Spoilers, Air Dams and Splitters – Do They Really Work?
Spoilers are a common addition to many performance sports cars including the Dodge Viper, Charger and Challenger. But, have you ever wondered if or how they actually improve performance? Well, it depends.
A rear spoiler is an device that is added to a car and it is intended to make a vehicle more aerodynamic by reducing drag, this might also improve fuel efficiency, too. Rear spoilers change the way air moves over the car, and in some instances the changed air flow can also reduce rear lift and create a downforce, making the car more stable at higher speeds.
An air dam (a.k.a. “front air dam”) is usually a shaped part of the lower portion of the front bumper. It is sometimes called a “front lip” or “lip spoiler.” It can be molded as part of the front bumper, or it can be a separate part that is attached at the front-lower portion of the front bumper. Unlike the splitter, the lip is not a flat “sheet” of material. Function of both are the same, to create lover and higher pressure areas, but in case of air dam, in less extreme way.
Sometimes confused for the airdam or part of the lower bumper, the front spoiler is actually called a splitter. A car splitter is a modification to the body of the car that is usually found at the front, attached to the bottom of the bumper. Splitters look like a flat scoop that extends out from the bottom of the front of the car. Splitters sometimes have support rods that are attached between the splitter and the bumper, which keep the splitter parallel to the ground since the downforce on these can be extreme. Some high performance cars actually have splitters that are located on the side of the bumper as well.
So how does a car splitter contribute to the car’s performance? Well, when a car reaches high speeds, air pressure builds up at the front of the car. A lot of this high pressure, low-speed air ends up underneath the car, and with only low pressure air above the car exerting itself on top, the car experiences lift, with the front of the car lightening up. This results in reduced traction on the road, especially for the front tires.
A car splitter acts like a wedge that forces the high pressure air upwards where it builds up around the bumper and migrates up and over the car. The high speed, low pressure air passes underneath the car. Combined with the high pressure air that is passing over the car, lift is reduced, resulting in a net positive downforce. This gives the car more traction as it hugs the ground.
That sounds nice, do they work?
Well that may depend on who installed the spoiler. Is the spoiler an aftermarket spoiler that was installed? Or, is the spoiler a manufactured part of the car? Typically aftermarket spoilers that are just there for aesthetics don’t improve a car’s aerodynamics.
However, if you bought the car from a dealership with the spoiler already installed, this is a very different story. Generally, manufacturers add spoilers that effectively improve a vehicle’s aerodynamics providing for better handling and performance. This is not always the case, though. Sometimes spoilers on cars from the manufacturer are also just for aesthetics.
Dodge Viper ACR
Of the performance Dodge vehicles, the Dodge Viper ACR has the biggest spoiler, and we wouldn’t expect any less from the fast and stylish performance vehicle. The standard spoiler on the Viper ACR is an extreme wing rear spoiler and it is designed to cut the air moving around the car, which then improves the vehicle’s drag. This spoiler is positioned a few inches off of the car, so there is a wide opening for air to go through.
The Dodge Viper ACR is also equipped with an air splitter, which is also a component that is added on a car to improve its aerodynamics by redirecting air. A car splitter splits the air a car drives into and forces the high pressure air up and the low pressure air passes underneath the car. The high pressure air then pushes down on the car, resulting in downforce and increased traction.
In regards to the Dodge Challenger, there are two different spoilers available, a rear-body color spoiler and a trunk lid spoiler. These spoilers do not come standard on all Challenger models. Unlike the Viper ACR, the spoiler available on Dodge Charger and Challenger models don’t have an opening for air to pass through, but they help the air to move more efficiently around the body of the car. These spoilers effectively help with handling and performance.
Of course for all of these Dodge models as well as others, spoilers are available aftermarket for purchase. Just remember it is best to have it installed by someone who knows what they’re doing like a Dodge service tech and know that most of the time these products are for look and may not help with the performance and/or handling of the vehicle. There are some after market spoilers out there that may help with aerodynamics, but make sure you do in depth research before purchasing one to make sure it actually serves it’s purpose.
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Photo source: Auto Blog