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Homework Help: Physics of the Acceleration and Inertia of a Front Wheel Drive Car

  1. Nov 15, 2012 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    I'm trying to settle an argument about front wheel drive vehicles and acceleration vs inertia and traction.

    2. Relevant equations

    My position is that the faster a FWD car accelerates, the more inertia causes weight transfer off of the front wheels, and onto the rear wheels, causing the front wheels to have less traction.

    As you increase power on a front wheel drive car, and the car accelerates faster, even more inertia causes even more weight transfer, the tires have even less traction, and the car will no longer accelerate.

    Basically, this is a paradox of more power to accelerate causing the car to not be able to accelerate.

    The opposition is that I am wrong, and that the acceleration and inertia will not cause a loss of traction.

    3. The attempt at a solution

    My solution would be to change the drivetrain layout so that the drive wheels are at the rear of the car where they will not be negatively affected.

    I've not been able to properly demonstrate to the opposition that a front wheel drive car will suffer from this, and I'm looking for some reinforcement and an equation to confirm this.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 15, 2012 #2


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    Science Advisor
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    Gold Member

    I agree with you.
    Draw a free body diagram for the vehicle in profile. Mark the centre of mass and the points of contact of front and rear wheels. What forces apply? What equations can you write down regarding acceleration, linear forces and torques?
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