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How Things Work: ESP [VIDEO]

Brendon Carpenter
By Brendon Carpenter
November 03, 2020

How things work ESP

ESP, ESC, Traction Control. Many people call it many different things. In this episode, Frankie du Toit from 947 joins Peter Viljoen, and they revisit the skid pan in the Swift Sport to put Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) to the test. First, they get a bit out of control for some proper skids without any safety features, and then Frankie learns how to skid properly, and safely, with ESP active. Watch the video to learn more about what safety features your car has!

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes, 19 seconds.

How Things Work - ESP Episode 23 (1)

If you can’t watch the video, you can read the video transcription below:
Edited for clarity and readability

Peter:
Frankie. Well, welcome back.

Frankie:
Thank you. I'm excited. I see there's lots of stuff set up here. A skid pan is wet and ready for me.

Peter:
Well, yesterday we did ABS and EBD. And I noticed that you grew a hell of a lot throughout the session yesterday. I can't wait to take you on the skid pan today where we are going to now properly get out of control. We're going to learn how to skid a car, and then we're going to learn how this car performs with all the systems on. It's quite amazing. So I hope you have that wow moment.

Frankie:
Am I going to be safe? And are we going to survive this? Cause I've never been on a skid pan. This is my first time.

Peter:
You are absolutely going to be safe, don’t worry.

So what we're going to do today is we're going to demonstrate the remarkable ESP system. Now ESP is called Electronic Stability Programme and different manufacturers actually call it different things. So you might've come across the name ESC, for example, or DSC. They're all the same thing. Now what ESP does is it corrects a skid and for the average driver, we kind of think we can, but when the poo hits the fan, it’s all over the place. 

So the way ESP works is there are two types of skid; we get understeer where the front wheels lose traction and the car keeps going in its direction, and we then get oversteer, which as the name suggests, is an over-performance of steering. So the back of the car comes out and ESP corrects that, and it does that in a very interesting way. It does it with brake intervention. So it literally locks a wheel to induce the opposite skid. So if I'm understeering, it'll try to turn me like a wheelchair would, and if I'm oversteering, it's going to create an understeer effect on the front wheels by locking up one of the front wheels, depending on which way I'm turning.

Frankie:
So if you're playing with a wheelchair and you hold the one wheel, it sort of goes…

Peter:
That’s it. So if you want to turn left in a wheelchair, you brake the left wheel. If I want to induce a skid in the left direction, I'm going to brake one of the left wheels and it pulls the car around. So it's doing exactly the same thing. The second thing that ESP does is it removes the causes of a skid. 

So it's got a dual purpose alright? The four causes of a skid are too much speed. And I say that because a lot of people will say, “Oh, but oil causes a skid”. Oil doesn’t cause a skid. Going too fast on oil causes a skid, but I can drive gingerly over oil and not skid. 

Frankie:
It's like if you've been on a dirt road, you can drive straight slowly, and as soon as you try to turn slowly, it's fine. But as soon as you go a little bit faster, you start feeling like you’re going to slide off.

Peter:
You got it. So, too much speed, harsh acceleration, whether it's rear-wheel drive or front-wheel drive, harsh acceleration will induce a skid in the wheels particularly if we are cornering at the same time, harsh steering and then harsh braking or a combination of those again. So what the system does is it reduces those causes. So if I've got harsh acceleration, for example, you might find the engine management system will intervene and take away torque. It reduces the revs, which then settles the car down again. 

So we've turned off all the systems. So I'm just gonna mimic the two types of skids but the first one we’ll try and do is understeer, which is a remarkably difficult one to simulate. 

So you see that?

Frankie: 
Right. 

Peter: 
So there we understeered dramatically. And the second one I am going to do is an oversteer. And I'm going to just use the handbrake just to kick this out a little bit. Now I countersteered and that corrected it. But if I didn’t countersteer, this is what is going to happen…

Frankie:
Oh no, this is going to be bad. Oh no. Okay, and we are not facing the other way. 

