A significant proportion of Bespoke Driver Training‘s individual clients have booked a driving course following a brown-trouser moment. They unwittingly lost control of their car, scared themselves silly in the process, and subsequently looked to us to help them to avoid a similar situation recurring, and to recover their confidence.
In a skid a number of your car’s tyres will have lost their ‘normal’ grip with the road surface. Tyres grip the road in two ways. If you were to use a microscope to look at a tyre’s tread, you would see that it is not perfectly smooth, just like the road surface. As a result imperfections in the rubber interlock with imperfections in the road. In addition, molecules of rubber bond to the road surface just like tar to a car’s bodywork! When the forces acting on a tyre’s contact patch exceed its grip on the road, it will start to skid.
There are three types of skid: front-, rear- and all-wheel. Front-wheel skids are often referred to as understeer, where the car’s tendency is to ‘push’ towards the outside of a curve. Rear-wheel skids are called oversteer as the car seemingly overreacts to the steering. In contrast to understeer, an oversteering car will spin. So, with understeer you get to see what you might hit, with oversteer you just get dizzy!
Almost all skids are caused by one of more of the following five driver errors: harsh braking or acceleration; excessive speed; coarse steering; or the pronounced weight-transfer that occurs due to suddenly lifting-off the accelerator mid-bend. In correcting any skid there is one thing that invariably helps – smoothly and swiftly removing the cause. The key to skid-avoidance is avoiding the aforementioned, always relating your speed and control inputs to the prevailing conditions, with the aim of keeping your car balanced through steering and pedal inputs that are smooth, sympathetic and progressive.
All manufacturers engineer a degree of understeer into their cars as, on balance, understeer is easier to deal with than oversteer. If handled smoothly to the limit of grip, all road cars have a tendency to understeer. If excessive speed or harsh acceleration whilst cornering causes the front wheels of your car to lose grip, smoothly ease off the gas. If you are unlikely to recover control in time to avoid crashing, brake, especially if your car is fitted with anti-lock brakes – at the very least, attempt to minimise any impact speed. Easing off the gas (and squeezing the brakes) will transfer weight onto the front suspension and increase the grip of the front tyres, so if you are cornering at the time utilise this extra grip as you recover from the skid by progressively steering more into the bend to recover your intended cornering line.
Particularly in rear-wheel drive cars harsh acceleration can lead to power oversteer. To recover control ease sufficiently off the gas to recover grip, whilst simultaneously steering into the direction of the skid. Opposite lock at the front will counter the yaw moment of the skidding tyres at the rear. Look in the direction you wan to go rather than in the direction the car is pointing, and be ready to recover control. Begin to remove the corrective steering lock as the rear wheels look to follow the front once more, and the car approaches pointing in the direction you want to go.
If oversteer occurs due to a sudden lift off the gas pedal mid-corner, apply opposite-lock and, if appropriate in the circumstances, reintroduce the gas in order to transfer weight back to the rear in an attempt to recover grip. To avoid lift-off oversteer take an in-slow-out-fast approach to corners. For mid-corner emergencies endeavour to ease smoothly off the gas and avoid a sharp jab on the brakes. Your goal should be to avoid sudden weight transfer to the front tyres, which means a simultaneous reduction in rear-wheel grip.
If you ever brake so hard that you lock the wheels, ease off the brake pedal just enough to get the wheels rotating once more. A tyre generates maximum grip just before it locks. Holding the tyres on the threshold of locking-up will minimise stopping distances, whilst retaining steering potential. In an emergency with ABS-equipped cars, brake hard and maintain pressure upon the pedal, remembering to look and steer away from anything in your path.
Especially near to the limit of grip coarse steering can, even in isolation, lead to a skid. To recover from any resultant understeer, quickly unwind steering lock until the car stops skidding, then smoothly steer back onto your intended course.
In such a short blog it is impossible to cover all aspects of skid-avoidance and -recovery. If you would like a bespoke driving course tailored around your individual driving ambitions, you can contact Bespoke Driver Training by clicking the ‘Contact Us’ tab above. Alternatively, to speak with one of Bespoke‘s enthusiastic driving trainers call 0845 602 2065.
Founder, Bespoke Driver Training