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Car Talk

How to skid safely


Dear Tom and Ray:

I just read an article on winter driving, and I want to make sure I understand what is meant when they say, “Turn into the direction of the skid.” If the front of our car is veering right, it means the rear is going left, so which direction are you skidding in – right or left? I want to make sure I understand where I’m supposed to turn my steering wheel. It seems that if my front is veering right, and I turn my steering wheel to the right, I’d just end up making a circle. Please clarify. – Sylvia

TOM: If the car starts to slide, and the front of the car is pointing to the right of where it’s supposed to be pointing and the back end of the vehicle is moving to the left, that’s usually referred to as skidding to the left. In that case, Sylvia, you would turn the steering wheel to the left to try to straighten out.

RAY: Think about it this way. Let’s say you plopped your car down on the face of a clock. The front of the car is pointing at the 12, and the back of the car is pointing to the 6. You’re going straight down the road, and all is right with the world.

TOM: Now, suppose, all of a sudden, the front of your car is pointing to the 2. How would you get the car pointed straight again? You’d turn left, wouldn’t you? You’re pointing at the 2, and you want to point to the 12, so you turn left. That’s turning into the skid.

RAY: If the car was suddenly pointing to the 10, and you wanted to be pointing toward the 12, you’d turn the wheel to the right, right? Right.

TOM: But even if you understand the theory, it’s best to practice the technique before you have to use it. So if there’s a snowstorm and you can find a big, empty parking lot (note: light poles don’t count as empty), go out and, at a reasonably slow speed, cut the wheel sharply and put the car into a skid, then try to steer out of it.

RAY: If you’re like most people, you’ll “over-correct” at first and steer too far into the skid, causing you to skid the other way. So, you want to make quick, small corrections, bringing the steering wheel right back toward the center after each correction to see where you are and if you need to correct more.

TOM: Or better yet, Sylvia, make sure your next car has electronic stability control. Then the computer does all that stuff, and you just point the wheel where you want to go and don’t have to worry about reading any more confusing articles about skidding.

(c) 2008 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi

and Doug Berman Distributed by King Features

Syndicate, Inc.


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