Turning into a skid?

I’ve always heard that when skidding, you should turn yoru wheel into it and it will apparently help you control it. However, this seems to go against common sense which says you’ll just start skidding more in the direction your going rather than controlling it. Then again, sometimes the laws of physics completely defy common sense, so can someone help me figure this out?

I have lived in many northern states including Alaska and I know that turning in to a skid gives you control. If you turn away from the skid, you will immediately go into a spin and will be totally out of control and probably in a serious accident.

IANAD. (I am not a driver.)

To me, though, it makes perfect sense. Skidding is a case of the wheels sliding, generally. When you turn away from the skid, inertia gives you no choice but to continue sliding, which means you stay out of control and may end up rotating as you slide.

When you turn into the skid, your wheels are rolling in the same direction as your car is sliding. Hopefully this gives you a good opportunity to stop sliding and start rolling on the wheels again. Once you’re rolling on your wheels, you have traction and can once again control where the car is going.

Did that make any sense??

Let’s make sure that we understand what it means to “turn into a skid.” Let’s say as you start skidding, the tail of your car starts moving to the right, relative to your intended line of travel. Instead of facing straight ahead, you’re now facing slightly to the left side of the road. You should turn the wheel to the right. That’s what’s meant by “turning into the skid.”

In fact, it’s one of those rules that’s stated in a stupid, confusing way. If you’re skidding, turn your wheels in the direction you want to go. Much simpler than trying to figure out which way you’re skidding.

Dorifto Time! :stuck_out_tongue:
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I’ve found that this also works well when I’m not skidding. Plus it’s a heck of a lot easier to do than trying to coax meaning out of a stupidly worded phrase while simultaneously sliding sideways towards disaster!

What you are trying to do is keep your front wheels pointed in the direction that your car is traveling. Or at least in the direction you want to go. So they keep rolling, and not skiding. A rolling tire has much better traction than a skiding tire.

If your back end kicks out to the right. Turn your front wheels to the right.

Now, if your on a mountain curve, you may be screwed either way. But what you are trying to do is give your front wheels control. If they are moving sideways to your direction of travel, they will skid and not have any control. Try to keep your front wheels rolling and not skidding.

This one took me a while to understand, but one day just sort of clicked, and I think I may have found a way to demonstrate it, but I haven’t tried it. Get a bicycle out (you may have to do this on a rainy/slippery day, and it may work with a smaller/lighter bike. Anyways, with the front wheel and rear wheel pointed straight ahead, push the bike sideways, but at an angle. So if 12:00 is staight ahead, push it towards 2:00. (Still with the wheels pointed foward, now it should be skidding). Now, if you were driving, the natural reaction would be to turn the wheel to the left, so turn it to 11:00, what happens, just keeps skidding. Now turn it to 1:00 (not pointed all the way in the direction that your skidding, since in a car you usually can’t turn the wheel that far, but close). What happens, if my concept works (untested remember) hopefully the front wheel should catch and start to turn, then you can regain control. Does that make sense???

Joey, good clear description (to me anyway).

One rainy night on CA Hwy 92, heading over the ridges to Half Moon Bay, my car started to slide going around a switchback that curved to the right. It was a old heavy high-center-of-gravity car and it was sliding across the lane toward the steep drop-off at the far side of the road (all 4 tires sliding, the car pointed SW almost W but still moving South).

I had never really understood “steer into the skid”, but at least I didn’t want it to roll over, so I pointed the wheels S (toward the cliff, even though I sure didn’t want to go there), and voila, the front wheels rolled OK now and the car straightened out. So I turned again toward the SW and it broke loose again; turned it S and carefully SW and then W and this time it worked, and I came around the curve on the wrong side of the road, but upright and mostly on the pavement.

So the technical term would probably be “a fishtail and a half”, and a minute later, I pulled over and sat there laughing and whooping and bouncing on the seat, very triumphant 'cuz I wasn’t dead. Adrenaline is fun.

I don’t see how your “natural reaction” could be anything other than steering into the skid. It doesn’t seem in the least counter-intuitive to me. If the back of my car is sliding out to the right, I want to do something that will swing it back in to the left. Anyone with the most basic grasp of steering knows that if you turn the wheel to the right, the rear of the car swings left relative to the front. What’s not to understand?

Oops, hit submit too soon. This might illustrate why you want to steer into the skid a bit better.

There’s a nasty road with lots of curves on it that I drive to the station every day. Plenty of people have come to grief on it, as the wilting bouquets of flowers on several trees on bends testify :frowning:

Anyway, one thing I always notice about the crash sites is that they are usually on the inside of a bend, after the apex. There’s a sharp left-hand bend, with a big oak tree just after the bend on the left. Lots of people have smacked into that tree. You’d think that if you were skidding you’d be likely to go off the road to the right, but in fact what happens is that the rear of the car skids out to the right. If you steer into the skid, you have a good chance of straightening it up, but if you don’t - or, worse, if you hit the brakes - when your tyres suddenly regain traction you will be pointing too far left and will suddenly shoot off the road on the inside of the bend. That is bad news.