Peter:
So what I'm going to do now is I'm going to put you in the hot seat, you're gonna get to do the same thing out of control. I want you to feel how out of control you are and then we're going to switch the systems on and you will see just how remarkable ESP is. 

Frankie:
Okay. Now, what do I do first? 

Peter:
So let's just start driving around in a circle, in a broad circle, and build up more and more speed. Then what we do is tighten that circle. 

Frankie:
Oh oh, I stalled it because I didn’t have my clutch in. 

Peter:
All right. So you can see it's violent if you lose control. Even if you’re a race car driver. 

Frankie:
There was nothing I could do there. 

Peter:
There’s nothing you could do. You come around the corner and you hit a patch of water or oil or dirt on the road. That's what's gonna happen to you as any driver. So basically what's happened is if the car started to rotate and once it's got its momentum in terms of rotation, you are once again, just a passenger. Nothing you can do. Now let’s do it with the systems on. 

Do you see how you just tried to control it? Now I’m going to pull the handbrake up as much as I can now, with the systems on. 

I'm going to give you a chance to play with this yourself as well, so you can feel the difference. But let's just show you what it does for understeer and oversteer. 

So there’s understeer and you see it’s corrected itself. Otherwise, we’d be…

Frankie:
In that bank over there. 

Peter:
And then oversteer, did you feel the brakes come on there?

Frankie:
Yes, I can. It feels like the car is correcting itself. 

Peter:
There the car is correcting itself on the understeer, so its braking the back wheel and then here…you see that. 

Frankie:
Yeah, it fixes itself. That’s crazy. 

Peter:
Yeah, that’s it, can you feel that?

Frankie: 
Okay. 

Peter:
Now had you done that just now, we’d be off. 

Frankie:
Yes. Now hold on, here we go around. Wow! That’s amazing! I mean if everything was all off…

Peter:
We’d be spinning around completely out of control. This is a system that should be standard on every single vehicle as far as I am concerned. 

Frankie:
Yeah, I can feel it. 

Peter: 
So there’s your understeer. Now let’s get the oversteer. You can go quite faster. 

Frankie:
Wow, that is amazing. 

Peter:
Makes you look like a pro hey? 

Frankie:
This was awesome. And you're going to give me a demo first right? 

Peter:
We’ll give you a demo. 

Frankie:
Alright, let's see. We’re timing this to see who’s better…the pro or the guy that spent two minutes learning. And... 3,2,1 go! 

Okay, and then you go around. 

Okay, handbrake turn here…that’s not fair. I’m making notes, alright around there, around these, now you got to go inside there … alright change your lane. Oh! And spun out.

Peter:
Oh! 

Frankie:
That’s amazing. That’s good for me. And then you go there. Then back into the garage and stop. 

Okay, my turn. Let me try.

Peter: 
3, 2, 1 go! 

Frankie:
Ohhh come on. Alright, I got this. This is hard work. 

Alright, where do I go?

Peter:
Around these cones. We are going to go on the right-hand side here, through the gate.

Frankie:
Ohhh hectic understeer, oversteer. 

Peter:
I think we have a winning time here. 

Frankie:
Don’t count your blessings yet. 

Peter:
Oh, that was so close. 

Frankie:
What’s the time boys? 
(Radio voice: 51.89)

What was yours?

Peter: 
50

Frankie: 
No! 

Peter! Now, I feel like a pro. I mean look at this. 

Peter:
I think I am going to sign you up for our next race team. I mean, that was amazing. It just showed both what you can do and what this car can do. Well done. 

Frankie:
That was crazy! This was a huge amount of fun hey?

Peter: 
Thank you so much for joining us and to the viewers out there, thank you for joining us on this week's episode of ‘Let's talk automotive’ and we look forward to seeing you again.

To watch the full episode, visit: https://fb.watch/1m63NVKfpF/

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