why do you steer into the skid?



So there was this video of a woman managing to avoid a crash by steering in a special way. I’m learning to drive rn and people keep saying if you skid you steer into it, but isn’t that the opposite of what it feels like you would do?

In: Physics

Yes, it is counterintuitive. This is why drivers should learn this in a school or something.

The reason is straightforward. The car that is skidding is no longer responding to the steering direction. Traction has broken down between the tire and the road and it is sliding.

Steering into the skid gives the driver the chance (as the car is slowing down) to regain traction by allowing the tire to rotate in the direction the car “wants” to go rather than simply sliding. Once this traction is regained, gently steering the car gives the driver some opportunity to direct the car and regain steering control.

If a driver does the intuitive thing and try to steer away from the slide, then the situation is made worse, the tires have no way to regain traction with the road and the car just continues to slide where it wants to due to momentum.

It feels that way because usually when you skid, you’re trying to turn.

So imagine you’re turning right and the cars skids – your instinct is to keep trying to aim the car to the right, where you’re trying to go.

As the back is skidding out to the left (clockwise from above), steering the front to the right (clockwise) just helps the spin (clockwise).

It’s different if you’re going straight and start to skid – the back starts to spin out (clockwise) but your instinct then would be to steer left (anti-clockwise) to keep aiming the car straight ahead where you were going. That’s steering into the skid.

So if the back of the car wants to spin one way, steering the front of the car to spin opposite helps control the skid instead of making it worse.

When I was learning how to drive my parents took me to open parking lots in the snow to teach me this concept. I found that after once or twice of countersteering properly it became almost instinctive.

The easiest way i can say is when the rear end kicks out to the right, to correct it you turn the wheel left thus making the front wheels pointed in the correct direction (straight down the road), if you start to feel it swing quickly back to the correct position be read for a 2nd round because it may kick out to the other side a bit.

There is more to it than “steer into the skid.” you also need to consider the road conditions, whether the front or back tires lost grip or all.

I highly encourage you to watch this 10ish minute video on correcting slides, and avoiding them in the first place.


I also encourage you to go to an empty snowy parking lot (WITHOUT LIGHT POLES TO CRASH INTO) and try getting into and out of slides.

It never felt “opposite” to me? If the car skids clockwise, and the front is going too far right, isn’t your instinct to turn the car back to the left?

You need to experience it and “feel it”.

That said it’s pretty simple: Keep your front wheels pointed in the direction your car is traveling.

If you rear end swings lefts, your front tires need to be turned left to be pointed in the direction the car is moving.

In a “controlled skid” where only the rear wheels are sliding you can still steer a bit (this is the part you can get a feel f0r)

In an un-controlled skid where all 4 are sliding, your car will suddenly get traction as the car slows, and when you get it back you want your front tires to be pointed in the direction you WANT to go.

When you are skidding, your wheels are already not steering in the direction you want. They are just acting as a (poor) brake against the direction of motion.

By aligning the wheels back to the direction of motion, they will once again be able to roll somewhat, and your steering will influence the direction of travel and help you recover.

Counter-intuitive, will send you closer to the edge of the road than you want, but better to be able to steer into a glance-blow than a side-on whack whatever you’re headed towards with zero control.

Skidding – whether through speed, or because you’re on ice – renders all the wheel functions useless. Braking is useless. Steering is useless.

Rally drivers and other experts can deliberately skid to the exact point that they will want to regain control, most drivers will just fight the skid and think the pedals/wheel are going to do something and they won’t.

You’re already moving at speed sideways against the wheel… nothing you do in terms of fighting, or braking will help. Let it skid, steer back into control (even if that’s towards the thing you don’t want to skid into), and then carefully pull it back away. You need to “herd” the direction of travel closer to what you want, not run against the stampede.

