[s-cars] Re: Understeer & oversteer, the paradoxically opposite twins of the same nature

CyberPoet thecyberpoet at cyberpoet.net
Mon Jan 13 02:26:43 EST 2003

[ Picked text/plain from multipart/alternative ]
Tis better to ask than not to ask:

Understeer is when the car seems to be slow or not reactive to input at
the steering wheel, specifically when you turn the steering wheel to
make a turn and the front end doesn't turn at the expected rate. This
occurs because the front wheels aren't accomplishing the level of
traction desirable for the situation, either by design of the car, the
tires, the inflation pressure of the tires or the surface of the
roadway. Understeer in typical on-street good-weather driving can
easily be corrected by slowing down through braking, which will
transfer more weight to the front wheels of the car, thus permitting
them more traction (scrubbing off speed).

Oversteer, by comparison, is when the back tires lose adhesion before
the front tires do, thus permitting the back-end to swing out of the
expected line of travel (think of doughnuts in the parking lot as an
extreme example of oversteer).

Front wheel drive cars are usually more prone to understeer, rear wheel
drive cars are usually more prone to oversteer. Additionally, many car
manufacturers intentionally build in understeer characteristics into
their vehicles, because for the typical driver, understeer is more
controllable (and often controlled without thinking about it -- they
simply turn the wheel further in an attempt to control it and stomp the
brake due to panic), while oversteer is often a cause for driver panic
and incorrect action.

Naturally, because of the nature of both understeer and oversteer,
conditions which reduce the amount of traction, such as snow, rain,
gravel, sand, oil on the road surface, et cetera will increase the
likeliness of understeer or oversteer rearing it's ugly (well,
sometimes ugly*) head. The secret to controlling

For a good (IMHO) article on how to practice control retention and
regaining of control under all skid conditions, see:

* Note: I like being able to call upon the demons of oversteer (and
four-wheel drift) when I feel they are required, but not all cars are
accommodating on this subject at all times, much to my chagrin.

Best Wishes,
=-= Marc Glasgow

On Sunday, January 12, 2003, at 10:31 PM,
s-car-list-request at audifans.com wrote:

> hey, I'm young and don't have a lot of knowledge with car terms.  I'm
> sorry=
>  if i sound stupid, but i was just wondering what the difference
> between un=
> dersteer and oversteer is (what does it mean?). thanks, and sorry for
> wasti=
> ng your time.   MIKE 94' S4

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