Oversteer or Oversteering, as opposed to Understeer(ing), is a tendency of a car to turn more than driver expected it to. Oversteer/understeer depends on many factors, major ones being drive axle (front, rear, or all), weight distribution, vehicle aerodynamics, suspension tune, and tires’ grip and stiffness. RWD cars naturally have oversteer, and FWD cars – understeer. One can change it to the opposite with the help of suspension tuning and tires picking, or even electronics. Most of modern cars are usually tuned to show slight understeer, since this is safer for inexperienced drivers.
When the speed is too high, car with understeer will slide outside the curve, with its front wheels losing traction. The instinctive driver’s reaction - to step off the gas and start braking - will induce load transfer to front wheels, allowing them to gain traction back, thus putting the car back on track, while reducing the car speed below dangerous level at the same time.
With oversteer rear wheels will lose traction, sending the car into spin. The same instinctive driver behavior will amplify the problem and guarantee complete loss of control over the car, when front wheels are forced by spinning car to lose their traction, too. There is a technique called opposite lock, however, that allows driver to keep the control and even use slight spinning to complete the turn on higher speed. I consider this technique to be a survival skill and absolute necessity to anyone driving RWD car. When mastered, it allows the driver to get much more fun out of driving, by the way.
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Fun and Safe Driving Encyclopedia
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