- Jun 2015

Thought Thursday: How to not crash your car PT.2

How not to crash your car PT.2 : Oversteer.

  • Oversteer or going sideways is probably in my top 10 ways to have the most fun while keeping your clothes on!
  • Oversteer is great if its deliberate, not so great if it just sneaks up on you without warning. Even if its deliberate, it can still come back to bite you.
  • Oversteer in simple terms is the rear of the car sliding out when turning into or out of a corner. In the last article we discussed understeer, where the front of the car wont turn in enough, this is the total opposite. You could say the car turns more than it should.

What causes Oversteer?

Like understeer, oversteer can be caused by excessive speed coming into a corner, getting on the throttle too early coming out of a corner or being very rough with the steering whilst cornering. Oversteer generally is more frequent in rear wheel drive cars because the cars power is delivered through the rear wheels. There is also more weight on the rear axle in terms of mechanical moving parts like the diff so rapid changes in direction in a car like this can cause the back to slide out. The basic fact is that when too much power is applied to the throttle in a rear wheel drive car, the rear wheels spin and this causes the car to slide out. For an example of this think of the sport called drifting, where drivers deliberately use the methods mentioned above to cause the car to slide.

How to deal with it?

If you’re driving at speed or close to the cars limit, it’s always a good idea to get into the mindset that the car might do something you don’t want it to at any moment.  As soon as you feel the car start to slip, don’t panic and don’t tense up! Try and stay as relaxed as possible and counter-steer (Turn the wheel in the direction that the rear of the car is slipping to. For instance if the rear of the car is sliding out to the left, turn the wheel left.) This will stop the rear sliding around at an even greater degree, or turning around completely (not a great situation).  Back off the power slightly and start to straighten the wheel, the car should hopefully even out and your back on the road to life. The trick is not to over correct the steering, this can cause the car to slide back out to the other direction and this is going to cause more issues. As I said in the previous article, Pro-action is better than reaction. Take the time to learn how your vehicle reacts in different situations.

If you’re teaching yourself how to drift, then please don’t do this on public roads and circles since it’s unsafe and not exactly legal. As well, the margin of error is so small and the chances of you hitting those little concrete devils are quite high.  At a decent speed these things can do some serious damage to your, at the least you will end up with a rim most likely beyond repair and a bent suspension arm.  At most you will probably end upside down and if that doesn’t stop your heart, the call to the insurance company probably will.

This always reminds me of my younger days travelling to college in the UK. At times I would take the families Mitsubishi L200 (Triton in South Africa) as transport.  This was the raging bull version, bright red with chrome and a huge vinyl down the side, it was pretty epic.  Anyway, I used to put this huge lump of metal into RWD mode and when I approached an empty roundabout, I would turn in and give it some power. Unfortunately it wasn’t something you would see at the world drifting championships, but it went sideways and drifted reasonably well. I was getting pretty good at it until one day it didn’t go as planned. The rear end was sliding but then out of the blue the front start to slide as well, not so great when there is only one metre of safety either side. Luckily, I got the vehicle back under control and stopped a few millimetres before a road sign and a street light.

The moral of the story is, there is always the possibility of the unexpected happening. When it does happen, you would much rather be in a large open space where the worst thing you can hit is a little orange cone.

Until next time,

Drift responsibly…on a track.