Understeer vs Oversteer: What Is the Best Driving Style?

Understeer and oversteer are terms that describe a scenario in which a car loses grip and control. It can happen when the responsiveness and synchronization between the tires and the steering are hindered as a result of extreme pressure being applied to the axles.

The car moves either outward or inward from the correct angle, resulting in decreased traction. In these situations, regaining control of the vehicle necessitates a high level of expertise. And this expertise can only be gained after you have complete knowledge of what actions the understeer and oversteer terms refer to and of the differences between them.

What Is Understeer?

If your vehicle understeers, you will almost certainly go right through a turn. Even though you turned the wheel, your vehicle will only turn slightly and proceed in a nearly straight line. The issue, of course, is that understeer will cause you to go off the road.

Understeer is more prevalent in front-wheel drive vehicles and happens when the tires of a car turn less than the driver aims for — understeering in the desired direction.

Because of the way your car moves, it is usually easier to fix understeer than oversteer, and slamming on the brakes instinctively would not produce the same strong response as oversteering. If your car begins to understeer, your first instinct will be to try to fix the steering by continuing to increase the turn of your wheel. However, it will cause you to lose even more control of the vehicle.

Instead, the appropriate and safe way to fix the understeer is to gently depress the accelerator pedal and gently apply the brakes — exactly the opposite of the action needed if you oversteer.

What Causes Understeer?

Understeer occurs as a direct result of the driver’s actions. Turning the wheel sternly, abruptly, or simply too much for the car’s speed versus accessible grip will surpass the traction of the tires in the front, causing the nose of the vehicle to slide wide across the surface of the road in understeer.

Conditions that are wet or cold make this more likely, and a lack of mass over the front tires when accelerating too quickly in the middle of a corner also contributes to the problem.

The following are the signs of understeering to watch out for:

  • Screeching from the tires on the front wheels
  • Vibrations in the steering wheel
  • Light-feeling steering
  • Swerving to the outside of a bend

How to Correct Understeer?

Understeer is caused by the front tires losing binding to the road surface. We know that this is caused by either too much acceleration, maneuvering, or speed for the required steering angle and accessible grip. To take back control, the cause must first be removed (or at least reduced).

When understeer happens, instinctively loosening the throttle (and braking if needed) helps restore grip due to the decrease in speed and transferring the weight forward by pushing the front tires onto the road.

Sadly, winding on more and more turning locks to compel the vehicle to turn is also an instinctive response. It only amplifies the problem because upping steering input when the front end grip is lost raises the slip angle, pushing the tires further away from the place where they will regain control.

As a result, even though it may seem counter-intuitive, momentarily release some of that steering input while loosening off the throttle. It allows the tires to regain grip sooner and, as a result, the driver to regain control of the vehicle. It is one of those times when less is more.

There are also some basic adjustments to the vehicle that can be made to reduce the possibility of understeering. These are some examples:

  • If aerodynamics are used, the front downforce should be increased.
  • Reduce tire pressure or use softer tires in the front of the vehicle.
  • Increase the suppleness of front springs or the anti-roll bar
  • How to Control Vehicle in Understeer

Decrease the excessive force as the first step in gaining back control of the car during understeer. It will shift the car’s weight to the rod of the tire in the front. Furthermore, you must reduce steering input because it does not affect in-vehicle control during understeer.

Reduce the excessive torque by gradually releasing the input steering. As a result, the tires will regain traction on the road, allowing the vehicle to be controlled. Despite this, controlling the car in this condition requires a great deal of driving experience. You can also use the car adjustments identified above to reduce the reason for understeer.

What Is Oversteer?

In the debate of understeer vs oversteer, the latter is more prevalent in rear-wheel cars, and words like snap oversteer may be used to explain the driving difficulties of some older sports cars, such as the Honda S2000 and Toyota MR2 Spyder.

Your vehicle oversteers, as the name implies, when the tires turn more than the driver wants —practically oversteering the vehicle.

If you’ve seen the Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift films, you might recognize oversteering as the more generic term in the automotive world of motor racing: drifting. While drifting can be enjoyable when done purposely, oversteering when done unintentionally can be frightening.

Oversteer occurs when your vehicle accelerates as you approach a turn. It’s a crazier version of understeer. You could do a 180 or, if you’re lucky, skid to a halt while still on the road.

