How Does a Spoiler Work?

It seems like spoilers are all the rage in car design right now. Everywhere you go, you see cars ranging from old hatchbacks to the most modern and expensive of luxury cars driving with a spoiler on the trunk or roof.

Why is that? The easiest answer for most cars is that they give your ride an aggressive, sporty look that mirrors those of race cars. But why have they been so entrenched into car culture? To get the answer, let’s take a look at what a spoiler actually does and how they work.

MB2 Raceway offers various pricing options for your next go-karting adventure. Keep on reading for more info on spoilers and their purpose for racing enthusiasts!

The Physics Behind a Spoiler

Have you ever rolled your car window down and stuck your hand outside while moving? Odds are you have, and you can probably vividly remember how much harder it becomes to keep your hand in the same spot. The wind rushing past your car causes resistance against your hand, which pushes it backward. Well, this is essentially the same principle a spoiler functions on.

Air may not seem like much, but it actually has mass and substance which slows down objects that move through it. Objects with less surface area move through air easier than those with more, a principal known as “aerodynamics,” which is one of the key sciences of racing. Aerodynamic science doesn’t just try to make it so a car moves through the air easier, but in fact it tries to make the air around a car function how the driver wants, which includes providing more resistance in certain circumstances, such as with spoilers.

Back to the hand example. If you hold your hand flat and stick it out the window with your palm facing forward, you will undoubtedly have your hand pushed towards the rear of your car. In this case, your hand is acting as a spoiler that’s applying resistance to that particular side of the car, just on a very small scale. A spoiler on your trunk simply takes the air flowing over this area and redirects it so that it pushes down onto the trunk and rear wheels of a car.

This downward pressure is called “downforce,” and it is what racing teams use to keep their car tires sticking to the road when driving at high speeds. A car traveling nearly 200 miles per hour is extremely dangerous on its own; and without this downforce one small bump can cause it to spin wildly out of control, causing a serious and potentially deadly accident for the driver.

However, with a spoiler on the rear, the air around the car itself is redirected to push downward on the rear axle, adding a ton of extra weight to the rear tires of a car, which helps it remain stable at these high speeds. This allows cars to corner faster and more accurately, and even safely achieve higher speeds along straightaways.

In short, spoilers create downforce. Downforce holds your tires on the road, which makes going faster easier and safer for drivers.

Spoilers Don’t Always Work

A spoiler is not always a good thing because the downforce effect has a resistance-benefit tradeoff. It rarely becomes desirable to use a spoiler unless you are traveling at high speed (think 100 miles per hour, or more). Before this point, the air flowing over your spoiler does not provide enough downforce to create a positive impact on the performance of your car or justify the extra air resistance. You’re much better-off simply relying on the weight of your vehicle to hold the tires to the ground, and minimizing your air resistance to go faster.

This is why you don’t see spoilers on go-karts here at MB2 Raceway. While a spoiler may look cool, they don’t actually add any significant downforce that would improve your kart’s handling performance, which is also boosted by the fact that you as the driver sit almost directly over the rear axle, providing it with a significant amount of downforce just with your own bodyweight. As a result, by not having a spoiler, we eliminate the air resistance it would provide, and allow you to go faster, while still maintaining a kart that still turns quickly and is stable on straightaways.

For your family sedan, the spoiler on your trunk is likely not doing anything to help with your downforce either. In fact, many spoilers are designed purely for their aesthetic properties and don’t actually redirect the force downward at all. This simply means they’re just a piece of plastic or metal that provides air resistance, which actually slows you down a touch. However, because you’re not normally driving at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, it really doesn’t make that much of a difference.

But if you want that edgy, race-car like look, you can’t go wrong by putting a spoiler on.

At MB2 Raceway, we offer lots of great racing options at our Minneapolis indoor karting facility. We have daily arrive-and-drive format races for those who wish to stop by and get some practice laps in or race casually with friends. We also offer a host of party or event packages designed for groups as small as ten and as large as over 200, all complete with practice laps, qualifying heats, and full-speed races in our fully-electric indoor go-karts.

To learn more about MB2 Raceways’ great racing options, call today at 866-986-RACE!
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