Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Homework Help: Determining Spring Constant

  1. Oct 26, 2011 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    What should be the spring constant k of a spring designed to bring a 1260 kg car to rest from a speed of 88 km/h so that the occupants undergo a maximum acceleration of 5.0 g?

    2. Relevant equations


    v2=v02 + 2a(x-x0


    3. The attempt at a solution

    First I converted 88km/h to 24.4 m/s

    Then I found the F, by using F=ma
    F= (1260) * (49) <--changed acceleration from g to m/s2
    So I got 61740 for F

    Then I decided to find x
    I used the velocity equation

    0 = (24.4)2 + 2 * -49x
    Solving for x gave me 6.08

    Then I plugged that into the F=-kx equation
    and I got k = 10155

    But this is wrong!! I even tried putting in -10155

    What am I doing wrong? I don't understand.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 26, 2011 #2
    It may be a matter of units or significant figures if you're entering it into a computerized Q&A set.
  4. Oct 26, 2011 #3
    edit i got 10121
  5. Oct 26, 2011 #4
    Don't round your values for F or x

    k will come out over more than +5 of what you originally got
  6. Oct 26, 2011 #5

    I like Serena

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    Hi csgirl504! :smile:

    I'm afraid your relevant equation does not apply
    v2=v02 + 2a(x-x0)
    It only applies when a is constant.

    I recommend using conservation of energy.

    If we assume the spring starts in a neutral position and expands to a length l, we have:

    Kinetic Energy before + Potential Energy before = Elastic Energy after + Potential Energy after

    [tex]{1 \over 2}m v_0^2 + m g l = {1 \over 2} k l^2 + 0[/tex]

    The maximum acceleration on the occupants is when the car is at the lowest point.
    (What is the formula for the maximum acceleration on the occupants?)

    From this you get 2 equations with 2 variables (l and k).
    Solving it yields the value of k.
  7. Oct 26, 2011 #6
    Right, I read maximum acceleration as average acceleration.
  8. Oct 27, 2011 #7
    Thanks for all of your help! The homework is closed, so I can't see what the right answer is, but I will ask my teacher! And now I know how to work it if it shows up on the test! Thanks again!
  9. Oct 27, 2011 #8


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Lowest point? Presumably the car is traveling horizontally. Why the mgl (gravitational PE) term?

    The maximum acceleration occurs when the spring is maximally compressed (so that the velocity is zero and the restorative force is greatest). Equate the original KE of the car to the PE of the compressed spring; all of the car's KE is transferred to the PE of the spring when it is brought to a halt. The PE of the spring depends upon k and x (the spring compression distance). The acceleration of the car depends upon the spring force, which in turn depends upon the spring compression distance. Solve for k in terms of a.
  10. Oct 28, 2011 #9

    I like Serena

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    Of course. That's much easier. :)
    I don't know why I thought the car was falling.
  11. Oct 28, 2011 #10


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Perhaps you've been hypnotized by watching too many bobbing mass-springs! :smile:
  12. Oct 28, 2011 #11

    I like Serena

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    Aaah, the surprising slinky ehild introduced!
    I had quite some success with it outside PF. :wink:
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook