Reader Question: Wheelslip vs. “Spinning Out”?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Mark asks: Eric, I have in the past emailed you to tell you that I had a 2014 GMC pick-up  and now a 2018 Chevy pick-up – and both spin out starting out from a stop.

The GMC was worse than the Chevy.

You kind of hammered me as if I don’t know how to drive. I let it go having been a professionally racing internationally for over 20 years and very well know how to drive, having made millions doing so.

But I knew something was wrong, so I ask people at gas stations if their trucks slip and slide when the roads are well soaked. Everyone of them have said, “yes”. Then the guy next door was telling me his hatchback Ford (rear wheel drive) slides out when the roads are wet. He said this out of the blue when we were talking about the new Jeep Cherokee I bought for my daughter. His wife has one like it that’s two years older.

He said that the Jeep never slid out in the wet like his car.

I drove out of state; out of state it rained heavy, wet, wet roads; no sliding whatsoever. I did some digging in the road differences; Texas uses recycled glass in the asphalt. Which makes the road surface very smooth, fills in the little gaps that normal asphalt has without fine glass in it. And the Texas roads float the water better! Yes, I know about the crown of roads and run off, trust me. You may want to do a little looking into this because it really is likely an issue that could be examined, in the name of public safety, which the government can’t be counted on to do. No rush to get back to me, dig into this, ask around.

Hi Mark: Well, let’s start by defining “spin out.”

Do you mean a bit of wheelslip under hard acceleration from a stop … or fishtailing all over the road? A little wheelslip is normal – and to be expected – when accelerating aggressively on dry pavement or on wet/slick pavement.

However, it should be just that – a little wheelslip – assuming you have not turned off the traction control, which both your trucks have.

If it’s a lot of wheelslip – if you’re “spinning out” on dry pavement with the TCS on and your right foot not all the way down – then you may have a problem with your TCS.

I don’t doubt that some road surfaces are slicker than others; even so, I find I have to really try to get any modern vehicle to break traction on dry pavement. Even when I floor it from a standstill; the TCS system sees to this. I find I have to shut if off if I want to spin out. And even then, it takes a powerful car to overcome the powerful grip of modern tires.

That’s been my experience, at any rate.

Trucks, of course, are more vulnerable to wheelslip because they’re rear drive (assuming the 4WD is not engaged) and because they are light in the rear. Compounding this problem – in some trucks – is that the rear axle is “open” – i.e., isn’t limited slip.

My 2002 Nissan Frontier has this problem. But it also hasn’t got TCS.

You didn’t mention whether the Jeep you drove was equipped with all-wheel-drive. I suspect it was, given the absence of any wheelslip. It is very hard to break traction in an AWD-equipped vehicle on dry pavement, even if exceptionally powerful. Last summer, I test drove the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. It has the Hellcat supercharged V8 and 707 horsepower – but paired with AWD.

Even on wet pavement, it was hard to break anything loose.

So I strongly suspect your Jeep has AWD, for just that reason!

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Eric, I think my car is accelerating too fast when I floor it. I’ve talked to others and theirs do the same thing! You should really look into this issue. It may have something to do with the roads. And please don’t tell me I don’t know how to drive very well. I’m a race car driver and a millionaire.

    • Hi Anonymous,

      Some new (and recent vintage) vehicles have abrupt/jerky throttle response (also known as “tip in”) which is associated with drive-by-wire throttle control, which many new cars have. For those not hip, drive-by-wire throttle means the accelerator pedal is not connected physically to the engine’s throttle (as used to be the case, usually using a cable). Instead, sensors detect the degree to which the accelerator pedal is depressed and convert that into a signal sent to the ECU – which increases engine speed (hopefully) accordingly.

      The problem is the process is sometimes not linear. The accelerator pedal is either “sluggish” feeling – or slight pressure causes a disproportionate response. Or there is a lag between pressing down – and something happening.

      If the factory settings are set that way, there’s not much to be done, unfortunately – other than buy a different brand or make/model of car that doesn’t have this problem. The dealer is unlikely to be willing to alter any of the factory programming, even if it is technically possible.