Another way to look at oversteer is to take the corner too severely. Oversteer will take a sharper corner instead of continuing to follow the natural shape of the turn.

Oversteer is the preferred between it and understeer in the automotive world because you won’t see the tree when you crash into it. There’s also “lift-off oversteer,” which occurs when you take your foot off the accelerator too quickly as you enter a turn. As a consequence, the rear of your vehicle lifts and becomes lighter, sending you into a spin.

To adjust your car in the event of oversteer, you may instinctively think that slamming on the brakes will work, but this will only cause your vehicle to lose control further. Instead, in an oversteer scenario, the ideal way to regain the grip of your car is to gradually let off the accelerator and relieve the steering angle.

What Causes Oversteering?

Several things can cause you to oversteer. The following are some of them.

Entering a Corner with Too Much Speed

There is a speed limit on how fast a vehicle can travel within a given radius. If you ask the vehicle to go through a corner faster than this, it will lose traction. Depending on the vehicle’s layout and the driver’s technique, the back of the car can lose grip before the front, resulting in oversteering.

Braking Excessively When Entering a Corner

When a driver applies the brakes, the suspension in the front compresses, shifting weight – and traction – to the front of the vehicle and away from the rear.

As a result, the car’s grip dispersion is uneven, with the front having the majority. If you turn in with such an uneven distribution while driving, the front will shift in very well, but the grip in the rear will be restricted and the vehicle will most likely oversteer.

Violently Turning Into the Corner

Turning in too quickly, like trying to enter the corner too quickly, can cause an understeer or oversteer – which side slides first depends on the vehicle’s balance and layout.

However, trying to turn into a corner viciously is never a good approach, and you will lose lap time if you do so. If the vehicle has more front grip and the driver does turn in steeply, the vehicle will oversteer and be unpredictable and unreliable. Violent inputs result in more hard-to-catch violent drifts.

Lifting Off the Throttle

The most common occurrences on track days and among amateur racers are lift-off oversteer spins and collisions. The following is the typical sequence of events in this case:

  1. The driver approaches the turn.
  2. They drive the vehicle to the apex and begin to reapply the brakes.
  3. Because their view isn’t far enough ahead, they start running wider than the ideal line.
  4. When they are approaching the exit, the driver realizes they’ve gone too wide and are out of track.
  5. To keep the vehicle on the road, the driver takes their foot off the gas pedal and makes a sharper turn.
  6. The vehicle spins towards the inner wall due to increased steering hold and weight transfer.

Lift-off oversteer isn’t an enjoyable type of oversteer; it can sometimes feel quite sharp, and it usually occurs as a result of a driver failing to look far enough ahead.

Very Hard Acceleration

It’s possible to lose traction at the back of the car if you’re too aggressive with your right foot. If a driver applies too much force to the gas pedal, especially when cornering, the tires may become overwhelmed and begin to slide.

Poor Car Setup

A poorly configured vehicle will always cost you time. A competent driver can control oversteer, but if you don’t use 100 percent of the grip on both the front and rear tires, you’ll lose time.

A driver will use 100 percent of the rear tire’s grip but less than that of the front tire’s grip in a badly configured vehicle that is rear grip restricted (oversteer). As a result, it would be best to change the configuration so that the vehicle is more balanced and uses all of the grip accessible across all tires.

How to Correct Oversteer

First, you must determine the source of the problem. Because the causes differ, so will the techniques for resolving the oversteering situation. The following are the corrections for the oversteering causes detailed above.

How to Correct Entering a Corner with Too Much Speed

To rectify the over-rotation, you need to apply the opposite lock, as is needed with all forms of oversteer. However, to avoid oversteering in the first place, you will most likely need to decrease the entry speed on the very next lap.

As always, it’s critical to be aware of what’s going on with your car to make the most of your time on track.

How to Correct Braking Excessively When Entering a Corner

It can be hard to tell whether a driver is going to enter a corner with too much aspiration (speed) or press the brake pedal for too long, leaving the back of the vehicle with too little grip. Reduced brake pressure as a driver enters a corner transfer more grip to the rear of the vehicle and allows for a faster entry.

How to Correct Violently Turning into the Corner

Being smooth is essential for speeding the right way. It holds for every aspect of circuit driving, which includes turn-in. To guarantee smooth turn-in, you must have a good vision. This will allow you to know where you want to position your car long before you enter it, and your racing line will be flawless.

