The Difference Between Understeer and Oversteer

If you’re a car owner, you definitely know what understeer and oversteer mean. Both of them are technical terms, although there are other words that are synonymous with them. We sometimes refer understeer as “push” or “plow”. You sometimes hear car owners say “I’ve got a push entering turn 3” or things like “the vehicle understeers through the whole back section of the track.” Oversteer, on the other hand, refers to being “loose” or “free”. Like you’ll hear people say “I’ve got so much oversteer through turn 5, the car is really loose.” In conclusion, understeer is about the front of the car not working and oversteer is about the rear of the car not working.

Understeer

  • Understeer happens when you try to enter a corner and it doesn’t turn enough. Instead of cornering smoothly through a curve, your car heads more toward the outside of the corner, which is a sign that something is not right. Most car owners do alternative ways to prevent this such as turning the wheel more in the direction they want to go.
  • However, almost 90% of the time this doesn’t work. This is because you’re understeering too much on a corner too fast. Resulting in your car being overwhelmed by the energy you pushed forward to the point it failed to generate grip to give you cornering entry. Fighting with your car as you turned your steering wheel more towards the corner will just make the situation worst. It puts more energy into the front tires that have been unable to keep up with the forward momentum you just accelerated.
  • What you can do in this situation is to back off the throttle. When you enter a corner, slow down, get the car back underneath you, and then get back on the throttle.

Oversteer

  • Oversteer, on the other hand, is when the car corners too much than what you want. For example, you turned your steering wheel into a particular amount, and the car suddenly gets a life on its own and starts to corner more than it should. Oversteer is the rear of the car coming around as you corner, it’s your car taking control all of a sudden. However, oversteer is much more manageable compared to understeer since you can balance it easier and faster.
  • Anyways, having too much understeer and oversteer is not advisable. Every car, no matter what brand it is, can understeer and oversteer the moment you’re cornering. It’s not avoidable, and it’s your job as a driver to control your car in a safe way before the car takes control of you. There’s no such thing as a perfect car. If your car is built wrong, or not being maintained properly, then that is unsafe. After all, it’s up to you how you want to drive your car. Just don’t go over the top just like you’re in a fast and furious movie.

A Few Considerations to Note

  • When we look at it, a car going through a corner is like a train following a circle track. The rear wheels try to follow where the front wheels are going. As a driver, you’re allowed to take control both the front and rear. Be in control, drive the way you want it, know your limits and also your car’s limits. At the end of the day, balance is the key for a safe driving experience.

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