How to avoid wheelspin on an icy road

How to avoid wheelspin on an icy road

What causes wheelspin on icy roads?

Experiencing wheelspin while driving on an icy road is always down to having not enough grip and too much power.

We all know ice is slippery, and driving over it without enough grip causes car tyres to slip. Once the tyres are slipping, applying more power with the accelerator causes wheelspin.

These are the main reasons why you might experience wheelspin on icy roads:

  • Not enough tread on your tyres - If your car’s tyres are worn, they may struggle to find what little grip might be available on an icy road. To combat this it could be a good idea to get new tyres or put on winter tyres in the colder months.
  • Black ice - Black ice is a transparent layer of ice that has formed over the surface of the road. As it’s hard to see it can be dangerous. Driving across black ice at speed could cause wheelspin while driving.
  • Aggressive acceleration - Moving at slower speeds allows the tyres to find grip, and accelerating aggressively with high engine revs could cause wheelspin.

For more tips on winter tyres, you can check out our blog ‘What should you do when driving in snowy conditions: Do's and don’ts

How to avoid wheelspin when moving off ice

When moving off on an icy surface, applying too much power to the wheels too quickly can cause wheelspin. To prevent this, you can try setting off in 2nd gear and keeping the engine revs low. This keeps the power going to the wheels as low as possible so that they can find grip.

As well as using 2nd gear, it’s probably best to try to lift off as slowly as you can when you’re raising the clutch. This makes sure that the gear doesn’t bite suddenly, and instead the tyres will turn slowly until they find the grip. If you do experience wheelspin while finding your biting point, you can press the clutch slightly to stop the wheelspin. Once the wheelspin has stopped, you can start gently lifting again until the tyres find grip.

For more tips on what gear to use and when, you can check out our blog ‘When to change gears on a manual car?

How to avoid wheelspin on an icy road

Beyond experiencing wheelspin while moving off on an icy road, there’s also a chance of it happening while driving. There are a few things you can do to avoid wheelspin on an icy road:

  • Check your tyre tread - Before you set off, it’s a good idea to take a close look at the tread on your tyres and make sure they’re not too worn. Tyres should have at least 1.6mm of tread depth in the middle of the tyre, but to avoid wheelspin on icy roads it’s best to have as much as possible. If you think your tyres are too worn, it’s probably best not to make the journey.
  • Watch out for ice - Keeping a close eye out for patches of ice when driving can help to avoid wheelspin. Black ice can tend to build up in areas that don’t get much sunlight, so it’s best to take care when driving through shaded areas. If you do spot ice, it’s best to try to avoid it - but it’s not a good idea to make any sharp turns or brake too harshly, as this could cause your car to skid.
  • Keep a slow, steady speed - Maintaining your speed as much as you will help avoid harsh braking or quick acceleration.
  • High gears and low revs - Driving in as high a gear as possible on icy roads helps to keep engine revs down and means not too much power will be applied to the tyres too quickly.
  • Traction control - Most cars have good traction control nowadays, which is specifically designed to prevent wheelspin. Traction control should take over if it detects wheelspin in order to prevent a skid. Before driving on icy roads, it’s a good idea to just check that your traction control is turned on.

What to do if you wheelspin while driving

It is generally considered that the best way to deal with a wheelspin skid is to take your feet off the pedals and gently steer into the skid. This should naturally slow the car while allowing the tyres to find traction. When you can feel the car has grip again, then apply gentle power can be applied and you can move off slowly.

For more tips on driving in icy conditions, you can check out our blog ‘What would suggest you’re driving on ice?

A few final tips…

Here are a few things to remember to avoid wheelspin on an icy road:

  • Applying too much power to the tyres too quickly can cause wheelspin, so it’s best to use high gears and low revs as much as possible.
  • Wheelspin on icy roads tends to happen due to a lack of grip. If you think your tyres are too worn to get a good grip, it’s best not to travel.
  • Setting off in 2nd gear in icy conditions can help your tyres to find traction and avoid wheelspin.

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.