5 Ways to Improve Automotive Aerodynamics
Improving your car's aerodynamics is quite beneficial in many different ways. For instance, it improves your car's handling and fuel economy. In this article, we'll go over 5 different ways to improve your car's aerodynamics.
What is Automotive Aerodynamics?
To put it plainly, automotive aerodynamics is the airflow around the vehicle. When your vehicle is in motion, air flows around it, as well as into it. A big reason most modern vehicles aren't boxy is so the air can flow around the vehicle as effortlessly as possible. The better the vehicle's aerodynamics, the better its:
- Fuel efficiency
Cars these days are designed to solve the following problems caused by poor airflow around the car (which is called drag):
- Frontal pressure: Frontal pressure occurs when the front of the car and/or windshield creates a "wall" that clashes with the air. The more air the front of the car has to push out the way, the more energy it takes for the car to move forward. This reduces top speed, acceleration, and fuel economy.
- Rear vacuum: The air that flows over the hood, windshield and roof is at a relatively high pressure. On vehicles with a conventional trunk, a low pressure area, or vacuum, is created over the trunk lid. This has the effect of creating lift and removing weight from the rear tires.
- Turbulence: Airplanes aren't the only modes of transportation that have turbulence. Cars get it, too. This often happens with boxy cars driving at high speeds. However, in a car or truck, you don't feel the turbulence, but you can certainly hear it.
Image Credit: HiTechCAE
Modern cars are designed with aerodynamics in mind, but there's always room for improvement. If you're interested in improving your car's aerodynamics, here are five ways to do it:
1. Add a Front Air Dam
1978 Ford Mustang King Cobra courtesy of Sicnag/Wikimedia Commons
Many car owners add a front dam for aesthetics, but a front dam serves another purpose, which is to redirect air and to improve the vehicle's aerodynamics. More specifically, a front air dam increases downforce and decreases drag by decreasing the amount of air flowing underneath the car.
Air dams can be pretty expensive, though. Plastic and carbon fiber air dams can run you up hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, these parts tend to break easily.
Luckily, there's an affordable alternative to air dams: an All-Fit lip kit. It functions just like an air dam for a fraction of the price, and it's much more durable due to its flexibility. In fact, an All-Fit lip kit can last a long time in an endurance race without ripping or tearing. Team Sahlen uses All-Fit lip kits on their Porsche Caymans, and it has helped them win races.
2. Install a Wing
A wing is a large component installed on the rear of the car. It has the same profile as an airplane wing, except that it is mounted upside down as compared to a plane. Air flowing over the wing creates downforce, which increases traction. This allows for higher cornering speeds and better braking.
3. Install a Diffuser
A diffuser is a shaped piece of trim installed underneath the rear of the car. The purpose of having a diffuser on your car is to suck the car onto the track, which creates higher grip levels. This type of grip is called an aerodynamic grip. This solution won't work on all cars, though. Some cars have a body shape that makes installing a diffuser impractical.
4. Add a Spoiler to the Rear of Your Car
Spoilers work differently than wings, but they serve a similar purpose. A spoiler is a piece of trim 4" to 6" tall positioned right on the rear edge of the trunk lid. It works by damming up the air moving over the trunk lid. This helps eliminate the vacuum caused by the trunk lid being below the roof. The effect is to create more downforce.
5. Rake the Car
Before you drag a leaf rake across your car (we're cringing just thinking about what this could do to the paint), let us explain what raking your car means.
Raking the car simply means lowering the front end to achieve a slight wedge shape under the car. This helps create suction under the car, which improves grip, speed, and cornering. However, this modification doesn't work well on all cars, as it can unbalance the suspension. An affordable way to create a similar effect is to install an All-Fit lip to the front of your car.