Going through tight corners can be fun and a bit stressful for some, especially if you’re driving too fast and not precise with your steering application. There is even a chance for your car to oversteer or understeer due to certain conditions. Notably, both terms are related to vehicle dynamics, as the two describe how a car handles when you push it beyond the limit of tire grip. Though the two differ in several ways, in order to better understand both driving errors, we’ve prepared a seamless guide for both oversteer and understeer.
In general, oversteering refers to the tendency of a vehicle to steer sharper than what the driver intends to. It’s when there is no weight at the back of the car in a corner and the rear begins to come around. This is often experienced when going through tight corners.
More Grip - Oversteering occurs when the front of your car has more grip and weight than the back. With said that, it then causes the vehicle to rotate when driving through tight corners as the rotational force will quickly make the rear of the vehicle aligned with the front. In some situations, this isn’t a bad thing but it can catch an inexperienced driver off guard if they don’t know what to do.
Rearend fishtailed or sliding out - Something that can occur when you have oversteer is fishtailing or sliding out. This is when the rear wheels lose traction and begin to slide out. While this is fairly easy to correct with a bit of countersteering involved. Over correcting the slide could suddenly shift the weight to the other side causing the rear of the vehicle to fishtail due to the sudden weight transfer. These are one of the most dangerous consequences of oversteering apart from unintentionally sliding out or worse.
Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD) vehicles are prone to this - Vehicles that have an engine at the front and that send power exclusively to the rear axle are more prone to oversteer. This is because the rear end of the car is where the power from the engine makes its way to the ground. If traction is lost to the rear wheels then your vehicle could end up in a slide where the back of your vehicle will want to overtake the front.
It is important to note that the front-wheel drive vehicles can also induce oversteer as well, however, it is far less likely to occur, but is easier to correct with just a bit of throttle.
Higher chances of understeer during inclement weather - Greater chances of oversteering arise if you’re experiencing heavy downpours on the road. Driving through a muddy surface and on snow, which is unlikely to happen in the Philippines, also adds to the risk of oversteering. You encounter higher chances of oversteer during inclement weather because of the varying levels of traction your car might encounter. For rear-wheel driven cars this is especially risky as there isn’t as much weight situated at the rear of the vehicle making it easier to slide. That being said, it can happen to front-wheel drive vehicles as well especially if the weight transfer is off. With that in mind it is always best to drive safe so that you can avoid oversteer situations.
Understeer, on the other hand, is a situation when there is no grip at the front of the car as you turn. The front of the vehicle still continues with its forward trajectory until grip is restored at the front.
Less Grip - The term understeer indicates that there is a lack of grip with your vehicle. This means that the driver will have little response from the steering wheel making the vehicle harder to control.
Front Wheels Plow Straight - Understeering happens when the front wheel of your vehicle begins to plow straight even when turning the steering wheel. This can happen because there isn’t enough grip at the front or the surface of the road isn’t allowing your car to turn due to lack or loss of traction.
Caused by early acceleration when turning - Moreover, understeering can also occur when you accelerate your car too early while turning in a corner. In correlation with Physics, you’re lifting the weight distribution that takes the weight and control off of the front tires, therefore, causing the vehicle to understeer. If you want to correct this you can simply let off the accelerator to wait for the front of the vehicle to grip up or to lightly apply the brakes.
Front-Wheel Drive (FWD) vehicles are prone to this - Unlike oversteering wherein RWD vehicles are more prone to it, understeering happens to be more susceptible among FWD vehicles. This is because the front tires must handle both the lateral cornering force and engine torque. In most scenarios, drivers increase the steering angle when their vehicles understeer which is not what should be done. To avoid the effects of understeer, as previously mentioned, let off the gas and let the car slow down via engine braking. This will send the weight forward to get more grip to the front tires. Decreasing the steering angle will also help as it will aid in getting your front tires more grip.
How to avoid both?
Sometimes oversteering and understeering can cause accidents not only to your car but can sometimes involve another vehicle on the road. In order to avoid both driving errors, we’ve prepared some tips for you to consult and follow as you drive on the road.
- Do not enter a corner too fast.
- Do not accelerate aggressively while in a corner as it can make you lose traction very quickly.
- Do not lift your throttle in the middle of the corner as it can send weight to the front that can induce more oversteer.
- Do not press the brakes at the corner or mid-corner as it could quickly transfer weight to the front of your vehicle causing the rear to slide.
- The most important thing is watch your speed as you enter a corner, carrying too much could send you into understeer, while too little will make your vehicle bog down.
- Slow the car down by gently easing up on the throttle and gradually apply the brakes.
- Remember, do not jump off the throttle or brakes as that might worsen the situation as the sudden weight shift could land you in a dangerous situation.
- Do all of your braking before the corner to ensure that your vehicle is balanced as it enters the corner.