We know that when it comes to reading car reviews, there can be a plethora of jargon that does not make sense to you. Two such terms that get tossed around without much explanation are oversteer and understeer. Those of you who love to take their car on a track day will know what these terms mean, but this is a guide for those who need an in-depth explanation to help them understand what is actually happening to the car when it happens.
It is worth pointing out that if you sit on the slower end of the driving spectrum, you shouldn’t fall victim to over/understeer. Plus, modern cars have vast amounts of driver assistance and safety features in order to prevent either of these from happening.
What is Understeer?
Understeer is when a vehicle turns less than the angle requested through the steering wheel, meaning the front tyres struggle for traction, causing the vehicle to under-rotate and push wide through a turn. It is usually due to excessive speed going into a corner, causing the car to wash out as they say.
What Causes Understeer?
Understeer happens when the front tyres lose grip. If you’re going rather fast or braking very hard and trying to turn the wheel, the extra momentum may cause the front tyres to slip, causing the car to plough straight on!
How to Prevent Understeer?
Understeer is almost always caused by a driver going too fast for the road conditions. It doesn’t necessarily mean 100mph, but it could be as little as going too quickly around a roundabout in the wet.
If you find yourself in that awkward position, you should start by reducing your acceleration/braking (not completely) and also reduce the angle at which you are steering. This is no guarantee of avoiding an accident, but it will help you regain control of the vehicle.
What is Oversteer?
Oversteer is very similar to understeer, the only difference is that it affects the back wheels, rather than the front. As the back wheels lose grip, the rear of the car tries to overtake the front, causing a spin if not corrected. It tends to affect powerful rear-wheel-drive cars such as big BMWs. You will have seen professional drivers holding a car in what is called a drift, which is basically holding a car in a state of oversteer.
What Causes Oversteer?
Being in a car that is oversteering can be very scary, especially on a public highway! It is normally always caused when the driver adds too much power in a corner for the rear tyres to handle, causing them to slip. Much the same will happen if you brake too hard while turning.
It may look great and provide a great display of tyre smoke, but on a public road, oversteering commonly ends in disaster. Especially when you have your mates in the car, and that fateful line “watch this” comes out…
CarMoney does not condone drifting on any main roads!
How to Prevent Oversteer?
Again - similar to understeer, slowing down going into corners is where you should start. If you’re unlucky enough to be in oversteer, try to remember some basic tips – keep looking and steering in the direction you want to go and don’t suddenly jump off the accelerator or slam on the brakes. Try and gently bring the car under control. Don’t panic and avoid aggressive inputs.
Every car on the road can understeer, but rear-wheel-drive cars have a nasty tendency of kicking their tails out, so take particular care if you’re an inexperienced driver or not especially confident behind the wheel of a RWD car.
Wet Weather Advice
Over/understeer is a hazard at any point on the roads, but non more so than in wet/greasy road conditions! A car’s willingness to oversteer or understeer is greatly increased because there’s less friction between tyre and road. This is exaggerated even more in the snow and ice.
Check those tyres!
The best way to protect you and your car is to always make sure you check your tyre’s tread and pressure. If your car is over/understeering more than usual, this is a good place to start and check. Remember, the tyres are the shoes of your car and they are vitally important for safe motoring.
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