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We recently talked about car safety features and how they can help you navigate the wintry roads. With winter weather just waiting to cover our roads with snow and black ice, we think it’s important you know what to do if you ever get into a skid. With some help from ArtOfManliness, we’ll be listing 5 different types of skids one could get into while driving, and how you could safely get out of these skids and correct your car’s trajectory.

Losing control of your vehicle can be one of the scariest feelings in the world. Especially if you’re on a highway. It can be extremely easy to lose focus as panic sets in. The very fact that there are different types of skids and each type requires a different maneuver to correct is scary enough. In addition, it’s important to know if your car is front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive. This could help you understand the type of skid your car might get into and how to get out of it.

Without further ado, here are the 5 different types of skids along with tips on how you could 1) get out of them and 2) prevent them from happening:

The Wheel Spin

Most drivers who’ve driven through snow-covered roads have experienced “The Wheel Spin”. When you accelerate and your tires spin at a speed your car is not traveling at, you’re in a wheel spin. This type of skid can lead to different outcomes depending on whether your car is front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive. The cause of a wheel spin is simple – accelerating too fast on a slippery or snow-covered road. The tires don’t properly grip the pavement, due to the lack of friction, causing them to spin rapidly. Don’t underestimate this type of skid. It might not be too dangerous if you’re just trying to back out of your driveway. But if it happens while you’re already accelerating, or worse, during a turn or on a steep hill, it could lead to catastrophe.

The solution, however, is relatively simple. Although it’s simple, it can create panic. If it happens to you, the first thing you need to do is remain calm (as with all skids) and remember how to get out of this type of skid. You need to regain traction. Take your foot of the accelerator, and retry accelerating with a much lighter foot. Slowly and cautiously accelerate (*unless this could make the situation more dangerous, ie. if you’re headed down a steep hill) until your tires regain traction. You might have to give this a couple of tries if your wheels are stuck in snow. Prevent ever getting into a Wheel Spin by taking it slow on the road when it’s slippery or covered in snow. 

Wheel Lockup

“Wheel Lockup” occurs when you brake too aggressively/suddenly. Your vehicle could still be in motion, but your tires will stop turning. This presents a dangerous situation if you’re ever stopping abruptly to avoid a collision. Fortunately, “Anti-Lock Braking Systems” (ABS) are now in most cars on the road and are designed to keep your wheels from locking up should you ever brake too aggressively. Check your car’s user manual, or look on the dashboard when you start your car for the ABS symbol, to see if your car has this safety feature installed. If you don’t have the ABS installed in your car, remember that the solution to Wheel Lockup is simple. But Wheel Lockup can prevent you from steering in an emergency situation when you need to steer clear of an object. And you may only have fractions of a second to regain control. If your wheels lock up on you because you’re braking to avoid a collision, remain calm and remember how to get out of it. Pulsate your brakes. Release them and softly/progressively brake again until you feel your wheels turn with your steering wheel toward a safe zone. Repeat this rapidly over and again until you come to a full stop in a safe area (ie. the side of the road).

When we see an accident approaching, it may be instinct to slam on the brakes. But without ABS, this is not always the right move. You’d be surprised at how quickly your car can come to a full stop if you apply the proper amount of pressure to your brakes. If you suddenly slam on the brakes, your wheels will likely lock up. But if you progressively hit the brakes and remain calm in this type of emergency, you may be able to prevent wheel lockup. Remember to keep a very fair amount of distance between you and other cars on the road.


An “Understeer” skid can occur when your car’s front tires lose traction and you’re unable to turn around a corner. This occurs most often when you haven’t slowed down enough before making a turn. If this ever happens to you and your car is front-wheel drive, do not spin the front tires. Additionally, aggressively braking can make this situation more dangerous. Your wheels may lock up and you’ve now lost your ability to steer. Another cause of the Understeer Skid may be a discrepancy of weight between the front and rear of your car. If you’re ever in an Understeer skid, don’t give in to the thought that turning your wheels further in the direction you planned to turn will rectify the situation. It will likely make it worse. Your best bet is to try to regain traction. Jerking your wheels straight and then slowly turning them in the direction you want to go can help your wheels gain traction so you avoid skidding off the road.