      As far as different road surfaces causing your vehicle to have more – or less – traction: I agree; no question about it. I’ve driven on some very slick concrete-type surfaces and rougher-finished asphalt that was much better.

      Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about the roads we have to drive on.

      • Eric, I’m also a millionaire and drive a 2000 Z71 just so people won’t bug me for money. You’d think I’d at least buy a new driver’s seat for it but I like my back hurting every time I drive it half an hour.

        BTW, I’ve done a bit of highway construction and commonly run 6-700 miles per day.

        Personally, I’m a big fan of glass in pavement since it seems to make up somewhat for lost traction when it first begins to get wet. It is also reflective at night adding safety.

        My pickup isn’t DBW thankfully but it has a very fast tip in rate on the accelerator. I had to get used to it and the wife still takes off throwing gravel. Trying to leave briskly you can feel and hear the problem.

        If I’m in a hurry I can inadvertently cause other drivers to look since the BF Goodrich All Terrain TA’s howl like a cat in heat.

        A friend had a new Toyota midsize Pre Runner and you flat could not take off without tirespin. It was worse than the Z 71 by quite a bit.

        I noticed this began on GM pickups when the body style and gas engine changed for half tons in 2000. And it’s only the gas engines that do it. The Duramax doesn’t have that problem. I’m surprised the issue hasn’t been eliminated.

        I do recall in the last 40 years some vehicles seemed to be torque beasts from a start which definitely were not overpowered.

        I equate it with making people feel a vehicle was powerful when in fact, they weren’t. It’s one of those things like the GM fuel gauges of the 60s and 70s. People thought those cars were fuel sippers after driving 140 miles and the needle was still on Full. 3/8ths off full was at least a half tank. The needle dropped like a rock from there to empty.

        • Hi Eight!

          Good stuff… I probably should also have added that trucks today are 50-plus percent more powerful than trucks were, historically. The current lineup of V8s in the 1500s start in the 320 hp range and move up from there to well over 400 horsepower in some of them (e.g., the 6.2 liter V8 available in the Chevy).

          This is stupendous power.

          Consider that “super trucks” as recently as the ’90s – for example the SVT Lightning – had less power than is routinely found in a current 1500 quad cab work truck.

          Go back a bit more – to the ’80s and prior – and a 400 horsepower truck would have dropped jaws and popped eyeballs. Today, it’s no big deal.

          I’m a fan of high powered stuff – but (arguably) today’s trucks are overpowered. Unless you really do use the thing to get to 60 in 6 seconds or less (the 6.2 Silverado will do that) you’re just bleeding money and gas… and have a traction problem, too.

          Hell, I have a tough time not spinning the TA’s tires, too. It’s what happens when there’s 400 hp (and 500 ft.-lbs. of torque) trying to apply itself to the pavement through the rear wheels of a light-in-the-ass muscle car.

          Or, truck!

          • eric, most trucks of the diesel persuasion are at least 100% more powerful than even the 90’s diesels.

            I can understand more powerful being used to create better fuel mileage but the fuel mileage thing has continued to be iffy.

            I was watching a YT video of a trucker who hauled steel with his 389 Pete. He’d had a lot of work done to the C 15 Cat engine to the tune of 1,000 HP. The narrator said that should outrun everything. He said he did it for fuel mileage now averaging 6.5 mpg. That’s damned good always hauling gross limit.

            A friend and I trucked together every day hauling aggregate to build a road base. I had a 379 Pete with a 430 hp Detroit 60 series and a 10 speed. He had a 379 Pete with a 13 Speed and a 3406 B(15L)Cat engine. We fueled up every day at the end of the day since we were running 6-700 miles per day. The Detroit and 10 speed avg. 5.0 mpg every day. The 13 speed and Cat averaged 6 mpg. His truck was nearly 200 more hp than mine.

            This is the reason Gail Banks is shooting for 1,000 hp from a Duramax. He’s going for fuel mileage and reliability. He even plans to stick one in a Class 8 truck…..should be interesting.


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