The Truth About Cars » understeer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 16 Sep 2014 19:53:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » understeer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Piston Slap: Is The 2WD ‘Burb Ready for The Snow? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-is-the-2wd-burb-ready-for-the-snow/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-is-the-2wd-burb-ready-for-the-snow/#comments Mon, 09 Dec 2013 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=675570 Jay writes: Professor Mehta, I have some friends that are moving to Colorado from native South Florida. They’ve never lived in a 4 season climate let alone driven in snow. They own outright a 2007 2WD Suburban (80k miles) L33/LS1 FTW. The other car is an Acura TL he drives for work. Since I’m the […]

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Jay writes:

Professor Mehta,

I have some friends that are moving to Colorado from native South Florida. They’ve never lived in a 4 season climate let alone driven in snow. They own outright a 2007 2WD Suburban (80k miles) L33/LS1 FTW. The other car is an Acura TL he drives for work.

Since I’m the resident car guy, they’ve asked for advice. Should they trade the Suburban and get her a CPO X5 (her dream car)? Or buy an MDX, RX350 AWD?

My thought is they should keep the Suburban, at least for the first winter, and put a really nice set of Blizzaks on it. That way they can learn to drive in snow, and get a feel for what kind of vehicle would thrive in their new town (commute, traffic, snow etc).

After all, if it’s horrible, they can always mosey down to the dealer and trade out. It’s also my concern that AWD would be seen as a cure all and/or bring overconfidence on the road. I told them AWD doesn’t do squat with braking. Am I giving proper advice? What do you think?

Don’t let Sanjeev anywhere near this Piston Slap!

Sajeev answers:

When I was a wannabe-car designer in Detroit, a friend (rural Ohio native) explained why he almost never used four-wheel drive in his Blazer.  He liked the control of a RWD power train, eliminating understeer with tail wagging oversteer as needed. Because, as you mentioned, AWD can inspire overconfidence…and understeer into something unforgiving.

That said, Detroit did plow/salt the roads when needed. And when it really, really snowed, you didn’t want to go outside until the plow could keep up. Such is metropolitan city life: there’s a chance your friends don’t need a 4×4/AWD SUV…unless they live on a real steep hill. Or they live in a suburb with less frequent plowing. Or…

Take it from me: your advice only goes so far with others (especially when that advice is horrible – Sanjeev) so if they either want OR need an AWD vehicle, they should test drive the X5 and some others, and let them buy whatever they want.

See if they’ll put Blizzaks (or similar) on the ‘burb, because it’s the smart use of their money.  That might be enough to make them believers.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: It Ain’t Easy Being on the Front Left! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/piston-slap-it-aint-easy-being-on-the-front-left/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/piston-slap-it-aint-easy-being-on-the-front-left/#comments Mon, 21 Nov 2011 15:49:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=419196 Matt writes: Hello, I own an 06′ Hyundai Elantra GLS hatchback and tire wear on the front left tire has been much worse than the other three, despite rotating the tires. The outside of the front left tire is worn down so that it is smooth and now I can see a secondary layer of rubber being exposed. […]

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Matt writes:

Hello,

I own an 06′ Hyundai Elantra GLS hatchback and tire wear on the front left tire has been much worse than the other three, despite rotating the tires. The outside of the front left tire is worn down so that it is smooth and now I can see a secondary layer of rubber being exposed. At first I thought maybe there was something wrong with the alignment but I took it to three places, one wanted to charge me a $90 “diagnostic” fee so I walked and the other two couldn’t find anything wrong. One place mentioned that since I had directional tires I couldn’t really get a proper rotation and thats probably what’s causing the wear.

My best guess is between the directional design of the tire tread and the nature of my driving it has caused extreme wear on the outside of my front left tire. The other three tires look fine and seem like I could get at least another year out of them. Anyway, my question is should I just replace the front left with an inexpensive replacement and get the remaining life out of the other three or should I just replace all four with an asymetric set? Factors to consider are that I live in the Northeast so I do get snow but it is not a requirement that I be out on the roads when it is falling so snow tires are not important, just a decent set of all seasons. Also I am a student right now so the cheaper option is more appealing to me but not if it is a minimal one. I have about 35k on the tires right now and they are General Altimax HP’s.

Sajeev Answers

It has nothing to do with the tread pattern of your tires. Damn son, you don’t need to pass everyone around EVERY corner!

I’m serious! But it’s all good. Before balancing things out with proper rear anti-roll bars, my rear-wheel drive cars normally had more wear on the front than the rear. It magnified my desire to push my vehicles hard, but not hard enough to induce oversteer and raise the ire of my neighbors…and the local law enforcement. So perhaps I shouldn’t cast stones from within my glass house.

Front wheel drive vehicles are prone to extra front tire wear because those doughnuts have to both accelerate and steer the vehicle. It’ll abnormally wear out the best of rubber. Combined with your obvious lead foot and the Hyundai’s lack of a limited slip differential, the left front wheel takes more than its fair share of tire wear.

What to do? I would recommend more handbrake turns or lift-off oversteer, but that’s pretty terrible advice for a hoon like yourself. The short-term answer is to get one tire to replace the worn out one, as this isn’t an AWD vehicle that demands equal tire circumferences. That’s the easy part.

