Speed Secrets: The Dreaded Understeer-Oversteer Problem

By Ross Bentley

April 18, 2018

"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. 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 they’re doing with the controls when the handling problem occurs.

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.

Ross Bentley

For more information about Ross’s tips, coaching, eCourses, newsletter, Virtual Track Walk videos, and other resources to help you drive at your best, go to www.SpeedSecrets.com