What is understeer and oversteer?

What is understeer and oversteer?

We got asked by Robin to explain what understeer and oversteer is.

What is understeer and oversteer?

What is understeer and oversteer? We help a Behind the Wheel listener understand what these common car terms mean.

Hi guys, thought I would drop you a line to ask about the terms “oversteer” and “understeer”.

What exactly do they mean? Can you explain this in simple terms please?

Thanks Robin, we are really glad to get your email today and thanks for such an interesting question.

It’s true that these expressions are often used in car reviews and motorsport coverage, we shouldn’t take it as a given that everyone knows what oversteer and understeer is.

Simple explanation for oversteer and understeer:

  • To oversteer means your vehicles rear wheels slip sideways while turning a corner.
  • Understeer is when your car wants to continue going straight ahead despite your front wheels being turned for a corner.

Both are potentially dangerous characteristics, true. However for most modern cars, especially thanks to the inclusion of traction control and stability control technologies, neither oversteer nor understeer are likely to be too evident in anything but extreme driving situations.

In saying that, should either of these conditions feel familiar, especially understeer under braking on wet and slippery roads, this could be a sign that something is wrong, Naturally, the best idea is to get your car looked at by an expert as soon as possible.

We hope that helps Robin and that the explanation makes sense.

Got a question or comment for us? Get us via our Contact page or email [email protected].

About the author

Joel Helmes

Joel is the founder, editor and managing director of Behind the Wheel. Joel has a background as a radio broadcaster with on-air roles at 4BC, 4KQ, 2KY, 2LT and 2UE amongst others, as well as a news editor and program director. Joel’s relationship with cars stems back to his early childhood learning to change oil and brakes with his father and uncle. This continued on into his driving years owning an assorted collection of cars.

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