During the excitement of car shopping, most people rarely give a car’s aerodynamic features much consideration with the exception of avid NASCAR fans. However, for the sake of greater fuel efficiency and improved safety a quick review of aerodynamics and its influence on car design is a worthy time investment.
Aerodynamics is the science of how objects move through surrounding air. The common elements of aerodynamics that affect car performance besides its weight are drag and lift.
Drag is characterized by air resistance; cars with higher air resistance have lower fuel efficiency. Lift happens when air molecules get trapped below a vehicle traveling at great speeds; cars that experience high levels of lift are less safe than ones that use down-force to firmly hug the ground.
Knowing these basic principles of aerodynamics, here’s a list of seven auto parts that impact a car’s aerodynamic function.
#1 Front Bumper
A car’s front bumper is its first contact with air that swiftly moves around a vehicle in motion so it is important that it be designed to let air flow smoothly over its streamlined top with limited drag.
#2 Rear Spoiler
A spoiler is often added to a car’s design to add down-force. This auto part improves a car’s handling at high speeds.
#3 Grille Blockers
To prevent air from entering into the interior of a car’s engine compartment and creating additional drag, many cars are equipped with grille blocking devices. These parts help direct air around the car and not through it.
#4 Low Side Skirts
Car manufacturers that are serious about eliminating lift and helping to prevent performance issues at high speeds sometime incorporate low side skirts. These skirts surround the vehicle and help guide air efficiently around the vehicle instead of underneath it where air molecules would create unwanted lift.
#5 Wheel Covers
Wheel covers are installed on an aerodynamic car for the same reason as low side skirts get installed. A car’s wheels present another opportunity for air to get trapped under a vehicle which increases lift.
#6 Side View Mirrors
Side view mirrors are necessary for safety reasons, but they also slightly increase a car’s drag or air resistance. Modern car manufacturers design side mirrors with compact shapes and sizes that reduce air resistance.
#7 Angle of the Windshield
According to windshield professionals at All-West Glass Ltd., a windshield’s shape and design is crucial to how air moves around a car. A windshield with a lower angle and a curved face will do a better job passing the air current along to the rear of the car without catching too much friction. A more vertical windshield will catch more friction from the air and produce a higher drag.
Even if one does not have much knowledge of aeronautical engineering, there is still hope of obtaining an aerodynamic car. Car manufacturers are under pressure to increase fuel efficiency and safe handling so their car designs often reflect an aerodynamic nature right off the assembly line. Cars that lack certain aerodynamic features can often be modified to gain efficiencies.