First-person view of an individual approaching a curve in a vehicle

What is understeer?

Understeer Definition, Causes and How to Deal with It  

Most drivers, at some time or another, have experienced a phenomenon called understeer. It happens a lot in the racing world, which is why customers come in to visit us here at McLaren Chicago and smack us with questions like the following: what exactly is understeer? How and why does it occur? How should one deal with it when it does?

Understeer is the phenomenon that occurs when the driver turns the steering wheel of a vehicle, but the vehicle doesn’t turn. Typically, understeer happens because of weather/environmental conditions or excess speed. Instead of turning, the vehicle continues in a straight line, which, for obvious reasons, can be dangerous.

If you’re driving any of these incredibly fast McLaren models, you’d better be careful of understeer.

When does understeer occur?

Understeer typically occurs when the driver takes a corner too fast or in bad weather/conditions. For example, snow, ice or heavy rain, when coupled with a lack of appropriate caution, can all cause understeer.

Ever Wonder: How much does a McLaren cost?

What should I do if my vehicle understeers?

If understeer occurs when you’re driving, try to stay calm; post-understeer incidents often occur due to drivers panicking and overcorrecting. Instead of freaking out, lift off both the brake and the gas. Steer into the slide, and keep the front wheels faced in the direction that you wish to go. Applying a bit of brakes is okay, but don’t overdo it, as hard braking will worsen the slide. Wait until you feel traction return to the wheels; then proceed as normal but with caution.

Why does understeer occur?

Understeer occurs because the vehicle’s tires run out of traction during a turn, causing them to glide on the pavement rather than turn the vehicle.

Can all-wheel drive vehicles experience understeer?

Understeer is more common in front-wheel drive vehicles, but it can also occur in models with rear-wheel and all-wheel drive.

What is oversteer?

There’s also a phenomenon called oversteer, which is the opposite of understeer and used for drifting. However, we won’t get into that here.

Keep Learning: What does it actually mean for an engine to be turbocharged?