July 27, 2013

Speed Secrets Saturday: When Oversteer is Understeer.

The third in the Speed Secrets Saturday series by Ross Bentley. This week the theme is handling: sometimes it's not the setup, it's you.  
Be sure to check out  Part I: Rain and  Part II: Braking.

The Dreaded Understeer-Oversteer Problem by Ross Bentley

"The car understeers early in the corner, then snaps to oversteer at the exit."

That's a common complaint from track day and race drivers. Most often, the priority becomes fixing the exit oversteer because it's "scarier." But the only car problem is the understeer.

Photo: Andrea Cairone/Axis of Oversteer
See, when the driver experiences understeer, the natural instinct is to turn the wheel more - it's human nature. When steering input increases, the car scrubs off speed until the front tires hook up and gain traction, sending the car immediately towards the inside of the turn... and the car oversteers.

So, the understeer is a car problem, and the oversteer was caused by the driver. Fix the understeer and the oversteer goes away. That's why it's important for the driver to be aware of what he/she is doing with the controls when the handling problem occurs.

Mark Hales
The next time you experience the understeer-oversteer problem (and you will if you drive on a track enough), stop and ask yourself what you're doing with the steering wheel when the understeer begins. If you're like most drivers, at first you won't believe that you're turning the steering wheel too much. But if you really think about it, you may realize you are what's causing the oversteer.

Of course, the best thing you can possibly do is spend time on a skid pad training yourself not to add more steering when your car understeers.
It’s easy to say, and even easier for me to write, “When you experience understeer, reduce your steering angle.” But I know from experience, that it’s not easy to actually straighten the steering when you sense you’re on an ever-increasing radius, no matter how good a driver you are. And that’s why practice time on a skid pad is so valuable (not to mention that it’s an absolute blast!).

Be aware of what you're doing with the controls any time the car is doing something you don't want it to do; you may learn that it's not completely the car's fault.

For more of Ross' writing, along with articles by other famous and not-so-famous contributors, go to www.speedsecretsweekly.com. He can be reached at ross@speedsecretsweekly.com.


  1. Know yourself and you will know the world!!

  2. Ross is spot on, one of the best pieces of driving advice I ever received from an advanced driving instructor is that when you get understeer, you should simoultaneously GENTLY ease up on the throttle and straighten the steering. Do this, and 90% of the time the understeer will bleed away. It is true, however, that this is much easier said than done when your brain is screaming at you to turn tighter....


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