Understeer vs Oversteer

Understeer vs Oversteer

Last Updated February 5, 2020

Understeering and oversteering might sound like something you never have to worry about — all you need to do is steer your car, right? If you’ve never heard of either concept, it's possible that neither has happened to you, so we’re here to answer your questions. What is understeer? What is oversteer? What causes both conditions, and how can you correct them if they happen to you?

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Understeer vs Oversteer

What Is Understeer?

Understeer happens when you’re driving around a corner or taking a turn too quickly and your front tires lose traction. Instead of making your turn, the car will continue to drift toward the outside of the turn, possibly causing you to lose control of the car or drift into oncoming traffic. Front-wheel-drive vehicles are most at risk for this, which is a notable FWD vs RWD difference.

What Is Oversteer?

Oversteer occurs when your rear wheels lose traction and your rear end overtakes the front of the car. You’ve probably heard of fishtailing or spinning out — those are both most often caused by oversteer. Rear-wheel-drive cars are most at risk for oversteer.

What Causes Understeer?

If you’re driving a front-wheel-drive vehicle, it’s fairly easy to understand the causes of understeer. Accelerating into a corner, for example, can cause those front tires to lose traction and make it impossible to turn. Braking too hard into a corner can also cause that lack of steering control.

Of course, inclement weather conditions, such as rain or snow, and low-traction conditions like gravel, can also cause understeer. So it's important to drive especially cautiously in such conditions.

What Causes Oversteer?

Rear-wheel-drive vehicles often experience oversteer because there isn’t a lot of weight in the back of the vehicle (pickup trucks are a common victim of this steering condition). What are the causes of oversteer?

Entering a corner too fast can cause the rear of your truck to head into the turn before the cab. Accelerating into a corner too early or too aggressively can also cause that traction loss in the rear wheels.

It’s important to not hit the brakes mid-turn; lifting your foot off the throttle while turning and hitting the brakes can cause your rear tires to lose traction and oversteer.

How to Correct Understeer

Understeer can be tricky because if your car starts drifting, you may be tempted to turn the wheel even harder to try to force the car into your turn — don’t do that. Instead, the best way to learn how to correct understeer is to reduce the angle of your turn. Spin your steering wheel away from the direction you want to turn until you regain control of the car.

Also important to note is the amount of pressure you apply to the brake pedal — you don’t want to release the brakes completely, but ease up on the pedal a little bit to help you regain control.

How to Correct Oversteer

If you need to learn how to correct oversteer, the first thing to remember is not to panic! Slamming on the brakes or releasing the accelerator too fast will just make your oversteer worse. Instead, slowly reduce your speed if you’re moving too fast, and gently steer in the direction you want to go. Sudden changes in speed or direction will make it harder to regain control and could lead to you losing control entirely.

Understeer vs Oversteer

When it comes to understeer vs. oversteer, there’s one important thing to remember — SLOW DOWN. Don’t try to take a turn too fast, whether you’re driving front- or rear-wheel-drive vehicles, and don’t change your speed during turns. Also, take extra care during bad weather or in conditions where traction is poor — not just to prevent oversteer and understeer, but to prevent vehicle accidents as the result of those hazardous driving conditions.

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