# Understeer and oversteer

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Understeer and oversteer are vehicle dynamics terms used to describe the sensitivity of the vehicle to changes in steering angle associated with changes in lateral acceleration. This sensitivity is defined for a level road for a given steady state operating condition by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) in document J670 [1] and by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in document 8855. [2] Whether the vehicle is understeer or oversteer depends on the rate of change of the understeer angle. The Understeer Angle is the amount of additional steering (at the road wheels, not the hand wheel) that must be added in any given steady-state maneuver beyond the Ackermann steer angle. The Ackermann Steer Angle is the steer angle at which the vehicle would travel about a curve when there is no lateral acceleration required (at negligibly low speed).

## Contents

The Understeer Gradient (U) is the rate of change of the understeer angle with respect to lateral acceleration on a level road for a given steady state operating condition.

The vehicle is Understeer if the understeer gradient is positive, Oversteer if the understeer gradient is negative, and Neutral steer if the understeer gradient is zero.

Car and motorsport enthusiasts often use the terminology informally in magazines and blogs to describe vehicle response to steering in a variety of manoueuvres.

## Dynamics

### Test to determine understeer gradient

Several tests can be used to determine understeer gradient: constant radius (repeat tests at different speeds), constant speed (repeat tests with different steering angles), or constant steer (repeat tests at different speeds). Formal descriptions of these three kinds of testing are provided by ISO. [3] Gillespie goes into some detail on two of the measurement methods. [4]

Results depend on the type of test, so simply giving a deg/g value is not sufficient; it is also necessary to indicate the type of procedure used to measure the gradient.

Vehicles are inherently nonlinear systems, and it is normal for U to vary over the range of testing. It is possible for a vehicle to show understeer in some conditions and oversteer in others. Therefore, it is necessary to specify the speed and lateral acceleration whenever reporting understeer/oversteer characteristics.

Many properties of the vehicle affect the understeer gradient, including tyre cornering stiffness, camber thrust, lateral force compliance steer, self aligning torque, lateral weight transfer, and compliance in the steering system. Weight distribution affects the normal force on each tyre and therefore its grip. These individual contributions can be identified analytically or by measurement in a Bundorf analysis.

### In contrast to limit handling behavior

Great care must be taken to avoid conflating the understeer/oversteer behavior with the limit behavior of a vehicle. The physics are very different. They have different handling implications and different causes. The former is concerned with tire distortion effects due to slip and camber angles as increasing levels of lateral acceleration are attained. The latter is concerned with the limiting friction case in which either the front or rear wheels become saturated first. It is best to use race driver's descriptive terms "push (plow) and loose (spin)" for limit behavior so that these concepts are not confused. [5]

### Limit handling characteristics

Tyres transmit lateral (side to side) and longitudinal (front to back) forces to the ground. The total traction force (grip) available to the a tyre is the vector sum of the lateral and longitudinal forces, a function of the normal force and coefficient of friction. If the lateral and longitudinal forces presented at the tyre during operations exceeds the tyre's available traction force then the tyre is said to be saturated and will loose its grip on the ground and start to slip.

Push (plow) can be understood as a condition where, while cornering, the front tyres become saturated before the rear and slip first. Since the front tyres cannot provide any additional lateral force and the rear tyres can, the front of the vehicle will follow a path of greater radius than the rear and if there are no changes to the steering angle (i.e. the steering wheel stays in the same position), the vehicle's front will slide to the outside of the curve.

If the rear tyres become saturated before the front, the front tyres will keep the front of the vehicle on the desired path but the rear tyres will slip and follow a path with a greater radius. The back end will swing out and the vehicle will turn toward the inside of the curve. If the steering angle is not changed, then the front wheels will trace out a smaller and smaller circle while the rear wheels continue to swing around the front of the car. This is what is happening when a car 'spins out'. A car susceptible to being loose is sometimes known as 'tail happy', as in the way a dog wags its tail when happy and a common problem is fishtailing.

In real-world driving, there are continuous changes in speed, acceleration (vehicle braking or accelerating), steering angle, etc. Those changes are all constantly altering the load distribution of the vehicle, which, along with changes in tyre temperatures and road surface conditions are is constantly changing the maximum traction force available at each tyre. Generally, though, it is changes to the center of mass which cause tyre saturation and inform limit handling characteristics.

If the center of mass is moved forward, the understeer gradient tends to increase due to tyre load sensitivity. When the center of mass is moved rearward, the understeer gradient tends to decrease. The shifting of the center of mass is proportional to acceleration and affected by the height of the center of mass. When braking, more of the vehicles weight (load) is put on the front tyres and an less on the rear tyres. Conversely, when the vehicle accelerates, the opposite happens, the weight shifts to the rear tires. Similarly, as the center of mass of the load is shifted from one side to the other, the inside or outside tyres traction changes. In extreme cases, the inside or front tyres may completely lift off the ground, eliminating or reducing the steering input that can be transferred to the ground.

