- May 2015

Thought Thursday: “How to not crash your car”- managing Under Steer.

Lots of us love speed and we love the thrill of driving!  But with that comes risks.

It’s built within us to go faster and push harder, and harder. What happens when you push too hard? How will your car react and how can you stop it from plummeting you into an old ladies house and killing her cats? First things first, all cars react differently. They have different power, different weight balance and drivetrains, so let’s look at what could happen and how you can expect it. Then you can be proactive instead of reactive.

In this article we are going to look at under steer.

Under Steer

Under steer, no it’s not a new type of Steer’s burger, its something that happens when the car exceeds the limit of grip. So what actually happens?

When entering a corner, you turn the steering wheel a specific amount but the car does not go where you want it to, it might turn in slightly but it will travel in more or less of a forward direction, missing the apex of the corner. Turning the wheel more will not help this situation.Understeer

Mainly FWD (front wheel drive) cars suffer from under steer. Why? Well the front tires have a lot of work to do, they have to turn, and take the brunt of acceleration and braking which puts a lot of stress on the rubber. So if you enter a bend hot, hit the brakes hard and also turn in, you might find you have exceeded the limit of grip on the tires and that tree is getting closer, very quickly.

Under steer is quite easy to manage, and the best way to stop under steer is to reduce speed. If your’e midway through a bend and experiencing under steer, back off the throttle, even completely if you need to and this will reduce the stress on the front tires greatly. This will enable more grip and the car should pull itself around.

If this didn’t work the next step would be to apply brakes via pumping the brake pedal, this will scrub off even more speed, and the pumping will help reduce lock up. You can even reduce the steering angle while pumping the brake and then once again increase steering to get you around the bend, reducing the steering angle will once again take more stress of the front tires and slow you down quicker, but you would need to do this quickly and probably only beneficial on a track with more space.

Learning the cars limits will come with time, but take it easy at first and learn how your car responds. Smooth driving will go a long way in helping keep the car stable. There is nothing wrong with using the brake pedal with force but keep your braking in a straight line for now, smooth movements on the steering wheel and ease open the throttle after the apex of the corner when you see the bend opening out. Little things like these will stop you becoming  an almost two ton block of destruction.

A great book I would recommend Is “How to Drive by Ben Collins” (The Stig) He talks about all aspects of car control in great detail.

Until next time, have a good one!