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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 (e.g. some trucks), 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.
The wheelbase of a vehicle equals the distance between its front and rear wheels. At equilibrium, the total torque of the forces acting on a vehicle is zero. Therefore, the wheelbase is related to the force on each pair of tires by the following formula:
where is the force on the front tires, is the force on the rear tires, is the wheelbase, is the distance from the center of mass (CM) to the rear wheels, is the distance from the center of gravity to the front wheels ( + = ), is the mass of the vehicle, and is the gravity constant. So, for example, when a truck is loaded, its center of gravity shifts rearward and the force on the rear tires increases. The vehicle will then ride lower. The amount the vehicle sinks will depend on counter acting forces, like the size of the tires, tire pressure, and the spring rate of the suspension. If the vehicle is accelerating or decelerating, extra torque is placed on the rear or front tire respectively. The equation relating the wheelbase, height above the ground of the CM, and the force on each pair of tires becomes:
where is the force on the front tires, is the force on the rear tires, is the distance from the CM to the rear wheels, is the distance from the CM to the front wheels, is the wheelbase, is the mass of the vehicle, is the acceleration of gravity (approx. 9.8 m/s2), is the height of the CM above the ground, is the acceleration (or deceleration if the value is negative). So, as is common experience, when the vehicle accelerates, the rear usually sinks and the front rises depending on the suspension. Likewise, when braking the front noses down and the rear rises.:
Because of the effect the wheelbase has on the weight distribution of the vehicle, wheelbase dimensions are crucial to the balance and steering. For example, a car with a much greater weight load on the rear tends to understeer due to the lack of the load (force) on the front tires and therefore the grip (friction) from them. This is why it is crucial, when towing a single-axle caravan, to distribute the caravan's weight so that down-thrust on the tow-hook is about 100 pounds force (400 N). Likewise, a car may oversteer or even "spin out" if there is too much force on the front tires and not enough on the rear tires. Also, when turning there is lateral torque placed upon the tires which imparts a turning force that depends upon the length of the tire distances from the CM. Thus, in a car with a short wheelbase, the short lever arm from the CM to the rear wheel will result in a greater lateral force on the rear tire which means greater acceleration and less time for the driver to adjust and prevent a spin out or worse.
Wheelbases provide the basis for one of the most common vehicle size class systems.
Some luxury vehicles are offered with long-wheelbase variants to increase the spaciousness and therefore the luxury of the vehicle. This practice can often be found on full-size cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but ultra-luxury vehicles such as the Rolls-Royce Phantom and even large family cars like the Rover 75 came with 'limousine' versions. Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair was given a long-wheelbase version of the Rover 75 for official use.and even some SUVs like the VW Tiguan and Jeep Wrangler come in LWB models
In contrast, coupé varieties of some vehicles such as the Honda Accord are usually built on shorter wheelbases than the sedans they are derived from.
The wheelbase on many commercially available bicycles and motorcycles is so short, relative to the height of their centers of mass, that they are able to perform stoppies and wheelies.
In skateboarding the word 'wheelbase' is used for the distance between the two inner pairs of mounting holes on the deck. This is different from the distance between the rotational centers of the two wheel pairs. A reason for this alternative use is that decks are sold with prefabricated holes, but usually without trucks and wheels. It is therefore easier to use the prefabricated holes for measuring and describing this characteristic of the deck.
A common misconception is that the choice of wheelbase is influenced by the height of the skateboarder. However, the length of the deck would then be a better candidate, because the wheelbase affects characteristics useful in different speeds or terrains regardless of the height of the skateboarder. For example, a deck with a long wheelbase, say 22 inches (55.9 cm), will respond slowly to turns, which is often desirable in high speeds. A deck with a short wheelbase, say 14 inches (35.6 cm), will respond quickly to turns, which is often desirable when skating backyard pools or other terrains requiring quick or intense turns.
In rail vehicles, the wheelbase follows a similar concept. However, since the wheels may be of different sizes (for example, on a steam locomotive), the measurement is taken between the points where the wheels contact the rail, and not between the centers of the wheels.
On vehicles where the wheelsets (axles) are mounted inside the vehicle frame (mostly in steam locomotives), the wheelbase is the distance between the front-most and rear-most wheelsets.
On vehicles where the wheelsets are mounted on bogies (American: trucks), three wheelbase measurements can be distinguished:
The wheelbase affects the rail vehicle's capability to negotiate curves. Short-wheelbased vehicles can negotiate sharper curves. On some larger wheelbase locomotives, inner wheels may lack flanges in order to pass curves.
The wheelbase also affects the load the vehicle poses to the track, track infrastructure and bridges. All other conditions being equal, a shorter wheelbase vehicle represents a more concentrated load to the track than a longer wheelbase vehicle. As railway lines are designed to take a pre-determined maximum load per unit of length (tonnes per meter, or pounds per foot), the rail vehicles' wheelbase is designed according to their intended gross weight. The higher the gross weight, the longer the wheelbase must be.
A semi-tractor-trailer truck is the combination of a tractor unit and one, or more, semi-trailers to carry freight. A semi-trailer attaches to the tractor with a type of hitch called a fifth-wheel.
