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Car Setup

Anti-Roll Bars (Sway Bars)

Anti-Roll Bars (Sway Bars)

By now, you probably see a basic formula: stiffer is more jumpy and less comfortable. But, because the track is often smooth, a very stiff setup allows for more grip (up to a certain point where it gets too stiff, even for the track). Likewise, stiffer makes the car respond faster where softer makes the car respond more progressively and with more feel. Stiffer also makes for a sharper transition from gripping to sliding, whereas a soft car gives more feedback as it progressively losses grip.

The goal is to get the car stiff enough so that it grips well, but not too stiff, because then:

  1. The car would bounce even over the smooth track.
  2. It will react too sharply, translating any steering movement or brake pressure into a dramatic turning/stopping force and it would break-away very sharply.

We just want a car that is grippy and reacts quickly, not one who is rocky, reacts too sharply, and breaks-away just as sharply.

Anti-roll bars are just another means of making the car stiffer, but this time the compromise does not involve straight-line ride comfort. How come? When we brake, steer or accelerate, the body of the car moves. Let’s look specifically at corners. As we turn the wheel, the body of the car seems to lean towards the outside of the corner. The body of the car is now placed in an angle towards the road. This angle is the car’s roll angle. This angle moves on to the tire, making it too change it’s angle relative to the road, leaning it against the road with its corner, reducing grip.

The anti-roll bar is a stiff bar that ties both sides (left to-right) of the car to one another, not allowing them to generate as much of a roll angle, making the body of the car move less in the corner, allowing for the tire to contact the road surface more completely. So, if this does not compromise ride comfort, where IS the catch? The catch is that both sides of the car are bent together. The result is if one side of the car hits a bump or goes over a curb, the other side is also effected by the bump/curb. Cars with very stiff anti-roll bars are often seen with one of the “inside” wheels going airborne around tight corners.

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