IF YOU'RE keen to keep your car going during the winter, it's likely that a few essential tasks will soon need doing.

Topping up the radiator with anti-freeze, having the ice-scraper to hand and maybe even a shovel in the boot will all help to keep you on the road.

Unfortunately, the one component that is most likely to fail is the one that usually gets the least attention: the driver.

Although most drivers are sensible enough to slow down in adverse conditions, even at low speeds a loss of grip often results in a loss of control and an accident.

Modern cars have more safety features as standard than ever, such as ABS and ESP, but a well-trained driver should be able to avoid a loss of control in the first place.

Obviously there's no substitute for having a session on a track with an expert, but knowing what to do in the following situations will help in an emergency.

1 PULSE BRAKING In a car without ABS brakes, an emergency stop usually means locked front wheels and a skid, as the lack of grip means the steering will not respond unless the wheels are rotating.

One method of avoiding this scenario is to use pulse braking. Instead of applying the brakes as hard as possible, pump the brakes rapidly (roughly two on/off cycles a second), releasing and reapplying them while steering. Although this increases braking distance, it gives the driver steering control, allowing them to steer around the obstacle.

2 AVOIDANCE BRAKING In a more severe incident, avoidance braking is another technique to avoid an impact.

Imagine a sudden obstruction in your lane a child running into the road or a car spinning into your path. Again the natural reaction is to hit the brakes hard, locking the wheels. With avoidance braking, this is actually the desirable result; the secret is to apply enough steering lock to avoid the obstruction while still braking hard.

Then release the brakes at the last moment and the tyres will regain grip sharply, veering the car around the obstacle.

In a car fitted with ABS brakes, pulse and avoidance braking are not necessary, as the vehicle can perform these tasks much faster than a human. In both instances, drivers should apply the brakes as hard as possible and steer as required, relying on the performance of ABS to manage the available grip.

3 AQUAPLANING Fortunately this is less commonplace than it used to be thanks to modern tyre design, but hitting black ice results in a similar total loss of grip.

Aquaplaning occurs when the vehicle rides up' on to a thin surface of water, resulting in a complete loss of grip and control. Braking, accelerating and steering will have no effect. In this situation, depress the clutch, do not press the brake or accelerator and keep the steering wheel straight, locking your hands in position. As drag naturally slows the car down, grip will be restored, but do not be tempted to turn the wheel until this happens. If you do, the car can spear off dramatically as grip returns.

Locking your hands in position means you know exactly which way the front wheels are pointing.

4 OVERSTEER This occurs when the rear wheels lose grip; either through a change in grip levels due to the surface change, harsh braking, steering or acceleration.

As the rear wheels lose grip, the rear of the car tries to overtake the front, turning the car much more sharply than the front wheels are pointing hence the term oversteer.

To counteract the slide, turn the steering wheel quickly into the skid usually in the opposite direction to which the wheel was originally turned, and come off the accelerator pedal.

Another important tip is to look where you want to go you will naturally react to guide the car towards that point, even if that means looking out of the side window.

5 UNDERSTEER The opposite to oversteer, this occurs when the front wheels lose grip. Once again, this can be caused by a change in grip levels, excessive braking, steering or acceleration.

As the front wheels lose grip, the car tries to go straight on rather than following the path that the wheels are pointing towards hence understeer.

In this situation, come off the accelerator and reduce the amount of steering lock, then reapply it, then reduce it again, and continue this action until speed is reduced and grip is fully restored. Once again, look where you want to go at all times, and although the natural reaction is to apply more lock, less steering input will actually increase the amount of grip.