While weight distribution and suspension geometry have the greatest effect on measured understeer gradient in a steady-state test, power distribution, brake bias and front-rear weight transfer will also affect which wheels lose traction first in many real-world scenarios.

## Limit conditions

Spin: the car turns more sharply than intended
Plow: the car does not turn enough

When an understeer vehicle is taken to the grip limit of the tyres, where it is no longer possible to increase lateral acceleration, the vehicle will follow a path with a radius larger than intended. Although the vehicle cannot increase lateral acceleration, it is dynamically stable.

When an oversteer vehicle is taken to the grip limit of the tyres, it becomes dynamically unstable with a tendency to spin. Although the vehicle is unstable in open-loop control, a skilled driver can maintain control past the point of instability with countersteering and/or correct use of the throttle or even brakes; this is done purposely in the sport of drifting.

If a rear-wheel-drive vehicle has enough power to spin the rear wheels, it can initiate oversteer at any time by sending enough engine power to the wheels that they start spinning. Once traction is broken, they are relatively free to swing laterally. Under braking load, more work is typically done by the front brakes. If this forward bias is too great, then the front tyres may lose traction, causing understeer.

Understeer gradient is one of the main measures for characterizing steady-state cornering behavior. It is involved in other properties such as characteristic speed (the speed for an understeer vehicle where the steer angle needed to negotiate a turn is twice the Ackermann angle), lateral acceleration gain (g's/deg), yaw velocity gain (1/s), and critical speed (the speed where an oversteer vehicle has infinite lateral acceleration gain).

## Related Research Articles

Vehicle dynamics is the study of vehicle motion, e.g., how a vehicle's forward movement changes in response to driver inputs, propulsion system outputs, ambient conditions, air/surface/water conditions, etc. Vehicle dynamics is a part of engineering primarily based on classical mechanics. It may be applied for motorized vehicles, bicycles and motorcycles, aircraft, and watercraft.

Electronic stability control (ESC), also referred to as electronic stability program (ESP) or dynamic stability control (DSC), is a computerized technology that improves a vehicle's stability by detecting and reducing loss of traction (skidding). When ESC detects loss of steering control, it automatically applies the brakes to help steer the vehicle where the driver intends to go. Braking is automatically applied to wheels individually, such as the outer front wheel to counter oversteer, or the inner rear wheel to counter understeer. Some ESC systems also reduce engine power until control is regained. ESC does not improve a vehicle's cornering performance; instead, it helps reduce the chance of the driver losing control of the vehicle.

Quattro is the trademark used by the automotive brand Audi to indicate that all-wheel drive (AWD) technologies or systems are used on specific models of its automobiles.

Automobile handling and vehicle handling are descriptions of the way a wheeled vehicle responds and reacts to the inputs of a driver, as well as how it moves along a track or road. It is commonly judged by how a vehicle performs particularly during cornering, acceleration, and braking as well as on the vehicle's directional stability when moving in steady state condition.

In both road and rail vehicles, the wheelbase is the horizontal distance between the centers of the front and rear wheels. For road vehicles with more than two axles, the wheelbase is the distance between the steering (front) axle and the centerpoint of the driving axle group. In the case of a tri-axle truck, the wheelbase would be the distance between the steering axle and a point midway between the two rear axles.

Weight transfer and load transfer are two expressions used somewhat confusingly to describe two distinct effects:

Electronic brakeforce distribution or electronic brakeforce limitation (EBL) is an automobile brake technology that automatically varies the amount of force applied to each of a vehicle's wheels, based on road conditions, speed, loading, etc, thus providing intelligent control of both brake balance and overall brake force. Always coupled with anti-lock braking systems (ABS), EBD can apply more or less braking pressure to each wheel in order to maximize stopping power whilst maintaining vehicular control. Typically, the front end carries more weight and EBD distributes less braking pressure to the rear brakes so the rear brakes do not lock up and cause a skid. In some systems, EBD distributes more braking pressure at the rear brakes during initial brake application before the effects of weight transfer become apparent.

A swing axle is a simple type of independent suspension, almost always for the rear axles, designed and patented by Edmund Rumpler in 1903. This was a revolutionary invention in automotive suspension, allowing driven (powered) wheels to follow uneven road surfaces independently, thus enabling the vehicle's wheels to maintain better road contact and holding; plus each wheel's reduced unsprung weight means their movements have less impact on the vehicle as a whole. The first automotive application was the Rumpler Tropfenwagen, later followed by the Mercedes 130H/150H/170H, the Standard Superior, the Volkswagen Beetle and its derivatives, the Chevrolet Corvair, and the roll-over prone M151 jeep amongst others.

