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Vehicle Aerodynamics Explained for Those in Automotive Technician School

Published on December 16, 2021 by in Blog, CATI

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Aerodynamics is the science behind how air flows through and around objects. To put it more simply, think of air as an extremely thin fluid. When moving in a fluid, the object slows down as it faces resistance. If we look at swimmers, we see that they often have sleek swimsuits, and they wear a swim cap to cover their heads. This is all to help the swimmer glide through the water more easily and at a faster pace. The same concept applies to vehicles. 

Vehicle aerodynamics refers to the way the car moves through the air. The airflow has an impact on both acceleration and braking, as well as how much fuel and energy the car is using. Let’s take a further look at how aerodynamics affects a vehicle!

Invisible Forces 

Whether driving in a residential area or on a race track, it takes energy for a vehicle to move. This energy is called drag. There are three aspects to drag, the first being frontal pressure. This is caused by the object pushing the air out of the way. The second is the rear vacuum. When the car is in motion, it breaks up the body of air. The rear vacuum is what happens when the air reconnects after the vehicle has passed through. Lastly, there is the boundary layer, which is an effect of friction when the air slides along the vehicle body. With these three aspects of drag, we can explain most interactions that air has with a car. 

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Automotive technician training explains how cars designed with aerodynamics in mind

Auto Mechanic Training Graduates Understand Best 

If you’re considering automotive technician school, you might be interested in learning why aerodynamics is important. In order to construct the best version of a vehicle, you’ll need to understand how airflow works, and use that knowledge to your advantage to optimize a vehicle’s movements. If cars are built with aerodynamics in mind, the engine won’t have to work as hard to drive the vehicle forward, especially on windy days. 

The ideal shape for a car is a teardrop. With a smaller nose or grill, the car can cut through the air more easily, and minimize the frontal pressure. Preferably, it should have a steeply raked windshield – close to a 45-degree angle – which allows the air to roll off the windshield and limits the amount of pressure build-up. Similarly, a sloped rear window allows for more continuous airflow. Lastly, the closer the vehicle is to the ground the better, as it limits the airflow beneath the car. 

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Wind tunnels help manufacturers test their prototypes

Testing Before Taking It for a Spin

If you’re interested in auto mechanic training, you may be wondering how car manufacturers can test the aerodynamics of a car. Well, they have wind tunnels that can simulate different weather conditions. Essentially, they can see how their prototypes react to air resistance. The car is connected to different devices that collect data on how much frontal pressure there is, what kind of rear vacuum effect is being created, and how the boundary level is reacting in terms of friction. To get a better idea, the manufacturers will add smoke to the air stream in the tunnel or attach objects, such as pieces of wool, to the car to see how the car and the air react to one another. They then blow air at different angles to simulate various weather conditions and test the vehicle from all directions. 

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