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What Is The Exact Purpose Of a Spoiler On a Car?

Jun. 05, 2021

What Is The Exact Purpose Of a Spoiler On a Car?

Many cars, from speed racing cars to sports cars to giant trucks, are equipped with different types of spoilers. Some cars, such as Ferrari F1 cars, have both front and rear; because they may be the most scientifically advanced wheeled vehicles, I will use them in the discussion.

The car has a spoiler to increase its control over the road. Normally, the weight of the car is the only factor that forces the tires to fall on the road. Without a spoiler, the only way to increase the grip is to increase the weight or replace the tire material. The only problem with adding the weight is that it doesn't help where you really want to grab. All extra weight has inertia, you have to overcome inertia to turn, so adding the weight doesn't help at all. The spoiler works like the wings of an airplane, only upside down. The spoiler actually produces the so-called "downforce" on the body.

The benefits of this are obvious. What you have now is not a very slow heavy car, nor a light car that is easy to slide away, but a car that tends to stick better the faster you drive. Sounds perfect, right? There is a problem here.

Whenever the wing generates lift (or the spoiler generates downforce), it also generates drag. Resistance is the natural reaction of fluid (air) against movement through it (the car). Resistance is bad because it will slow down the car. So, more downforce is good...but too much downforce = too much resistance, which is not good. Very, very high-performance sports cars, such as Le Mans or F1, have a ratio called the "lift/drag" ratio. The car designer tries to maximize this so that the car has enough power to go around the corner, but not too slow. Indy cars and similarly designed cars can withstand the downforce of 3G cars at a speed of 200 mph. This means that they can hang upside down on the track, as long as they continue to walk fast enough, they will still stick to the road.

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