Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls
  1. Home
  2. Articles
  3. What to Do if Your Car Fishtails

What to Do if Your Car Fishtails

What to Do if Your Car Fishtails

Fishtailing is a scary experience. This type of skidding, also known as over-steering, typically happens when the roadway is snowy, icy, and even in heavy rain. This kind of loss of vehicle control results when the front wheels turn and the rear wheels – rather than gripping the road – slide out past the turn. Fishtailing doesn’t just happen when going around corners – all that’s needed is a slight adjustment of the front wheels, such as that required to keep your car in your lane, and you can be skidding out in no time.

Whether it happens on snow, black ice, or on a flooded road the corrective actions are the same. The first step is to turn the wheel in the direction the tires are skidding (otherwise known as “turning into the skid”). This puts the rear end back in line with the front tires, allowing the car to continue in a straight line. In other words, if your rear end comes over toward the driver side, turn the wheel to the left. Conversely, if the back tires go the way of the passenger’s side, correct the steering wheel to the right.

The sooner in the skid that you start turning the wheel, the less severely you will need to turn. It’s vital to remain calm – if you panic and yank the steering wheel hard in the direction of the skid, you may just cause the rear to fishtail to the other side, which leads to a cycle of continuous flailing down the road, sometimes ending in an unintended 360 donut. Obviously you want to prevent this potential hazard to your own life and that of other drivers.

The other important aspect of correcting a fishtailing car is that you should slow your speed of travel and avoid stomping on the brakes. When you hit the brakes it sends the energy that propels the car to the rear, which will send the vehicle further sideways, or into a complete turnaround.

To summarize:

  • Steer gently into the direction of the skid, beginning the correction as early in the slide as possible.
  • Keep your foot off the brake pedal.
  • Slow your rate of speed.

If you do fishtail, it’s likely the result of traveling too fast for conditions. Continue your travel at an adjusted rate appropriate for the weather. All-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles can help minimize fishtailing, so keep this in mind when car shopping. If you have more questions about fishtailing or driving in certain conditions, [Ask a Mechanic] and YourMechanic would be happy to help you.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

P0240 OBD-II Trouble Code: Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance
P0240 code definition Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance What the P0240 code means P0240 is an OBD-II generic code triggered when the Engine Control Module (ECM) detects the intake boost...
The Traveler’s Guide to Driving in Malaysia
CraigBurrows / Shutterstock.com Malaysia is a popular destination for many tourists today. The country has amazing sights and attractions that you will want to explore....
How to Avoid Back Pain in a Car
If you have back problems, sitting in a car for an extended period of time can be excruciating. Even without back problems, you could experience discomfort and soreness from...


Related questions

Q: Loose Steering? 2012 GMC Sierra 1500

Hey there. I would suggest having the inner and outer tie rods checked for looseness and replaced if any play is found. When checking the rack and pinion mounts and bushings there should also be no looseness. The steering's free...

Q: How long should vehicle first warm up in cold temperatures

The engine may be getting hotter from the CVT transmission overheating which causes the engine coolant to get hotter than it should. The manufacture has a technical service bulletin to add a transmission external cooler and clean out the cooler...

Q: How do I use the steering wheel audio controls?

While you can use the buttons and knobs on the radio itself to change the station, cycle through tracks, adjust the volume and more, doing so while you’re driving can be very distracting, which is never a good thing. You...