. At which point my coworkers chuckled and let me know this wasn’t anything yet. And I dealt with the rest of the winters.)

I drive over the continental divide at 11,500 feet twice every day. So, yes.

Isn’t that what trees are for?

You can’t live grow up in the Northeast without this becoming second nature. It’s just part of driving.

Yes, since I drive in snow every winter, it’s second nature to me now. I will admit, however, that is not as natural to me in warm weather. It’s like my brain has a summer mode and winter mode, and being ready to deal with a spin out is in the winter files.

And yes, in drivers ed in the 1990s in a suburb of Chicago, the technique in the spoiler was taught, although not practiced.

Yeah, that’s what parking lots at 3:00 am just after a large snowstorm are for. Grew up in Salt Lake.

It’s definitely worthwhile to spin your car around somewhere in safe conditions (e.g. a large empty parking lot covered with snow, a large dirt patch, etc.) once in awhile. You learn how your vehicle reacts under various conditions, and how to respond. I do this with every car I own. Bonus: it’s fun!

Don’t do it on bare asphalt, though, unless you just feel like buying a new set of tires.

I always heard “steer into the skid,” but I’d never seen anything as clear as the spoilered description in the OP.

Yep. My dad taught me pretty much word for word what the OP says. I’ve spun out twice and been very thankful I knew what to do.

In a FWD car, staying on the gas will help recover from the spin. Keeps weight on the back of the car and will help pull the car in the direction you want to go (assuming that the front wheels are pointed in the right direction).

Cars today are designed from the factory to understeer, so skidding is less common than it used to be. When it does happen it may be due to a total loss of traction, so doing all the right things won’t necessarily help. When the car does regain traction, an inexperienced skidder will have the front wheels pointed way too far into the skid. They’ll suddenly find grip and the car will go off the road in the opposite direction.

There’s a certain school of thought that says since the safety equipment is designed to work best in a head-on collision, sliding head-first off the road is better than fishtailing left, catching traction, fishtailing right and hitting a tree sideways. And ESC changes things, because you should react differently in a car with stability control.

You either teach new drivers what to do in varying traction conditions, in FWD, RWD, and AWD, with and without skid control, or you just trust that if they lose control it’s best for them to hit a tree head on and trust the airbag. I know everyone’s a fan of education to solve this problem, but there’s no denying that technology + dumber drivers has resulted in fewer injuries and fatalities.

The spoilered description is common, and needlessly complex. It is not wrong, just too much to think about. A much simplified version is “no gas no brake, clutch if you have one. Keep the front wheels pointed the direction you would like to go”

That last bit avoids the ambiguity of what the heck does “into the skid” mean, and also does not require any thinking about what the rear is doing.

And as others have suggested, this advice applies to learning when you practice in an empty parking lot. You will not think your way out of a skid that happens "in the wild. You have to become instinctive.

Also note that in slippery conditions keeping your hands on the wheel at “ten to two” will allow you to know where the wheels are pointed, and to find neutral as you recover. There are auto-cross techniques that allow more wheel motion than 10-2, while still maintaining a neutral fix.

Also worth noting that recovery is easier and more certain when initiated early. Recovery becomes more difficult as 90 degrees of yaw is approached, and a matter of luck beyond that. In a real spin-out, the driver will have to catch it as it completes a full circle.

It becomes second nature if you practice it a little.

If you think about it, this advice under certain circumstances will make the skid worse, e.g. trying to turn left, but the car slides right (well, continues to slide in the direction you were going before trying to turn). Continuing to point the wheels left then, “where you would like to go,” won’t help.

The OP is better. Best advice is to practice it until it is second nature.

This bit you apparently want to avoid is actually critical.

Yes, but also start with the complete, correct information.

This is very good advice. I’ve lost the sense before of which way my wheels were pointing because of not maintaining my hand position–not good. Luckily it turned out ok.


keep away from light poles