Why we start every student on the skid pad


Students who have attended one of our all-wheel drive programs, know the importance of starting on the skid pad. Without the basics of weight transfer learned on the skid pad, we wouldn’t have nearly as much overall success with our students.

Lets start with the first basic question: what is a skid pad? For those who don’t know, traditionally it is a large, wide-open area that is usually circular. Found at nearly every driving school in the world, most are used to simply teach basic car control skills. The skid pad at DirtFish is gravel and is the starting point for teaching students how to properly use left-foot braking, weight transfer and car control.

We use the first lap to let the student get a feel for the car and the surface, since it is often the student’s first experience driving aggressively on a loose surface.

Next, we’re onto the first weight transfer exercise. The student turns the wheel about 90° and leaves it there, then gets on and off the throttle (using no brakes). This demonstrates that giving the car some gas essentially un-weights the front end, causing it to understeer. Lifting off the throttle moves the weight back to the front of the car, giving traction back to the front tires and making the car turn. Continuously getting on and off the throttle this way makes the car go around the circle.

The next techniques are used to teach straight lines and starting and stopping slides, both of which take a little more momentum to work properly. The student is instructed to get the steering wheel and car straight before getting on the throttle, then pick up speed in a straight line before abruptly lifting off the throttle and turning the steering wheel. Lifting off the throttle, again, moves the weight to the front tires giving them traction, and turning the wheel basically suggests the direction they want to car to go. All of this makes the car pivot around the front wheels, swinging the rear around. Next is a very similar process to the first, which is pretty self explanatory and is a very similar process to lift-turn-wait, except this time the student rests their left foot on the brake (this is where left-foot braking comes into play). After accelerating in a straight line, they will again lift off the throttle and turn the wheel, however this time they will add a small amount of brake (with their left foot). Using the brake in this process makes the car turn a little quicker and also gives the driver more control of timing, allowing them be more precise in turns.

The skid pad is only scratching the surface of what it takes to drive an all-wheel drive car on a loose surface. Check back every couple of weeks for an inside tip into other exercises we use at DirtFish.