VIDEO: Self defense vehicles, Part 2


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By Peter Burlingame

Early on my first day at Bondurant School of High Performance driving, the instructor asked: “What is the most import part of the car?”

One student said “The engine.”tire2

Another said “the brakes.”

A couple of others said “the driver.”

“No,” the instructor replied, “The tires are the most important part of the car.”

All the acceleration that the engine does, all the deceleration of the brakes, all the inputs that the driver makes – these are all translated to the road surface by the tires.

You can have lots of torque, high end brakes, and a well trained driver, but if you have poor quality or improperly matched tires, then you will never get the full benefit of any of those inputs.

Buy the very best tires that you can afford. Make certain that they are rated for your car and your type of driving. Your car was designed to use tires in a specific range. Use tires that are too large or too small and you won’t get optimum results. Realize that the tires that come on your new car, while carrying the proper rating, may be at the low end of the quality scale. So when you replace them, getting exactly the same brand and model may not be best. Shop around, research the internet, and look at product reviews before you buy.

Your tires translate all of your inputs to the road, through the fairly small section of the tire that is touching the road at any particular point. These sections  are called ‘Contact Patches”.

Understanding contact patches and how to manipulate them is the key to performance driving.

Just how do you manipulate the contact patches, and why is it important? Contact patches can change size. Tires are made of flexible rubber and the tire will change shape depending on the forces that are acting on it. The bigger the contact patch, the more traction it will have and the more your inputs will be translated to the road.

We can change the size of the contact patches by putting more or less weight on them. This is tirecalled ‘weight transfer’, and a good example is the feeling you get when the brakes are applied hard. The car’s weight goes from the back, to the front. You can notice that the front end dips down as the suspension contracts taking the weight. The rear end lifts at the same time.

In this case the front wheel contact patches will get bigger, as more weight is put on those tires, meaning you will be able to steer better than normal at that moment. But the rear end is lighter and the contact patches smaller, so the rear of the car has less traction than it did before.  If you add any steering input at this point, the front end will turn very well, but the now lighter rear end may slide around, resulting in a loss of control.

As another example, you accelerate hard and turn the steering wheel hard to the right. Which of the four tires now has the biggest contact patch? Which has the smallest?  (Left rear, right front) Your rear wheel or all wheel drive car will now accelerate well, but will turn poorly, resulting in under-steer.

The next time you get in your car think about the contact patches and how they change as you drive. In upcoming articles and videos we’ll cover this topic further, and you will learn to drive your car to its limits.

Disciplina Remuneror Fidelis!*

Peter Burlingame is a two time graduate of the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving “Executive Protection/Anti-kidnapping” class. He is a nationally recognized instructor in the dynamic use of firearms. In addition to running his own school, The Self Defense Initiative, based on St Thomas, in the Virgin Islands, he also volunteers his services providing instructor development classes for the International Association of Firearms Instructors and the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association.  You may contact him at via email.

*Training Rewards the Faithful


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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