How to Correct Lifting Off the Throttle

Excellent vision and seamless driving are essential here – master these basics, and undesired lift-off oversteer will be a distant memory. However, if we want to try to influence the vehicle to rotate or turn, we can utilize lift-off oversteer to our benefit.

How to Correct Very Hard Acceleration That Leads to Oversteering

Seamless throttle input is vital here, particularly during the initial application to a rounded throttle when the driver is re-engaging the car’s power unit or engine as commonly called. It is critical to be very smooth during this phase. If you feel a ‘jerk’ in your rear side when you reapply the gas, you’ve done it too sternly.

How to Correct Poor Car Setup That Leads to Oversteering

Changing – or rather, trying to improve – configuration can be a difficult task. You must ensure that your driving is reliable, that you have a good feel for and comprehension of the vehicle suspension system, and that you can communicate this information to a pit crew, who can then make the necessary setup changes.

If you have a car that you believe is not handling well, it may be beneficial to find a qualified driver and a technician to help you get a good base setup. It can help a car improve in terms of overall grip and, perhaps more tellingly, driveability.

How to Control Vehicle in Oversteer

Oversteer is harder to control because the driver’s input has little impact. However, trying to turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction of the traction can help.

To take back control, the driver must slowly raise steering feedback and wait. It is not recommended to raise the steering input or turn it quickly because this will ramp up the uncontrollability. Rapid counter-steering can also cause a pendulum effect, resulting in a vehicle rollover. The following vehicle modifications are recommended to avoid oversteer:

  • Increase toe-in
  • Using Coilover suspensions, lower your ride height

Understeer vs Oversteer: The Differences

You have so far learned what the terms understeer and oversteer refer to, what causes them to occur, and how you can correct the different circumstances that lead to them. Now it is time for you to learn the differences between the two so you can say them apart.

In this understeer vs oversteer comparison, let’s begin with the main distinction between the two. The slip angle is the angle formed by the difference in the tire and car direction. When the tire angle between the back and front wheels shifts, both understeer and oversteer happen. Other distinctions between the two conditions are as follows:

Steering Control

Drivers have less steering control when understeering. Oversteer, on the other hand, gives drivers less grip over the car’s direction and weight.

Wheel Drive System

Front-wheel drive vehicles are more prone to understeer. Oversteer, on the other hand, is prevalent in rear-wheel drive vehicles.

To get a better sense of how understeer is different from oversteer and vice-versa, you can refer to the table below.



It denotes a lack of grip. When this occurs, the driver will receive little feedback from the steering wheel.

It occurs when the front of a car has more traction than the back. When driving into a corner, it causes the car to spin.

It occurs when the car’s front wheels begin to push straight ahead despite steering wheel rotation.

Oversteer occurs when the rear end of a vehicle fishtails or slides out.

Front-wheel-drive vehicles are more susceptible to this occurrence because the engine power is directed to the tires that steer the vehicle. As a result, when the tires begin to spin, the driver has no grip to steer.

Rear-wheel-drive vehicles are prone to oversteer because the rear end of the vehicle controls the vehicle. As a result, when the rear end loses grip, it eclipses the front end, resulting in oversteering.

It is most commonly caused by accelerating too quickly while attempting to turn in a corner. You shift the weight distribution, which takes control away from the front tires and causes understeer.

It can also happen when you turn your vehicle’s wheels too quickly and too far.

Oversteer is not a cause for concern because it occurs in daily driving. It could be risky, however, if it happens in snowy, turbid, or wet weather conditions.

The application of more suspension or a larger front wing can help to reduce understeer. Tire pressure alteration can also be beneficial at times.

To solve this problem, you must do the opposite. To loosen the grip, you must first loosen the downforce or suspension.

Understeer vs Oversteer: Which Is Better?

In-car racing, you will often be faced with situations where you need to choose between understeering and oversteering the vehicle. You will be in a good position to make the right call if you understand the advantages and drawbacks of each driving style.

The Advantages and Drawbacks of Oversteer

Oversteer increases the car’s responsiveness significantly. When you turn the steering wheel, the vehicle will instantly point in the desired direction. This, of course, results in faster corner entrance speeds.

The disadvantage is that the back of the car can become punchy and erratic as a result of this. You may notice that the car is more unsettled and uncontrollable through corners, and you may find it difficult to accelerate as quickly as you would like when exiting the corner.

