Controlling Vehicles Stability
We all want to feel in control when we’re on the roads. Stability is key and controlling your vehicle’s stability will undoubtedly make you feel more comfortable behind the wheel. Unfortunately, every time you brake, steer or accelerate the stability of the vehicle could be compromised. Sounds scary but that’s what manufacturers have been working hard to solve for many years. Making our cars safer is a top priority. Three simple actions that we do in our cars day-in day-out are braking, accelerating and steering. They are the fundamental parts of driving. These actions produce forces which alter the car’s weight distribution, balance and tyre grip.
New vehicles benefit from the latest technology and active safety features designed to keep the car stable. In this article, we’ll look at what you can do to stay in control of your vehicle and reduce reliance on active safety technology features.
More harm than good?
It’s been heavily researched that while Active Safety Systems provide a great deal of protection to the driver and other road users, they have contributed to drivers being more careless. Many drivers rely too heavily on their car safety features. They are taking more risks than they normally would and are giving people a false sense of security. The truth is, if you have engaged one or more of these systems on your car then you have misjudged the situation and are not driving well.
It’s worth noting that these safety features, while amazing technological advancements in motoring, are not able to defy the law of physics. Your car won’t perform better or improve your skill as a driver. They are purely there to safeguard when something goes wrong. It cannot be guaranteed that you won’t end up in an accident. So I can’t stress enough that they are a tool to help, not cure. They should not be replacing good competent driving. If you can go a whole year or more without seeing one of the associated warning lights on your dashboard then you can congratulate yourselves on a driving job well done.
In this article, I’ll be going through how certain safety features help to keep the car stable. In my case I’ll also be reminding you of certain driver safety considerations. Because I’m just that nice to you all.
Keep in control of your vehicle when steering by understanding the road surface and weather changes. Knowing your vehicle’s limits might put the spanner in the works. Poor driving conditions don’t cause skids as we know. They are just the catalyst and as a driver, we should almost always be able to gauge how the vehicle will respond to the road we are on. Skidding is caused by increased acceleration, high speeds, heavy turning or even sudden braking. By driving calmly you should eliminate the need for these safety features. Of course, there will be occasions when accidents occur and that’s what these features are designed to assist with.
Why Do Car Skid?
A car can skid for a few different reasons, but it is as a result of one or more tyres losing grip of the road surface. If the force in which the vehicle is moving or braking exceeds the grip of the tyres on the road then your car will start to skid. Skidding is scary because as the driver you lose the precious control we all crave as drivers. If you brake or accelerate while turning a corner two forces are combined and the grip on the road must be higher to combat this. If the balance isn’t there you will skid.
What causes a car to skid?
One of the most common reasons a car will skid is because you are driving too fast for the circumstances. Whether that’s on a sunny Country road or an icy residential street. Driving aggressively with harsh braking, sudden acceleration or heavy handed steering can all cause a car to skid regardless of the road surface.
Always leave a safety margin of tyre grip to allow for unforeseen circumstances. Never drive to the limit of the grip available. If the car starts to feel even a little out of control you should be more cautious. Also, be aware that wet, icy or snow covered roads will have much less grip on your tyres.
Minimise the risk of skidding
In addition to driving more carefully, you should maintain your car regularly. Checking tyre grip and pressures can all contribute the how well your vehicle grips the road. Checking your car’s brakes regularly is also important. Defective brakes are incredibly dangerous, especially on slippery surfaces. Skidding is more likely in adverse weather or when the road conditions are not normal. It’s not just ice and snow that can affect the grip of your tyres on the road. Surface water, mud, damp leaves, grass, and oil can all create sudden slippery patches on the road.
And it’s not just wet or damp surfaces which can be slippery. Loose dust or gravel, overly worn road surfaces, concrete and cobbled roads can all adjust how the car’s grip performs.
Improve your driving to avoid skidding
If you are used to just getting into your car and heading off on your journey without much consideration, like me, then you are most likely on auto pilot. Taking the time to assess the road surface before you head off and adjusting your driving behaviour accordingly will reduce your risk. Be cautious and leave plenty of room between you and other road users. Reduce your speed and give yourself extra time to make manoeuvres. Using lower revs will also reduce the risk of skidding or wheel spinning when pulling away. Using a higher gear at lower speeds on unfamiliar road surfaces will ensure you maintain maximum control over your vehicle. Braking, steering and even changing gear smoothly will all help ensure your car can grip the road as well as possible.
What is oversteer and understeer?
You may have heard this term thrown around on Top Gear episodes of old. Ever wondered what it actually means? Well, oversteer is used to describe when a car turns more than intended based on the driver’s steering. Understeer is the opposite. Both can occur at low speeds. On a diagram of a car turning a corner, a car with understeer will run wide of its intended path. On a diagram of a car turning with oversteer, the rear wheels will slip out. Most front wheel drive cars have a tendency to understeer and most rear wheel drive cars have a tendency to oversteer. Oversteer and understeer won’t put the car in a position where it skids unless you are driving or braking too fast for the circumstance.