# The Physics of Front Wheel vs. Rear Wheel Drive Cars

Why don’t you ever see front wheel drive muscle cars? OK, technically they do exist — they just might not be the best idea. Even though the physics of an accelerating car can get sort of crazy, this can also make a fun (and interesting physics problem).

So, here’s what I’m going to do — I’m going to make some estimations and use them to calculate the acceleration of a front wheel drive car and then for a rear wheel drive car.

# Friction and Fake Forces

There’s a bunch of key physics concepts we are going to need to calculate the acceleration, so let’s start with friction. We can model the static friction as a force between two stationary surfaces that are in contact. Yes, if the car is accelerating and the tires are rolling and not slipping then it would be static friction (that’s what we want). The frictional force is parallel to the surfaces of the objects in contact and the magnitude is proportional to the force pushing them together (we call this the normal force — N). The maximum static frictional force would then be:

Where μ-s is the coefficient of static friction — a value that depends on the two surfaces interacting. Let’s say that in this case for a tire interacting with a road it has a value of 0.7 (I just totally made that up). Oh, in reality, the…

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Physics faculty, science blogger of all things geek. Technical Consultant for CBS MacGyver and MythBusters. WIRED blogger.