An anti-roll bar is an automobile suspension part that helps reduce the body roll of a vehicle during fast cornering or over road irregularities. It links opposite front or rear wheels to a torsion spring using short lever arms for anchors. This increases the suspension's roll stiffness—its resistance to roll in turns.

A tilting three-wheeler, tilting trike, leaning trike, or even just tilter, is a three-wheeled vehicle and usually a narrow-track vehicle whose body and or wheels tilt in the direction of a turn. Such vehicles can corner without rolling over despite having a narrow axle track because they can balance some or all of the roll moment caused by centripetal acceleration with an opposite roll moment caused by gravity, as bicycles and motorcycles do. This also reduces the lateral acceleration experienced by the rider, which some find more comfortable than the alternative. The narrow profile can result in reduced aerodynamic drag and increased fuel efficiency. These types of vehicles have also been described as "man-wide vehicles" (MWV).

A beam axle, rigid axle or solid axle is a dependent suspension design in which a set of wheels is connected laterally by a single beam or shaft. Beam axles were once commonly used at the rear wheels of a vehicle, but historically they have also been used as front axles in four-wheel-drive vehicles. In most automobiles, beam axles have been replaced with front (IFS) and rear independent suspensions (IRS).

Trail braking is a driving and motorcycle riding technique where the brakes are used beyond the entrance to a turn (turn-in), and then gradually released. Depending on a number of factors, the driver fully releases brake pressure at any point between turn-in and the apex of the turn.

Lift-off oversteer is a form of sudden oversteer. While cornering, a driver who closes the throttle, usually at a high speed, can cause such sudden deceleration that the vertical load on the tires shifts from rear to front, in a process called load transfer. This decrease in vertical load on the rear tires in turn decreases their traction by lowering their lateral force, making the vehicle steer more tightly into the turn. In other words, easing off the accelerator in a fast turn can cause a car's rear tires to loosen their grip so much that the driver loses control and drifts outwards, even leaving the road tailfirst.

Bicycle and motorcycle dynamics is the science of the motion of bicycles and motorcycles and their components, due to the forces acting on them. Dynamics falls under a branch of physics known as classical mechanics. Bike motions of interest include balancing, steering, braking, accelerating, suspension activation, and vibration. The study of these motions began in the late 19th century and continues today.

A Bundorf analysis is a measure of the characteristics of a vehicle that govern its understeer balance. The understeer is measured in units of degrees of additional yaw per g of lateral acceleration.

A wheelspin occurs when the force delivered to the tire tread exceeds that of available tread-to-surface friction and one or more tires lose traction. This leads the wheels to "spin" and causes the driver to lose control over the tires that no longer have grip on the road surface. Wheelspin can also be done intentionally such as in drifting or doing a burnout.

Automotive suspension design is an aspect of automotive engineering, concerned with designing the suspension for cars and trucks. Suspension design for other vehicles is similar, though the process may not be as well established.

S-AWC is the brand name of an advanced full-time four-wheel drive system developed by Mitsubishi Motors. The technology, specifically developed for the new 2007 Lancer Evolution, the 2010 Outlander, the 2014 Outlander, the Outlander PHEV and the Eclipse Cross have an advanced version of Mitsubishi's AWC system. Mitsubishi Motors first exhibited S-AWC integration control technology in the Concept-X model at the 39th Tokyo Motor Show in 2005. According to Mitsubishi, "the ultimate embodiment of the company's AWC philosophy is the S-AWC system, a 4WD-based integrated vehicle dynamics control system".

In automotive design, an M4, or Mid-engine, Four-wheel-drive layout places the internal combustion engine in the middle of the vehicle, between both axles and drives all four road wheels.

An automobile skid is an automobile handling condition where one or more tires are slipping relative to the road, and the overall handling of the vehicle has been affected.

## References

1. SAE International Surface Vehicle Recommended Practice, "Vehicle Dynamics Terminology", SAE Standard J670, Rev. 2008-01-24
2. International Organization for Standardization, "Road vehicles – Vehicle dynamics and road-holding ability – Vocabulary", ISO Standard 8855, Rev. 2010
3. International Organization for Standardization, "Passenger cars – Steady-state circular driving behaviour – Open-loop test methods", ISO Standard 4138
4. T. D. Gillespie, "Fundamentals of Vehicle Dynamics", Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc., Warrendale, PA, 1992. pp 226–230
5. Milliken, William F.; Milliken, Douglas L. (1994). Race Car Vehicle Dynamics. SAE International.