In snowy and/or icy conditions, vehicles often behave as if they have a mind of their own, not going where you’re pointing the steering wheel. The
In snowy and/or icy conditions, vehicles often behave as if they have a mind of their own, not going where you’re pointing the steering wheel. The technical terms for these situations are “oversteer” and “understeer.”
Oversteer is when the truck’s nose turns further than you want it to because the rear tires have lost traction and are sliding toward the outside of the turn. Oversteer is caused by several factors, including going too fast into a corner or braking too hard before a corner.
Turning the front wheels in the direction of the slide (counter-steering) will usually catch it; also, gingerly apply the gas pedal to help transfer the truck’s weight onto the rear tires, which will help them regain traction. Look in the direction of the slide, and be ready to counter-steer in the other direction in case the truck fishtails the other way.
Understeer occurs when the truck doesn’t turn as far as you want because the front tires have lost traction. Excessive speed in the turn can cause this too, as can a too-sharp steering angle so the front tires are sliding across the snow’s surface and not biting into it. Do not hit the brakes, as this could make the slide worse. However, you do want to transfer weight over the front wheels to help them grip, so let off the gas pedal, and unwind the steering angle a bit until the tires catch.
Driving experts at the Bridgestone Winter Driving School (see sidebar) recommend avoiding these slides by using only one of the truck’s controls at a time. Don’t steer and brake, or steer and accelerate. When a corner is coming up, let off the gas or use the brake to do all of your slowing before the corner, then coast through the corner so the tires are using all their grip just to steer. Once through the corner, gently accelerate back up to speed.