Loss of traction questions

alisandeJanuary 12, 2006

On Thanksgiving I was driving my 4Runner at about 35 mph on a stretch of road--covered with packed snow, but flat and straight--when I slid across into the other lane. I was so unprepared for that! An alarm went off in the car. Any idea what I was supposed to do in response to the alarm? To me it was just an added stress. :-)

A friend (male, good driver) told me I should have slammed on the brakes (anti-lock) and steered into the skid. I know about the steering part, but I was always taught not to brake, but to take your foot off the gas and coast until you've regained control. What's the story?



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Anti-lock brakes will let you continue to steer your truck as you're braking. Your 4Runner has four-wheel ABS, so there's really no harm in standing on the brake and letting the ABS do its job while you're recovering from the skid.

You don't use the brakes on a vehicle without ABS because the key to recovering from a skid is traction so steering makes a difference. If the wheels already have lost traction, using a non-ABS brake system simply stops the wheel from rotating. You will not regain traction for steering even if you hit a dry patch. So the rule for non-ABS vehicles has been to let off on the accelerator and regain traction. But on ABS-equipped vehicles, the ABS makes sure the wheels are not locked up regardless of what you're doing with the brake pedal.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2006 at 12:17PM
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The moving wheels do have better traction than the partially locked ones, IMO, steering and coasting into the skid is better, but not by much..
I learned on rear drive with drum brakes, improved by a ton with front drive, and now ,finally have ABS...

But on hard packed snow and ice, one has very little traction..
Do you know what caused the skid in the first place ??

This is something that could be proven one way or the other on an icy test track , using the ABS, then using nothing but steering..

This alarm going off is NOT good.
Maybe in the owner's manual this can be explained..

    Bookmark   January 12, 2006 at 4:29PM
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Yeah, I suppose it would be a good idea to read the manual. Who knows what other bits of useful information I might run across? :-)

I have NO idea what caused the skid. I'm a cautious winter driver, with my antennae always up. But it usually goes up further on hills (up or down) or curves. This road was doing nothing. The surface was probably nasty, though. We had had numerous snow squalls that day, and some sleet or hail.

Thanks for your responses!


    Bookmark   January 14, 2006 at 1:31PM
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Bet'cha hit a patch of ice that was hidden under the snow. Maybe some freezing mist/rain/sleet fell before it changed to snow, and it was probably on a piece of the road that had not been salted/sanded.

Learn to listen to the sound that your tires make on differing road conditions. For example, if you are driving on a highway in a storm with a rain/snow mix coming down, the sound that your tires make will change when it enters a zone that has started to freeze.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2006 at 2:28AM
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My GM car has a light that says you have lost traction.
which is like a huge help because I guess I can't figure that out myself.
I bet your alarm is the same thing, but louder.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2006 at 1:53PM
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If your 4Runner is a newer model it very likely has a VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) system. Im not aware if they have an audible alarm but its possible, you should definetly read your owners manual. In any case a VSC system works within the laws of physics to help maitain control of your vehicle when the computer senses something is awry, like sliding on a slick surface. Your owners manual should give you guidance on how to best operate your vehicle but most likely it will say use the brakes and steer the vehicle in the direction you want to go. The VSC system will help you by using the brakes to enable the vehicle to regain a stable course, what it actually does is complicated but it can brake/release individual wheels to keep the vehicle from sliding/spinning. Of course if you are on a sheet of ice there is just so much that can be done without violating the laws of physics, so drive more carefully and get there alive!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2006 at 4:42PM
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