In both road and rail vehicles, the wheelbase is the distance between the centers of the front and rear wheels.
Because of the effect the wheelbase has on the weight distribution of the vehicle, wheelbase dimensions are very important to the balance and steering. In high performance vehicles a longer wheelbase is more stable at higher speeds. A short wheelbase vehicle is usually able to corner faster but may be less aerodynamic. The wheelbase, along with the track, affects a vehicle's steering angle (how sharply it can turn).
Wheelbase has an effect on a vehicle's turning radius (or turning circle). This is the smallest circle an automobile can turn or U-turn within. A long wheelbase automobile or truck cannot turn as sharply as a short wheelbase vehicle.
Towing and wheelbaseEdit
If the vehicle is towing a trailer (in British English a caravan) the weight distribution of the trailer is critical. If too much of the trailer's weight, called "tongue weight", presses down on the vehicle's tow hitch (more than 15 percent) it can cause the vehicle to go out of control. Too little tongue weight (less than 10 percent) can cause the trailer to sway from side to side. this in turn can make the vehicle difficult or even impossible to control. The shorter the wheelbase the more quickly these forces can cause a loss of control. A longer wheelbase vehicle is generally more desirable for towing. Each vehicle has a tow rating showing how much weight it can tow safely.
A vehicle's wheelbase is also important to the overall aesthetic appeal of a automobile design. Wheelbase is part of the balance and proportion of an automobile. Some Luxury vehicles are offered with long wheelbases to increase the spaciousness and luxury of the vehicle. This is found most often on full-size cars. In contrast, coupé varieties of the some vehicles such as the Honda Accord are usually built on shorter wheelbases than the sedans they are based on.
- "Wheelbase". formula1-dictionary.net. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
- Victor Albert Walter Hillier; Peter Coombes, Hillier's Fundamentals of Motor Vehicle Technology, Book 1 (Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes, 2004), p. 363
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- "Tongue Weight and Its Role in Safe Trailering or Towing". General Motors. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
- "Trailer Towing Guides". Trailer Life Magazine. Archived from the original on 24 May 2015. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
- David Browne (3 July 2007). "Starting Out: Car Design Glossary - Part 1". Car Design News, Ltd. Archived from the original on 30 January 2008. Retrieved 24 May 2015.