Oversteer and understeer are two common terms used to describe what happens when a car turns more or less than the amount that the driver desires. Oversteer, or snap oversteer, is when it turns more than the driver commands, and there are several causes of snap oversteer.
The 4 causes of snap oversteer are:
- Entering a corner too fast
- Aggressively accelerating into a corner
- Releasing the throttle in the middle of a corner
- Braking into a corner
Each of these situations rarely occur when you are driving on a daily basis, but on the track, they can be extremely common. Most cars can handle each of these actions at low speeds, but at high speeds it becomes more difficult to control. So, let’s look at each one in more detail.
The 4 Causes Of Snap Oversteer
1. Entering A Corner Too Fast
The way that modern performance cars are designed makes for a lot of speed, and they do this by optimizing the grip at the front and the power at the back. Unfortunately, this makes it quite easy to end up oversteering the car, as the primary cause of oversteer is a loss of traction at the back while there is still a lot of it at the front.
The front wheels are designed to maintain high levels of grip to make it easier to enter corners at speed, but if you go too fast, the back end will have an abundance of power with not enough grip. This is a recipe for oversteer, and it can be very difficult to correct as your impulse might be to snap the wheel the other way and hit the brakes, but we will discuss how to correct it properly below.
On a track, it can be difficult to gauge how fast you can take corners, especially if you have never driven it before. So, you should use your first few laps to test your speed and work up to the corner and avoid unnecessarily spinning the car. Always go slower than you think you can at first, and work your way up to the limit, rather than trying to find it on the first lap!
2. Aggressively Accelerating Into A Corner
Even if you enter the corner at a reasonable speed, accelerating as you do so can also cause snap oversteer. Accelerating too early in the corner and too aggressively can both causes oversteer, as the power at the back of the car is not able to fully transfer to the road, as there is not enough traction at the rear wheels. This may be accompanied by wheelspin, which can result in the entire car spinning out as well.
However, it doesn’t have to be as dramatic as that to be noticeable. When you apply too much throttle at the wrong time in a corner, the back wheels can lose just enough traction to cause the car to oversteer and still force you to need to correct it (which can cost you lap time). Usually, the best way to regain control is to ease off the throttle slightly, and the rear wheels should start to regain their traction.
3. Releasing The Throttle In The Middle Of A Corner
Although too much throttle can cause oversteer, lifting off it too abruptly can do the same as well. The loss of traction in the rear wheels can be caused by excess speed and a dramatic shift in the weight distribution of the car. The latter is what has its effect in the case of releasing the throttle, and it can cause just as much oversteer as too much throttle as well.
If you have applied a lot of throttle when you are mid corner, you might start to think you are losing control of the car. If you then immediately release the throttle, the weight of the car can rapidly shift to the front (as it does under heavy braking), which has the effect of ‘lifting’ the back tires slightly, or more accurately releasing the downforce on them. This causes them to lose some grip, and it can result in snap oversteer.
If you are in a front-wheel drive car, you will probably be able to reduce the effects of this by applying a bit more throttle. This can cause the weight to shift back towards the rear of the car and can allow the rear tires to regain their grip. However, if you are in a rear-wheel drive car, this can worsen your situation and cause the rear tires to spin if you apply too much throttle at once.
4. Braking Into A Corner
The final main cause of snap oversteer is braking into a corner, or when you are in the middle of it. You should be able to judge your speed before you enter a corner well enough that you don’t need to reduce it halfway through. Again, this will prevent any of the other main causes of snap oversteer as well, and as with most things in a car, your speed is important.
Braking into a corner will shift the weight of the car, and as we have already discussed this can cause the back end to rapidly lose grip. In a similar fashion to how you can recover from throttle-induced oversteer, smoothly and quickly releasing the brake can allow the back tires to regain adhesion to the road, and therefore straighten the car out. Brake too quickly or in a jerky fashion and you might make it worse!
KEY POINTS• A variety of things can cause snap oversteer
• Always take your first few laps slow to understand where your limits are in the corners
• Be smooth with your inputs on the steering, gas, and brakes
Other Causes Of Oversteer
If you are driving in the rain or on icy roads, your car will behave differently to how it would on a dry road. Wet or icy roads can increase braking distances, and this is due to a lack of grip when compared with a dry road. This is because water gets in between your car’s tires and the road/track surface, affecting the contact patch (the part of the tire that’s in touch with the road).
On an icy road, there is very limited friction between your car’s tires and the road surface, leading to very little traction. So, if you are trying to brake when mid-corner on a wet or icy road, you are very likely to lose grip in all of your tires, but more frequently the rear ones, causing oversteer.
In wet conditions, you need to be very cautious when using the brakes at high speeds. The same rule applies for the throttle, as reduced grip can make it easier for the rear tires to spin when too much power is sent to them, causing the back end to slide out. The main way to avoid this is to simply be extra careful with your pedals.
Avoiding & Combating Snap Oversteer
Now that you know the causes of snap oversteer, it is fairly easy to establish how to prevent it in the first place. The main things to avoid doing are:
- Going too fast into a corner
- Accelerating too aggressively into the corner or in the middle of it
- Releasing the throttle mid corner
- Braking into or in the middle of a corner
Keep Pointing In The Right Direction
If you do find yourself doing any of these things and end up causing snap oversteer, there are ways to get yourself out of it before you go too far. The main thing you have to do is try to keep your front wheels pointing in the direction in which you wish to go. This often involves turning into the slide, which usually means you’re turning the steering wheel in the opposite direction of the corner.
This helps straighten the car out, allowing you to recover from the snap oversteer. It can feel very counterintuitive for beginners, but once you get a feel for it, you’ll start doing it naturally any time you feel the back end losing grip.
If you turn your wheel in the opposite direction too quickly, you can snap the car into oversteer in the other direction. If you apply too little, you will likely cause the car to spin more as the back end comes around. Keeping your eyes on the road and maintaining the front of the car in the direction that you want to be going is key to correcting snap oversteer.
When Additional Throttle Can Help
If you are in a rear-wheel drive car, applying throttle to correct oversteer in certain situations can cause the wheels to spin, which makes it more likely for the entire car to spin. However, at lower speeds, and if the cause of the oversteer was braking into the corner, being able to easily provide the power to the rear wheels can take you out of the oversteer quickly.
In a front-wheel drive car, the power goes to the front wheels, and so FWD cars are more likely to exhibit understeer than oversteer. This is because the front wheels are responsible for turning and acceleration, and doing both at the same time can put you on the limits of traction.
However, you can still exhibit oversteer under the right conditions, and in a front-wheel drive car, it can be easier to correct it in some situations. This is because, when you apply the throttle, the weight shifts to the rear of the car, giving the tires more grip and helping to correct the oversteer. This happens without the risk of the rear tires spinning, as there is no power sent to them.
KEY POINTS• Snap oversteer can be more common when driving in wet or icy conditions
• The key thing to remember is to keep your wheels pointing in the direction you want to go
• How you correct snap oversteer largely depends on whether your car is FWD or RWD
Snap oversteer can be caused by a variety of factors, and it can be a result of both action on the throttle as well as on the brake. If you are going too fast into a corner or accelerate too aggressively, you can experience snap oversteer. However, the same thing can happen if you lift the throttle at the wrong time or apply the brake too early as well.
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