Making a Turn - on ice and snow

When you're on ice or snow, making a turn can be difficult. What makes it difficult is when your wheels fail to "track." If you maintain "tracking," you can steer the car.

Think of tracking in terms of making tracks in the snow as your tires roll over the surface of the road. If you see marks in the snow that look like something was dragged through the snow, then these marks aren't tracks at all, and that's exactly what happens when your tires skid, slide, hydroplane or drift - they're not making tracks.

The key to tracking is to keep your wheels rolling in pace with the surface that they're traversing. That means anything that inhibits rolling will inhibit tracking and thereby inhibit making a turn as you would expect. So, your enemies of proper tracking are sharp turns, sudden turns and braking - all of which can cause skidding and sliding even on clean and dry pavement.

Here are the keys to making a turn while driving in ice and snow:

  • Slow down before making the turn. Drive slow enough that you don't have to use your brakes in the turn.
  • Turn gently and gradually, not quick and sharp. This will help your front wheels keep turning and tracking as you would like them to do.
  • Stay off the brake during the turn unless you need to bring your vehicle to a stop.

Take a look at this video of a snow and ice covered street with a grade. You'll notice one thing in common with most of the vehicles involved in this multi-car pileup - they were focused on making a turn out of the lane, but they were holding their brakes on. So, they weren't allowing their front wheels to turn, so the front wheels didn't track and they just went straight.

The natural instinct is to hold the brakes on so you can stop the car, but as you can see in the video, they might have been better off letting the front wheels rotate and gently turning left to get out of the lane with the pileup. Another technique they could have tried was being their own human do it yourself antilock brakes.

If you'd like to experience the dynamics of tracking and turning, just find yourself an empty parking lot somewhere it's safe to do a little experimentation in the snow and ice. That means staying away from light poles, cars, parking stops, curbs and other obstructions. Take it slow and easy at first so you don't loose control, but try the following:

  • Going straight, apply the brakes quickly to get you sliding and then turn the wheel in an attempt to steer. You'll find your car to be about as responsive as a sled or toboggan.
  • Get your car sliding, turn the wheel about 1/4 turn (in a safe direction of travel) and then release the brakes. You'll see that your car wants to turn much more readily when you release the brakes and let the wheels track.

If you have anti-lock brakes, these tests will not be of any value because the anti-lock braking system is designed to grab and release the brakes repeatedly so it slows the vehicle while allowing the wheels to track.

In any case, it's good to know about making a turn on ice and snow because not every vehicle you'll drive has anti-lock brakes, and it would be nice to know how to turn safely on snow and ice should the anti-lock braking system fail.





Done with Making a Turn, back to Safe Driving

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If you ever hope to see an abundance of wealth, you need to plug the hole in your boat. The wealthy don't necessarily make lots of money, instead, they know how to hang onto what they make, and make it work for them.