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What is oversteer? What is oversteer?

  • A. When you turn too sharply and hit the verge on the inside of a corner

  • B. When you misjudge turning right into an intersection and cross onto the wrong side of the road

  • C. When the back wheels of the car start skidding the opposite way to which you are turning

    The correct answer is C
    Correct. Oversteer can be caused by turning too fast, which causes the rear wheels to start skidding.

What is oversteer?

Oversteer is where the rear wheels start skidding before the front wheels do and this causes the back of the car to swing out towards the outside of the curve. This video explains understeer and oversteer.

Extreme oversteer is used in sports like drifting.

Oversteer is much less common in modern vehicles which have traction control and are more likely to be set up to understeer. Oversteer is most easily caused by too much power applied through the rear wheels, but most cars are now front-wheel drive which means the only type of oversteer there's a risk of is likely to be caused by braking or lifting off the throttle in the middle of a corner.

Having different tyres can cause oversteer. For example, if the rear tyres are worn more than the front tyres, oversteer is more likely in wet weather because the rear tyres won't displace water as effectively from the road. If the rear tyres are a harder rubber compound than the front tyres, the front tyres will grip relatively well in relation to the rear tyres. Different tread patterns can also affect overall grip.

Motorcyclists have to be more aware of oversteer as it can lead to a highside or lowside crash.

Heavy vehicle drivers don't usually have enough instantly available power to spin the rear wheels and cause oversteer. However, there are scenarios where it can occur. If the road is very slippery, the torque of the engine can overcome the grip available from the tyres. If there is a tail-heavy load the lateral g-forces can exceed the tyres' grip. 

In a heavy vehicle it's unlikely that the driver can catch the slide in time. Watch this dump truck experience snap oversteer which turns into an overcorrection which sends it the opposite direction. The action starts at around 26 seconds.