An axle or axletree is a central shaft for a rotating wheel or gear. On wheeled vehicles, the axle may be fixed to the wheels, rotating with them, or fixed to the vehicle, with the wheels rotating around the axle. In the former case, bearings or bushings are provided at the mounting points where the axle is supported. In the latter case, a bearing or bushing sits inside a central hole in the wheel to allow the wheel or gear to rotate around the axle. Sometimes, especially on bicycles, the latter type axle is referred to as a spindle.
Suspension is the system of tires, tire air, springs, shock absorbers and linkages that connects a vehicle to its wheels and allows relative motion between the two. Suspension systems must support both road holding/handling and ride quality, which are at odds with each other. The tuning of suspensions involves finding the right compromise. It is important for the suspension to keep the road wheel in contact with the road surface as much as possible, because all the road or ground forces acting on the vehicle do so through the contact patches of the tires. The suspension also protects the vehicle itself and any cargo or luggage from damage and wear. The design of front and rear suspension of a car may be different.
Understeer and oversteer are vehicle dynamics terms used to describe the sensitivity of a vehicle to steering. Oversteer is what occurs when a car turns (steers) by more than the amount commanded by the driver. Conversely, understeer is what occurs when a car steers less than the amount commanded by the driver.
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.
A mid-engine layout describes the placement of an automobile engine between the rear and front axles and generally behind the passenger compartment.
Weight transfer and load transfer are two expressions used somewhat confusingly to describe two distinct effects:
A dump truck, known also as a dumper truck or tipper truck, is used for taking dumps for construction as well as coal. A typical dump truck is equipped with an open-box bed, which is hinged at the rear and equipped with hydraulic rams to lift the front, allowing the material in the bed to be deposited ("dumped") on the ground behind the truck at the site of delivery. In the UK, Australia and India the term applies to off-road construction plant only, and the road vehicle is known as a tipper lorry, tip-truck, tip-trailer, tipper truck, or tipper.
Rolling resistance, sometimes called rolling friction or rolling drag, is the force resisting the motion when a body rolls on a surface. It is mainly caused by non-elastic effects; that is, not all the energy needed for deformation of the wheel, roadbed, etc., is recovered when the pressure is removed. Two forms of this are hysteresis losses, and permanent (plastic) deformation of the object or the surface. Another cause of rolling resistance lies in the slippage between the wheel and the surface, which dissipates energy. Note that only the last of these effects involves friction, therefore the name "rolling friction" is to an extent a misnomer.
An adhesion railway relies on adhesion traction to move the train. Adhesion traction is the friction between the drive wheels and the steel rail. The term "adhesion railway" is only used when there is need to distinguish adhesion railways from railways moved by other means, e.g. by a stationary engine pulling on a cable attached to the cars, by railways which are moved by a pinion meshing with a rack, etc.
Hunting oscillation is a self-oscillation, usually unwanted, about an equilibrium. The expression came into use in the 19th century and describes how a system "hunts" for equilibrium. The expression is used to describe phenomena in such diverse fields as electronics, aviation, biology, and railway engineering.
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 tractor unit is a characteristically heavy-duty towing engine that provides motive power for hauling a towed or trailered load. These fall into two categories: heavy and medium duty military and commercial rear-wheel drive semi-tractors used for hauling semi-trailers, and very heavy-duty typically off-road-capable, often 6×6, military and commercial tractor units, including ballast tractors.
The ZiS-151 was a general-purpose truck produced by the Soviet car manufacturer Automotive Factory No. 2 Zavod imeni Stalina in 1947–1958. In 1956, the factory was renamed to Zavod imeni Likhacheva, and new trucks were called ZiL-151 (ЗиЛ-151).
A semi-trailer is a trailer without a front axle. In the United States, the term is also used to refer to the combination of a truck and a semi-trailer, a tractor-trailer.
The M54 5-ton 6×6 truck (G744) was the basic cargo model of the M39 Series truck. It was designed to transport a 10,000 lb (4,500 kg), 14-foot-long (4.3 m) cargo load off-road in all weather. In on-road service the load weight was doubled.
Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) trucks were a class and a coherent range of military trucks, made in large numbers, and in numerous variants, by Canada during World War II, compliant to British Army specifications, primarily intended for use in the armies of the British Commonwealth allies, but also serving in other units of the British Empire.
In vehicle acrobatics, a wheelie, or wheelstand, is a vehicle maneuver in which the front wheel or wheels come off the ground due to sufficient torque being applied to the rear wheel or wheels, or rider motion relative to the vehicle. Wheelies are usually associated with bicycles and motorcycles, but can be done with other vehicles such as cars, especially in drag racing and tractor pulling.
The axle track in automobiles and other wheeled vehicles which have two or more wheels on an axle, is the distance between the centerline of two roadwheels on the same axle. In a case of the axle with dual wheels, the centerline in the middle of the dual wheel is used for the axle track specification.
The M425 and M426 Tractor trucks (G671) were 5 ton (4,536kg) load rated 4x2 semi-tractors that were used from 1944 on by the US Army. They are famous for the use on the Red Ball Express from Normandy to the front, but were also used in the China Burma India Theater. After the war they were used in Europe, including during the Berlin Crisis, and in the Korean War.
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