Not being dead has that effect on people, doesn’t it? :cool: Great story!

Having driven on icy roads for quite a few years (dusty ones in the first few minutes of a thunderstorm are nearly as slippery), I learned early how to straighten out a skid. That saved me a few nasty accidents.

Coincidentally, not half an hour after I wrote the above-but-one post, I set off for work on wet roads, turned right out of the end of my road with a bit of a heavy right foot, and got a very satisfying fishtail action. I can confirm that I wound the wheel back to the left and the car righted itself rapidly. (The electronic traction control no doubt helped, too.)

Woke me up a little, anyway :eek:

I think the good thing is that you just naturally steer into it without beng conscious of it.

You don’t need to know about physics or steering or anything – you just automatically do what’s right. Now it doesn’t sound right, because you’re thinking, “my car is skidding off the road to the right, and I’m supposed to steer that way?” Well, yeah, if you turn the wheel to the left, I think 2 things can happen:

  1. You just skid off the road to the right sideways.

  2. The car catches as the speed drops and all of a sudden you’re going in the direction that you pointed the wheels, i.e. into the middle of the curve. If I followed Colophon this might be what happens on that bend.

You see both things happen if you watch enough NASCAR (guys into the wall, and guys who “catch” and go into the infield.) This is from memory now but when Dale Earnhardt died, it looked like he started skidding to the left because of contact and wrongly steered to the right, which caught and sent him up into the wall. A NASCAR driver’s natural reaction is to steer to the right because that’s the direction of most of their skids. (but, there was a lot of contact during that crash. It’s almost a crap-shoot from one instance to the next which way you’re skidding. )

The problem might be reaction time and overcorrection for some people. I’ve skidded on an icy road, turned into it, then had the car come around the other way. You steer back into that one, and the car comes back around the original way.

Hopefully, you will damp out the fishtailing, but if you miss one, the car will swing around.

I recommend to anyone who lives in a place that gets ice and snow to go out and intentionally put the car in a skid in a wide open parking lot after a storm.

Ditto. This seems like one of those things that would be automatic if people now didn’t stop and say “Shit, which way was I supposed to turn this damn thing?”

I think the reason that it is not intutitive is that drivers are used to sitting behind the steering wheel following the nose of the car. When going into a skid (lets use the example of turning left and back wheels moving to the right in relation to the road) the driver suddenly finds themselves at an angle to the road. This means that the driver’s postion in relation to the car is to the right of where they are used to being. ie. the steering wheel and bonnet are conceptually to the left of them. When under pressure and panicking I could see why people might turn to the left to correct this.

Yes, that’s exactly what I meant.

I’ll second that. The only time I have ever spun a car was in snow. I drove to the cinema and it was raining. Sometime while I was watching the film, the temperature dropped enough to freeze the untreated wet roads, so there was now a nice layer of ice, on top of which snow continued to fall. I could barely keep on my feet walking back to the car, and thought, “Hmm, driving home will be fun!” :dubious:

So, I babied the car along at not much more than walking pace. It was fine until I got to the first roundabout, at which point the back wheels broke away to the left. I steered left, and the back then broke out to the right. I steered back into that and the process repeated. After about five or six of these, I overcorrected and spun gracefully through 360 degrees, coming to rest pointing in exactly the right direction :cool: It was late at night and the road was wide, so I hadn’t hit anything. It was almost comical spinning a car at about 5mph. Luckily, I soon made it onto roads that had been gritted.

The forecast is for this winter to be exceptionally cold in the UK… and I now have a rear-wheel drive car with wide tyres that will be utterly useless in snow :smack:

I still don’t really get this. You’re at an angle to the road, yes, but looking straight ahead (from your position in the driving seat) you’re staring at the left-hand kerb/wall/ditch. I know which way my instinct would be to steer in this situation, and it wouldn’t be towards the left!

a) It’s actually good you don’t get this because you are correct!

b) In general, there is misconception about what is meant by “steer into the skid”. This is the root of the confusion. Fezpp is trying to say that we see things from the driver’s seat. If the car is skidding to the left from the driver’s perspective, then the MISAPPLIED rule would dictate to keep going left!

As pointed out in this thread, the rear of the car is skidding in the opposite direction, and yes, THIS WOULD FEEL INTUITIVE, but is it correct?

c) Wait a minute! Does this rule hold true for front-wheel drive cars, as well? In a rear wheel drive car, the driver and the drive wheels are moving in OPPOSITE directions during a skid, as pointed out. But, if front-end drive, the driver and drive wheels are moving in the SAME direction! If I feel the car slipping, I want to steer against it to compensate, correct? In other words, if the front end is slipping (skidding) to the left, I want to gently steer to the right, correct?

  • Jinx

a) Clarifying: By this last statement, I meant that many drivers might have a split second of hesitatation to wonder “Is this correct?” as they think about following the MISAPPLIED rule. Hopefully, common sense and gut instinct will guide them to the correct decision: If the driver finds the front end of the car skidding to the left, they steer into the skid by steering right because the back end is moving to the right.

b) The question remains if this rule is true for front-wheel drive, as well?

  • Jinx