Proper road safety demands that the driver has total control over the vehicle. If your car doesn't steer the way you want, it can be frustrating, not to mention unsafe.
Oversteering and understeering are terms used to refer to the sensitivity of a vehicle's steering. In this post, we'll examine the differences between the two and offer insight on how to correct the problem.
Understanding Slip Angle
The terms oversteering and understeering characterize a difference in the slip angle between the front and rear wheels. A slip angle refers to the difference between the angle of the steering wheel and the direction that the car is heading. When the slip angle increases, the car will veer to one side of the road and become more difficult to control.
What is Understeering?
Basically, understeering happens when you turn the wheel, but the tires want to stay straight. Naturally, this makes it difficult to navigate turns, but it also presents a major safety hazard, since it makes it difficult to avoid obstacles.
Front-wheel drives tend to be more vulnerable to understeering. This is because the front wheels are responsible for propelling and steering the car. This combined strain can overwhelm the components of your steering system.
What is Oversteering?
Oversteering is just the opposite. Oversteering happens when you turn the wheel for a minor turn and your car wants to keep turning. In extreme cases, this can result in your car fishtailing or even skidding out of control. Wet or icy roads only magnify this problem, presenting a major safety hazard for your vehicle and passengers.
While understeering tends to impact front-wheel drives, oversteering is more common on rear-wheel-drive vehicles. This is because the rear wheels are responsible for your vehicle's propulsion. When you navigate a corner too sharply, your rear wheels can rocket you forward, causing you to lose control over the vehicle.
How to Resolve Understeering and Oversteering
Thankfully, understeering and oversteering problems are relatively simple to correct.
Understeering can generally be resolved by reducing the height of the front of your vehicle. Install shorter tires or simply reduce the pressure in your front tires to ensure that your car stays lower to the ground. You may also ask your local mechanic to increase toe-out, which refers to the way that the front wheels point away from the center of your vehicle.
Oversteering can be corrected by adjusting some basic driving habits. If you're behind the wheel of a rear-wheel driving car, take your foot off the gas during a turn to keep from sliding or skidding.
During inclement weather, throw some sandbags in your trunk to increase the weight at the rear of your vehicle. You might also ask your local mechanic to increase your rear toe-in to ensure that alignment isn't contributing to your oversteering issues.
Both oversteering and understeering represent safety issues for your vehicle. Small adjustments to your alignment and driving habits can alleviate these problems and keep your ride safe and smooth.