Prevent ever getting into an Understeer Skid by slowing down to an appropriate speed before turning. Pay attention to the speed limit signs at exits when you’re on the highway. If the roads are icy, snowy, or slippery, go slower than the recommended speed.

The Oversteer Skid

The “Oversteer Skid” happens when your rear tires lose traction on the road and propels your car into a slide, usually caused by a wheel spin in rear-wheel drive vehicles. It can often occur when you’re going too fast and apply the brakes while turning, which shifts much of the weight off the rear tires and onto the front. The solution to an Oversteer Skid depends on whether you’re driving a rear-wheel drive car or a front-wheel drive car. If you’re driving a rear-wheel drive car, your first step should be to take your foot off the gas. If you’re driving a front-wheel drive car, take your foot off the brakes and gently apply gas. Then, slightly steer into a safe direction. If you jerk your steering wheel too quickly, you won’t gain any traction and thus continue to keep skidding. Progressively turning will help your wheels gain traction.

Prevent ever getting into the Oversteer Skid as you would prevent getting into an Understeer Skid – take it slow. Take it even slower on icy or snowy roads.

The Counterskid (Or Fishtailing)

When you fail to correct an Oversteer Skid, you may end up in a “Counterskid”, or “fishtailing”. Your vehicle’s rear end will skid one way, and then another, like a pendulum. It’ll build momentum with every swing until you can rectify it. A Counterskid can be extremely scary. You must remember to remain calm. If your rear-end keeps fishtailing, you may lose complete control by its third swing.

If you’re in a car with rear-wheel drive, your first step is to take your foot off the gas. If you’re in a car with front-wheel drive, take your foot off the brakes and gently accelerate. With each swing, slightly turn your wheel toward the direction you want to go. Again, if you turn your wheel too far, you won’t gain traction and you’ll continue to skid. So, remain calm, and continue to slightly turn your wheel in the direction your rear-end is fishtailing toward (likely the direction you were heading) until you gain complete traction back and can recover your trajectory.

These suggestions are made by ArtOfManliness and may not always be the best option. It is up to you to know the feel of your car and prevent yourself from ever getting into a skid. The roads will be dangerous when winter weather hits. If you must drive in inclement weather or on icy, snowy roads, take it slow. And keep these suggestions in mind.

About the Author

Steven Palermo is the managing partner for Palermo Law, Long Island’s Personal Injury Law Firm. He has been helping people receive compensation for their injuries for over 21 years. He focuses on cases involving car accidents, truck accidents, construction accidents and slip and fall injuries.

His book The Ultimate Guide to Handling New York Car Accident Claims details the ins and outs of a car accident claim in a simple, easy-to-read manner.

Car manufacturers are continually at work in attempt to make their vehicles safer on the roadways. New safety features are applied, and sometimes mandated in newer cars every year.

Unfortunately, some of us may tend to forget the built-in safety features of our cars. As winter weather approaches, we think it’s important to know what safety features your car has and how they work. So, with help from MyCarDoesWhat, we’re going to discuss some safety features your car may have that could come in handy during the winter season, when driving conditions get more and more dangerous. We’ll touch on what they do, how to use them, and how to make sure they work when you need them to.

The Anti-Lock Braking System

The ABS (“Anti-Lock Braking System”) has been around for about 20 years, so it’s equipped in most cars on the road. Functioning ABSs help prevent your cars’ wheels from locking up in an abrupt stop. This gives you the ability to steer in a safe direction and possibly avoid an accident. Without ABS, you would need to pump your brakes to maintain traction keep your wheels from locking up.

If you do have ABS, it may show up on your dashboard when you turn your car on. You can also check your car’s user manual to see if it has ABS. Make sure you know whether your car has ABS or not. If it does, it could really help you maintain traction during a hard stop so you can steer clear of an accident and into a safe zone.