The hard part? Getting you to chill out when you’re behind the wheel.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Trackday Diaries: the long night, street habits on the track. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/trackday-diaries-the-long-night-street-habits-on-the-track/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/trackday-diaries-the-long-night-street-habits-on-the-track/#comments Thu, 15 Jul 2010 16:22:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=360926 If you want to spend fifty days a year on-track, or even twenty, every dollar must be watched. A decent hotel can run eighty bucks or so, including tax, near most East Coast venues. Two hotel nights an event, ten events a year, will run you sixteen hundred bucks minimum. A few years ago I […]

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If you want to spend fifty days a year on-track, or even twenty, every dollar must be watched. A decent hotel can run eighty bucks or so, including tax, near most East Coast venues. Two hotel nights an event, ten events a year, will run you sixteen hundred bucks minimum. A few years ago I came up with a way to save at least eight hundred of those dollars: drive to the East Coast the night before. Playing a bit of “pickup ball”, to be coarse, can save the other eight hundred. It’s also possible to sleep in bathtubs for free if you have generous friends at the event, so pack a pillow and thick blanket along with your torque wrench and HANS device.

Sunday night passes into Monday morning and I am on the road at 12:30AM to cover the 371 miles to Summit Point’s Main Course. There’s less traffic at night anyway, making it easier to read Wikipedia whenever I have 3G signal. I’ll pick a topic and wander through. From 2AM to 5AM or so I’m reading about the late Michael Bloomfield and the story of the “Super Session” record with Al Kooper and Stephen Stills. A few reviews, a variety of technical diatribes about the ’58-’60 Gibson Les Paul. The maple top is glued to the mahogany body, which stresses the maple under most conditions of heat and humidity, causing the guitar to resonate a bit more. Fascinating stuff. Yes, I read and drive. You’re not allowed to do it in press cars, but I hold the title for the Boxster and therefore if I want to spend the whole trip playing a Martin Backpacker on my lap I’ll damn well do it. If you want me to devote my full attention to the road, raise the speed limit to 195 and give me a plastic trophy for arriving at my destination before everyone else.

The last seventy or so miles takes place on a variety of two-lane roads. Now the morning trucks are out. Passing traffic in the Boxster avec trailer is tricky business but it must be done. Finally I’ve arrived and can get set up. Ugh. My latest set of $25 front tires is an inch too tall. They’re 40-series instead of 35-series. Makes a difference. I travel with a prybar for these occasions. I use the prybar to bend the spring mount on the shocks so the wheels will turn and head out.

Summit Main is an old-school track. It’s killed racers, and it’s even killed an HPDE participant as recently as 2007 or thereabouts. I encourage students to treat it with respect. The question I ask them is: “Where is your nose pointed when you are accelerating out of the corner?” Too often, the true answer is “at a wall” instead of “down the track”. If you are pointed at the open track or a nice safe runoff spot when something bad happens, you are likely to still be doing trackdays next year, rather than waiting for the orderlies to come change your diaper and move your arms to a different position for you.

Turn Four is one of my very most favorite places in the world. I’ve borrowed these photos from the Alfa Club.

What you cannot see is that it is seriously downhill and off-camber. Spec Miatas don’t need to lift for it, but they are also usually a bit iffy about full-throttle on the way out. This is what you see at the exit:

The tires on the left are calling your name as you head down the hill full-throttle. I drive this section with full commitment. It’s hard to beat the Boxster through this section; even the well-driven Ariel Atom ahead of me in one session swells a bit in the windshield as we dive to the inside of the 180-degree Turn Five. Once we reach the front straight he blasts off like a tube-frame Space Shuttle.

I have good students this weekend; a fellow in a 993 Carrera and someone with what amounts to a NASA GTS3-class BMW M3. Both of them suffer from what I think of as “street habits.” The first big street habit has to do with brake pressure. Imagine you are coming off the freeway toward the stop sign at the bottom of the ramp. How do you slow the car? Obviously, you start with light pressure on the brakes and build as you come closer to the stop sign. Your maximum pressure on the pedal probably happens right before you stop. That’s a street habit. All novice and intermediate drivers do it on the track as well.

What we should be doing is to quickly apply the maximum possible brake force at the brake marker and hold that pressure until we’ve arrived at the proper corner entry speed. Most people have never done this in their lives; maybe once, when a deer jumped out in front of them and stood there waiting for impact. On a racetrack we do it every corner, every time. If you brake too early… well, it didn’t kill you, did it?

Another street habit is unconsciously maximizing g-force in a corner. Imagine that you are at the Tail of the Dragon with all the jerkoffs in their S2000s and the neon rolling GSX-CHICANES. You’ll take each turn in a manner designed to press you into the seat with all the g-force possible, which means going in a little too fast, riding the outside of the corner, and not accelerating until you’re way past the exit. Your brain feels that cornering force and says, “Awesome! We’re really booking along, dude!” Meanwhile, I’ve slowed down more than you did, turned more than you did, and I’ve accelerated out of the corner while you’re marking time.

Both of my students acquire a lot of speed during their eight sessions and pass a lot of their session-mates. This becomes addictive so they start to get a little crazy when cars appear up the road ahead of them. They want to push harder, and the old subconscious tells them they need to go faster in the corners. Without really meaning to, they start turning in early without braking as much. That’s too fast so they correct by turning the steering wheel more, which slows the car. It feels very fast, but now the Corvette ahead of us is getting smaller, not larger. When in doubt, relax and drive your line.

By the end of the first day, I’ve been awake for 22 hours in solid heat, six of which I spent on a racetrack, and I’m totally ready to sleep in a bathtub. Good times! Tomorrow we’ll talk about two more street habits, and how tire heat affects the speed at which you’ll hit a tire wall.

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