All road cars have understeer, no matter the manufacturer or drivetrain. Most car manufacturers build production line vehicles to understeer. In doing so, they make their cars safer to drive as compared to oversteering, which is more dangerous.
For instance, consider the Corvair case where users termed the car as too dangerous to drive. Corvair figured the best solution would be to understeer the vehicles.
However safe it is, understeer can be pretty unpleasant, especially for the experienced driver. For racers, understeer significantly decreases the corner speed of a vehicle.
In this piece, we’ll highlight how to correct understeer in any vehicle. So you can have smoother rides and higher cornering speeds during racing.
What Is Understeer?
Most people also refer to understeer as ‘push.’ It is the extra force you have to put into turning the wheel to turn your vehicle. It occurs when the steering wheel turn input is more than the vehicle actually turns.
Understeering occurs when there’s an imbalance of grip between the front and rear wheels of the vehicle. So while the front tires slide across the track surface, the rear tires maintain their grip on the surface. The car thus follows a path outside the intended line.
What Does Understeer Feel Like?
Understeering feels quite subtle but is also quite predictable for experienced drivers. When front wheels lose traction, the turning resistance of the wheel feels less. Turning the wheel will feel much easier, but the wheel won’t turn as you intend.
The natural reaction is to turn the steering wheel more for the vehicle to turn as you want. However, the front wheels will have already reached their turning threshold. Turning the wheel further is pointless and has no direct effect on the vehicle’s turning.
What Causes Understeer?
There are plenty of reasons why understeering occurs. Some reasons attributed to the driving technique, while others stem from vehicle manufacturing itself.
Here are a few causes of understeering in cars:
Too much acceleration when entering corners. This acceleration causes the car weight to shift to the back and reduces the front tire grip.
Excessively braking when turning into a corner.
When your car has a poor set up, the dampers, suspension, or even springs could contribute to your car’s understeering.
How to Correct Understeer in Any Car
Understeer is pretty common in most car makes. Fortunately, correcting understeer isn’t as difficult as most people think. Here’s how to correct understeering in any car.
1. Understand Weight Transfer and Grip Levels
Before you begin to correct understeering, you must understand how weight transfer in the vehicle affects the grip.
During acceleration, the weight of the car moves to the rear of the vehicle. The general rule is that, wherever the weight is, is where the car’s grip also is.
When you brake your car, the weight moves to the front of the car. That’s why drivers say the back is more comfortable during acceleration.
2. Weight Distribution in an Understeering Car
If your vehicle understeers, then you want to shift the car’s weight to the front of the vehicle. This weight shifting is nearly impossible on corner exits. As such, it is important to delay when we first apply the throttle till we can safely unwind the steering wheel.
This delay takes a lot of discipline and time to accomplish. Thanks to trail braking, shifting weight on corner entries is much easier than when exiting corners.
Delaying Initial Throttle Application Without Losing Entry Speed
The downside of delaying initial throttle is that you’ll have to compromise on your speed. If you don’t want to lose speed, you should focus on the entry rolling speed.
After the turn in, consider applying more brake pressure to shift weight to the front of the vehicle. Generally, trail braking will help you control understeering during corner entry.
There are some instances when drivers can overwork the tires due to too much trail braking. This occurrence is, however, pretty rare and you shouldn’t worry much about it.
If you have a front-wheel-drive car, then the initial throttle delay is very critical in controlling understeer. The focus should be more on the rolling entry speed after delaying the initial throttle. This is because FWD cars are more prone to understeering during exit and front tires overheating.
To better understand your vehicle components, transmission, and other details, you can see here and learn more about your vehicle. This resource will help you know whether you have an FWD or AWD vehicle and which should be the best approach to control understeering.
Certain road conditions may increase the likelihood of understeer by compromising on your tires’ grip. For icy or rainy conditions, drive at the appropriate speed to decrease the likelihood of understeer.
When traction is minimal because of road conditions, drive slower as you enter a corner to prevent the likelihood of understeer. Pay attention to warning signs or speed limit signs to always be safer.
Avoiding Understeer: The Takeaway
Hopefully, you now have a firm understanding of what understeering is and how to mitigate it in your driving. Remember understeering is a product of both the vehicle set up and the driver. Pay attention to both aspects of understeering, and you won’t have to worry about it.
These techniques work for just about any car. However, don’t forget to take your car for a tune-up. The problem may be with the car itself.
Check out our other pieces for more informative reads.