The Blind-Spot Monitor

The Blind-Spot Monitor is quite the safety feature. Every car has a blind spot – that area on the left/right side of your car which your side-view mirror simply can’t show. The Blind-Spot Monitor can make up for this. It works with sensors, sometimes located under the side view mirror or bumper. When it detects an object on your side, it will alert you – sometimes with a sound, and sometimes with a signal located on your side view mirror or the A pillar of your car (see image below). Some cars come with a side view camera. Much like the back-up camera, it will show what’s on the side of your car when you use your turning signal. Make sure you know if your car has a side view blind-spot monitor or camera. If it does, learn all its settings with the car’s user manual so you can utilize it correctly while driving.

Having a Blind-Spot Monitor should not suggest you no longer need to check your blind spot before switching lanes, though. A Blind-Spot sensor may miss motorcycles or motor vehicles that are driving too fast or too slow. And, much like the back-up camera, it can be faulty. Snow, ice, fog, or dirt can obstruct its view. It’s a good idea to learn where your blind-spot sensors or cameras are located so you can clean them regularly.

The Lane-Departure Warning

This feature is quite the breakthrough. Cars with Lane-Departure Warning are set up with cameras that detect the painted lines on the road (which delineate lanes) and alert the driver if they are swerving out of their lane. In some cars with this feature, if a driver is swerving out of their lane, the car will even readjust the steering to get them back in their lane. This feature has serious potential to prevent an accident.

But, its efficacy is dependent on the cameras’ clarity as well as the visibility of the road’s surface markings. And, since snow is on its way, you can be sure that there will be times when the lanes on the road aren’t visible enough to this feature’s cameras. These cameras can also get dirty. So, as with all safety features that use a camera or sensor, it’s a good idea to know where they are so you can clean them regularly. Check your car’s user manual to find out where they are and perhaps how to clean them.

Tire-Pressure Monitoring System

The Tire Pressure Monitoring System will alert you with a symbol on your dashboard if it detects deflation in your car tire pressure. This feature comes in handy especially during the winter time, when cold weather tends to, by nature, deflate your car’s air pressure.

If your car’s tires are deflated, you could end up experiencing what’s known as a “blow out”. Your tire(s) could pop on you while you’re driving. This is a dangerous scenario while driving at any speed. That’s why it’s so important to keep an eye on your tires to make sure they have enough air in them. Car manufacturers have been required to install them in every new car since 2008. Proper tire pressure can improve your car’s handling, gas mileage (or MPG), and can even extend the life of your tires. So, if your car has a Tire-Pressure Monitoring System, and you see the symbol appear, check your tires and properly inflate them.

Adaptive Headlights

Adaptive Headlights are a relatively new safety feature that help drivers see better on curvy roads. If your car has Adaptive Headlights, when you turn your wheel, your headlights will swivel in the direction you’re turning. According to WhatMyCarDoes, one study showed that drivers with Adaptive Headlights were able to see objects in front of them faster than drivers without Adaptive Headlights. They’re quite the safety feature. See if your car has them.

Brake Assist

Brake Assist is a brilliant safety feature. It’s been proven that when drivers are in a situation that could lead to an accident, they may not hit the brakes as fast as they should or as hard as they should. When you do make an abrupt stop, the Brake Assist feature will automatically “assume” you are trying to avoid an accident. It will apply extra pressure on the brakes to make up for that lag time in your reaction to a potential accident as well as the potential that you’re not braking as hard as you should be to avoid said accident. This feature could potentially stop an accident or potentially make it less catastrophic. Check your car’s user manual to see if you have Brake Assist.

Curve Speed Warning

This safety feature comes particularly in handy on wintery road conditions. It works with your GPS to determine if you’re driving too fast to make an upcoming turn. When it’s snow, rainy, or icy out, always take it slow on the road. If you’re driving too fast during a turn, you could end up going into a skid. However, it’s important to remember that this too is a technology capable of making mistakes. There may be turns the system is unaware of. And the system doesn’t hit the brake for you. It’s up to you to fully assess the conditions of the road and what speed you should be going at, especially when you have an upcoming turn.

These are just a few car safety features that may help you when the roads get slippery. Not all cars have these safety features. But now that winter is coming up, you should crack open your car’s user manual and check out the safety features it does have. They’re only valuable if you know how and when to use them.

Stay tuned for more posts on driving during the wintertime…