How to Correct a Spin in Front Wheel Drive Vehicles

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Picture the typical film or TV car chase. Most people picture two cars battling one another in what appears to be a smoke filled driving ballet of screaming tires, fast edits, billowing exhaust notes, and lots of slides and spins. However, an unexpected slide or spin in your car can be terrifying or deadly for the average motorist, even in a front-wheel drive (FWD) vehicle. FWD vehicles are not immune to unexpected spins.

Oversteer/Spin

  • Stay calm and do not panic.

  • Identify what kind of spin you have hit. If the back end of the vehicle starts to slide and dictate the direction of travel, this is called oversteer. Know which situation is affecting your car, because applying an incorrect input---one for oversteering while experiencing an understeer---could make the situation worse.

  • Steer in the opposite direction of the spin in an oversteer situation. If the front of the car points to the left, steer to the right. If the front points right, steer left. This will maintain your intended direction of travel. You will need to steer quickly before the car spins completely around, but make your corrections as smooth as possible. Sharp and jarring inputs to the steering can cause the loss of even more traction.

  • Apply the accelerator. This will pull the front of the car out of the spin and bring the front and rear wheels in line once again.

Understeer/Slide

  • Identify what is happening to your vehicle. If the front of the car pushes wide toward the outside of a corner, this is called understeer.

  • Steer quickly in your desired direction of travel (opposite the direction of the slide), then keep your front tires pointed in that direction. This technique is known as applying opposite lock.

  • Apply a short, quick pull of the emergency brake (if it's lever operated). Keep the emergency brake button depressed as not to lock the rear wheels, which could cause a spin. A quick pull will stop the rear wheels and quickly point the car in the desired direction of travel.

  • De-engage the emergency brake, and apply the accelerator. Never apply the accelerator while experiencing an understeer situation, since your front tires have already lost traction, this will only elongate the time it takes for them to regain that lost traction, increasing the slide.

Tips & Warnings

  • In many cases, a spin in a FWD vehicle is caused by "lift-off oversteer." When you start to turn into a corner, you may subconsciously back off on the accelerator. In a FWD vehicle, the front wheels pull the vehicle through corners, and by jumping off the accelerator, the momentum of the rear end of the vehicle can take over, thus initiating a spin.
  • Understeer in a FWD vehicle is mainly due to excessive speed when entering a corner, speeds the car can not handle. When applying a short, quick pull of the emergency brake hold the emergency button in (usually found on the end of the handle), so you can release the brake much faster. Also, by pulling on the e-brake too vigorously, the car may spin.
  • These steps require some practice and in some instances, may not solve the spin. Most spins in FWD vehicles result from reckless driving or excessive speeds.
  • In the hands of an inexperienced driver, applying the handbrake (E-brake or emergency brake) while in motion can result in loss of control, possibly resulting in a crash, destruction of property, injury or even death.

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