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Ice: Great for skating, not for driving - jackknife prevention

Ice: Great for skating, not for driving - Jackknife Prevention

Winter is here and for many areas, it has brought plenty of ice with it. While it can be a lot of fun to go ice skating, or even just slipping and sliding around the driveway with the kids, it is not so much fun when your truck is slipping and sliding on the road. When icy road conditions abound, it seems prudent to talk about the potential for jackknifing and what you can do to prevent it.

  • Awareness!
    Know what the road conditions are. Be aware that they can change in an instant! You may be on clear, dry road at the moment, but what about the next turn? Or that bridge up ahead? There are many factors at play that impact whether the road may have ice or not so it is important to keep a sharp eye and to give extra attention to the next point...
  • Slow Down!
    The number one cause of jackknife is driving too fast for conditions. Reduce speed accordingly…..and then drive a bit slower yet!
  • Use a soft foot when braking.
    Braking on slippery surfaces is dicey at best. Avoid hitting the brakes when possible. If you must, then use them briefly and don’t brake hard. NEVER use the engine (jake) brake on slick roads. When you know you need to slow down or stop, begin doing so sooner giving yourself more time to slow your momentum gradually.
  • Avoid sharp, sudden movements.
    Easy use of the steering wheel and gentle application of the throttle. Smooth, gradual, and steady is the best way.
  • Ensure your trailer Anti-Lock Brakes are working properly.
    If the ABS light is on, get it fixed! Trailer brakes locking up is a common cause of jackknife accidents. Correctly working ABS will prevent lock up and significantly reduce the chances of a jackknife.
  • Do NOT use Cruise Control in slick conditions.
    Cruise keeps your wheels spinning even if you loose traction. This can cause your drive tires to slide one way or the other and followed by the forward momentum of your trailer will almost certainly end in a jackknife.
  • Following distance is extra important.
    The MORE space you allow, the BETTER! You never know what other vehicles on the road may do. Giving yourself more space reduces your chances of having to slam on the brakes or swerve. 

If you feel yourself going into a skid, here are a couple quick tips to pull out of a jackknife:

  • Disengage all braking and get your wheels rolling freely.
  • If in an automatic, remove your foot from the accelerator and slip the truck into neutral.
  • If in a manual transmission, engage the clutch.
  • Try to turn the steering wheel in a smooth, steady manner.

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