Nissan 240SX - Performance

Suspension Tuning

Handling Characteristics

Two general terms are used to describe the handling of a car: understeer and oversteer. Understeer (AKA tight or push) occurs when the front wheels of the car lose traction before the rear wheels. The car is difficult to turn and “pushes” toward the outside of a turn. Oversteer (AKA loose) is the opposite condition. The rear tires lose traction before the front tires. Hence, the rear of the car is “loose.” It slides toward the outside of the turn, and the car feels like it is going to spin out.

The goal of suspension tuning is to make the car “neutral,” not oversteering or understeering. When the car is neutral, you should be able to control what it does in a turn by using the throttle. Giving a burst of throttle should make the back of the car slide toward the outside of the turn and allow the car to turn better. Getting off the throttle should make the back of the car step back in line.

When the car is neutral, it is easier to control, creates less wear on the tires, and usually allows for faster lap times. I say usually because a slightly oversteering car can also yield fast laps. However, this is difficult to achieve because the driver must react instantly to the car sliding by counter-steering. If the reaction is not quick enough, the car will slide sideways achieving a large yaw angle (the angle between the direction the car is pointing and the direction it is actually moving). This will scrub off speed and may even cause you to spin out. Therefore, an oversteering car can be fast but only with a skilled driver. On the other hand, an understeering car is limited by the grip of its front tires on the racetrack. Even a skilled driver will not be able to clock fast laps with a severely understeering car. Nonetheless, you may want to set up your car for slight understeer to make it more stable and forgiving.