Aerodynamic Car Parts: An Intro for Grads of Auto Body Schools
Compare the shape of the first great production car, the Model T Ford, and any of our modern road vehicles. The original Ford was box-shaped with little or no consideration for aerodynamics. Of course, it never really needed to be a concern because of the low speeds it reached, but it has certainly become a key factor in contemporary car design.
The high speeds achieved by 21st century road vehicles make driving more dangerous. Cars need aerodynamic features to increase downforce to keep them stuck to the road. Drivers and manufacturers are also much more conscious about fuel efficiency as gas prices continue rising. Aerodynamic drag forces an engine to work harder, thus increasing the number of trips to the fuel pump. Cars are now designed to cut through air as efficiently as possible, increasing acceleration and fuel economy in the process. Here are four aerodynamic features which auto body professionals regularly encounter.
Side Skirts and Splitters Prevent Cars from Lifting Off the Ground
Many car enthusiasts buy and install side skirts to make their vehicle look more sleek and muscular. The benefits of this feature are much more than just aesthetic, however. If too much air is allowed under the vehicle, then it will lift and reduce the amount of tire grip on the tarmac. This makes the car much more dangerous, especially when going around corners. Side skirts limit the amount of airflow under the vehicle. Its proximity to the road surface makes it much more likely to suffer damage though, something which an auto body repair technician knows all too well. Splitters are less common on road vehicles but offer the same kind of aerodynamic benefits at the front of a car.
Spoilers and Rear Wings Improve Braking and Cornering
These are two more features which are installed on more cars than necessary. Realistically, only high-powered vehicles need spoilers or rear wings to increase downforce on the road surface. There are minor differences between both parts, but they serve essentially the same purpose. Air is displaced upwards when it encounters the spoiler or rear wing, thus pushing the vehicle down. This increases downforce, giving it much more grip when cornering or slowing down from high speeds.
Vents and Ducts Allow Trapped Air to Escape from the Car
Engines need lots of air for cooling and combustion, so the front end of a car includes openings to allow it to get sucked under the hood. This air needs an avenue to escape, however, so many high-performance vehicles feature hood vents. Side vents are another interesting aerodynamic feature which graduates of auto body schools may encounter on expensive cars. These are usually found behind the wheels and create a similar escape route for turbulent air caught under the wheel arches when the car is moving.
Look out for Diffusers on Performance Cars as an Auto Body Technician
Tune in to a Formula One race and it’s likely you’ll hear the diffuser being mentioned. It isn’t exclusive to these engineering marvels, however. Many road cars also now feature diffusers at the rear for their aerodynamic benefits. A narrow stream of air is directed underneath the car before expanding at the back and losing pressure. This reduces lift and increases downforce. Diffusers have quite a distinctive look and can usually be easily spotted when carrying out auto body repairs at the back of a car.
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