Another disadvantage of intense oversteering is that it can be damaging to the tires. Oversteer saps a lot more energy from the tires because it forces them to work harder to obtain grip. This implies they can heat up much quicker and wear out much faster.

The Advantages and Drawbacks of Understeer

A car that leans more towards understeer will be steadier, particularly at the rear. Going around corners becomes more predictable as a result of this. It is less susceptible to sliding and skidding through corners, allowing the driver to speed up earlier and quicker out of corners.

Understeer is also less taxing on the tires. Understeer results in much sleeker driving and less effort being put through the tires, resulting in less overheating and deterioration.

As far as the drawbacks of understeer are concerned, it is less responsive than oversteer. It also has a slower turn-in and the tires on the front wheels will often lose grip, making it harder to steer the car in the desired direction.

Understeer vs Oversteer: How to Find the Right Driving Style for You between Understeer and Oversteer

In both real-life racing and sim car racing, you will be faced with situations where you need to decide between understeering and oversteering. In both types of racing, it can often be a split-second decision. Knowing beforehand how to balance the two will allow you to make the most out of your sim car racing situations.

Some drivers can be fast when understeering but slow when oversteering, and vice versa. Finding the right balance is the best way to make one or the other work for you.

A balanced car is neutral between understeer and oversteer, but it is extremely rare for a driver to be completely satisfied with a neutral car. Most drivers generally prefer more oversteer or a little less understeer.

Within a year or two of sim car racing, most virtual drivers can develop their driving techniques. However, it can be hard for them to determine which style they prefer and which is likely to make them faster.

Between all of that, you may prefer driving a more stable and planted vehicle, but a livelier vehicle may make you faster.

This can be perplexing because a driver is aware that they favor understeer. After all, it gives them confidence in their vehicle. They may be capable of setting faster lap times with a vehicle that is more prone to oversteer.

Most drivers favor a little bit of oversteer to have a responsive shift through corners. Some drivers, however, will be quicker with understeer since they have a steady back wheel and know they can shift in without spinning out.

At this point, you must strike a balance between the two, where you will genuinely believe that you can trust the car while also maintaining control through corners.

Most real-life and sim car racing drivers will begin in neutral, attempt both understeer and oversteer, and then make comparisons of their lap times.

The smartest thing to do is to go to the circuit for a test day and attempt both styles to see which one matches your driving style. Experiment with both extreme oversteering and extreme understeering. It’s a great way to get a sense of how the car reacts in various situations.

Then, return to a neutral balance and configure your car for tiny increases of oversteer and understeer to see which helps to make you quicker and which you are more confident driving with. It will take some time but will provide you with a good grasp of when your vehicle understeers and oversteers.

Once you’ve determined which one gives you the fastest lap times, you can fine-tune your configuration to find your sweet spot.

You may also discover that oversteer is quicker on some racetracks and understeer is faster on others. This is why practice sessions are important. To see which will end up making you faster, you must fine-tune the balance of your car, which will require some trial and error. In other words, practice will make you perfect in knowing what to do in a particular situation in sim car racing—understeer or oversteer or balance.

In Conclusion

What we discovered from the research for this understeer vs oversteer comparison is that almost all modern cars are purposefully designed to understeer before they oversteer. It is because understeer is relatively straightforward to control and fix, making it safer, whereas oversteer requires significantly more skill, not to mention extremely quick reactions.

Another reason cars are designed to understeer is that if the worst occurs and you end up losing control of the car, it is usually safer to crash head-on than towards the side; benefiting from bigger airbags and massive impact-absorbing crash protection in the vehicle, plus we have greater physical resistance against a frontal impact than a side impact.

The disadvantage of this natural inclination toward understeer for the high-performing driver is reduced dynamic handling and sheer joy at the periphery of the grip envelope, but this is easily compensated for by modifying our driving style.

Both understeer and oversteer have their fair share of advantages and disadvantages. We just discussed these two and explained what causes them, as well as the ways for getting out of an understeer or oversteer.

You’re well equipped to deal with oversteer and understeer now that you have gone through a complete review of them. Of course, experience is the best teacher, so if you’re serious about learning how to tackle these issues, we recommend that you practice driving in both understeering and oversteering situations.

Remember to take turns slowly, especially if the road is slippery – it will allow you to avoid this type of steering.