What to Do if Your Car Fishtails

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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.


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Mazyar

7 years of experience
181 reviews
Mazyar
7 years of experience
Ford Fusion - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Duluth, Georgia
Got to the appointment early and was able to finish sooner than expected as well. Would definitely recommend!
Volvo XC90 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Marietta, Georgia
Mark did a great job on my brake rotors and pads replacement. He is very knowledgable and thorough with the process and inspection. He finished the job on time and did a test drive with me. I will definitely book with him again in the future.

Bradford

12 years of experience
8 reviews
Bradford
12 years of experience
Jaguar XF - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Brad was great. Completed the job and made sure I was aware of other issues as well as completing the job he actually came for.
Dodge Grand Caravan - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Clinton, Maryland
This was my first experience. Brad, was timely; efficient; he answered my questions; he went over items that need to be addressed in order to get my car in shape. It was very convenient, I was able to fix my kids dinner, and not disrupt their schedule. I will be using this service again. The entire experience was positive. Very happy...

Scott

33 years of experience
357 reviews
Scott
33 years of experience
Toyota Camry - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Denver, Colorado
Scott is very professional & always so kind! He gets the job done and makes sure to discuss what may need to be done in the future. Would recommend him to anyone!

Stacy

23 years of experience
120 reviews
Stacy
23 years of experience
Nissan Pathfinder - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Atlanta, Georgia
Amazing! Professional, professional, professional! Brakes were done in no time....while I was in the building working!

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