While electric vehicles have gained significant traction in recent years, certain car parts and components remain common across the various types of vehicles including traditional combustion engine cars, electric vehicles, and hybrids. These include wheels and tires, brakes, steering components, and the suspension system.
In today’s modern vehicles, numerous critical areas, including those mentioned above, are controlled by sophisticated onboard computers that continuously assess real-time driving conditions and communicate with various components to respond swiftly and accurately. One such example is the electronic stability control (ESC) system, which leverages sophisticated technology to prevent the skidding of a vehicle.
What causes a vehicle to skid?
A vehicle can skid when it exceeds its traction limits, often resulting from driving too fast for the current road conditions. This can lead to two common types of skids: oversteer and understeer. Oversteer occurs when the rear of the vehicle loses traction and attempts to overtake the front, causing the car to spin around. On the other hand, understeer happens when the front tires are unable to grip the road effectively, causing the vehicle to continue moving straight despite the driver’s attempt to turn. These skidding situations can be dangerous and often result in some of the most serious accidents. For car fanatics, I would highly recommend you see Tuning 4 performance.
What does ECS do?
ESC is a sophisticated safety feature that can significantly reduce skidding by up to 80%. ESC works by constantly monitoring the vehicle’s behavior, such as its leaning or “rolling” angle, and detecting when the tires lose traction with the road surface. When ESC senses a potential skid, it can instantly adjust the engine speed and apply braking to individual wheels as needed to regain control and prevent the vehicle from spinning out of control.
However, it’s important to note that the effectiveness of ESC is constrained by the condition of the vehicle’s tires and suspension.
The ESC system relies on the assumption that the suspension and tires are in good condition, similar to when the vehicle was new when calculating the necessary corrective measures to prevent skidding. However, if the tyres are worn and the ESC sends a signal to apply the brake on a specific wheel, the vehicle may not have enough grip to effectively implement the corrective measure and prevent a dangerous skid. This highlights the importance of regular tyre monitoring and maintenance as a crucial aspect of safe driving.
How do shock absorbers work?
In addition to having well-maintained tires, shock absorbers also play a crucial role in maintaining optimal contact between tires and the road. These components work by allowing the vehicle’s coil springs to compress and absorb impacts from bumps, and then smoothly extending the springs back to their original ride height. This helps keep the tire in firm contact with the road surface, maximizing traction for steering and braking. Well-functioning shock absorbers, along with properly maintained tires, ensure that more surface area of the tire remains in contact with the road, improving traction and overall vehicle performance.
Similar to the example of worn tires, if the ESC system sends a signal to apply the brake on the rear left wheel but the shock absorbers are worn, the vehicle may still lack the necessary traction to avoid skidding.
Like many other parts in a vehicle, shock absorbers also experience gradual performance degradation over time. This is due to the hydraulic oil, which is used in most shock absorbers (including gas shock absorbers), passing through metal valves inside the shock absorber during compression and extension, causing wear. With each movement, the oil passes through these valves hundreds of times per mile, leading to fatigue and increased oil flow. As a result, the fluid resistance of the shock absorbers decreases, diminishing their ability to absorb shocks from the coil springs. This can result in a less “firm” feel and reduced handling qualities compared to when the vehicle was new.