Assuming a front wheel steer (not drive) car

Front wheels need to point where you ‘want to go’

If the car over-rotates and the rear loses traction, the wheels will automatically turn in the opposite direction to that which the car is rotating

If you leave your hands off the wheel, this happens automatically…

The trick is then to balance the right amount of throttle and steering lock in order to regain traction (or stay in a constant state of rotation – ie a drift)

In a FWD car you simply nail the throttle (assuming dry conditions) and try and pull the car straight again

In a RWD car you keep revs low (so there is a force trying to push the car along) and then balance the steering lock…

In both cases the car will likely “snap back” so you need to dial out the steering lock progressively as the tyres regain traction

You are attempting to keep the car facing the same direction. Once traction is regained, you continue driving, or can safely pull over.

The alternative is spinning which means you are disoriented and can’t effectively do anything to prevent running into other cars/people. Once you regain traction, you are facing a random direction. All of this is very dangerous.

tires can only do so much at one time (either turn left/right or speed up/slow down) before they start to slip. if you turn away from the skid, you’re making the tire try and do too much.

it’s better to turn the wheel so it starts gripping again, then gradually turn the direction you want to go

Assume you’re driving on an icy road. The road turns to the right. You turn the steering wheel to the right. Because it’s so slippery you lose the control of the car. The back end of the car starts to go left. The car is about to continue straight and your back end is pulling you. To stop this from escalating you turn your steering wheel straight – to where the car is going – until the car is straight. Now you’re back in control.

Regardless of the conditions, if you have lost traction with the road (your tires are slipping, spinning, or not contacting the pavement in any way) take your foot off the gas pedal slowly and consistently (avoid braking – this can make the skid worse), start steering into the skid to avoid over correction (which will usually result in throwing you off the road completely or into oncoming traffic) and allow the car to slow down naturally until you can either pull off safely, or regain control/traction. I’m not gonna give a scientific reason why, I just know from experience driving on shitty country roads with shitty tires. This is the shit people should learn before being handed a license, but unfortunately they aren’t. Always remember to drive slowly and cautiously in hazardous conditions. Fuck the assholes that will try to intimidate you to drive faster. If they want around you, they’ll pass you. Your life matters more than whatever hurry they’re in. I always try to drive like I have a passenger with me, even if I don’t. It helps to keep me focused and in control of the vehicle. Skidding is scary, especially on ice and hydroplaning on water. I could lie and say you get used to it, but you never really do. It’s always scary, and it should be. Good luck with your driving and be safe!

Steering into the skid aligns the tread with the direction of motion, increasing the chance of regaining traction steering away basically puts you at a more severe angle tread vs direction, and doesn’t really change what’s happening in regards to control and motion direction.

The way I think of it is like this: first, the whole problem with a skid is that the wheels are facing the wrong direction, right? So, when you steer into the skid, you point the wheels in the correct direction, and that’s how I think of it: steering forward.

The back is turning in one direction. So you steer the front in the same direction and those forces cancel eachother out allowing you to go straight and regain traction.

They should stop teaching people this. Instead they should now teach people to steer where they want the car to go. That way when you do regain control the car goes where you want it to go

when a car is driving normally, the surface of the tire isn’t moving relative to the road. that’s what rolling is, and it allows the tire to grip the road tightly. when your begin to skid, the tire is now sliding across the road and can’t grip it. by pointing the tires in the direction of the skid (steering into it), you’re hoping the tires and the road will start moving in unison again, giving the tires their strong grip back and allowing proper steering.

any time ive been in a skid, counter steering worked, i rly dont know what ppl are talking about by turning into the skid

Watch the Pixar movie “Cars” for an animated explanation. Practice in a gravel parking lot. It’s surprisingly natural once you do it.

There simplest explanation is because you want to make the tires point in a direction that allows them to roll. If you’re skidding a car and it begins to rotate, the tires are no longer pointed in the direction the car is moving. You have way nor control of the direction and speed of a car when it’s wheels are rolling than when it’s sliding so if a skid happens you try to get the front wheels of the car to point in the same direction as the skid and they’ll hopefully be close enough to the direction of travel of the front if the car to have enough friction to stop the skid.