Is there a difference between a wing and a spoiler?
Many, even in the automotive community, use spoiler and wing interchangeably in reference to cars. Is there a difference between a wing and a spoiler? Yes, there is, and it’s a big one. Believe it or not, a spoiler and a wing each exist for two different reasons. Let’s fill you in.
What is a car wing?
This is perhaps the most obvious one. A wing is the big thing that sits on the back of many supercars including the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ. Its primary purpose is to create downforce. The principle for creating downforce is the same as how a plane creates lift, except in reverse.
This downforce, instead of making the wing take off like a plane, forces the wing on a car toward the ground. Since the wing is connected to the car it works to push those rear wheels into the ground and increase traction. Not only is this useful for getting the most performance out of your car, especially in high-speed corners, it also helps negate any lift that the vehicle’s bodywork may unintentionally produce.
What is a car spoiler?
Don’t worry, we are not going to spoil Game of Thrones. Much like a movie or show spoiler though, a spoiler on a car does spoil something, but in this case, it’s the air. This is going to be a little counterintuitive so bear with us for a second. A spoiler works to reduce unfavorable air as it moves around the car. Though a spoiler looks like it would add drag to a car, it often does just the opposite.
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Taking an extreme example may help this make sense. If you have ever seen a NASCAR car, you’ve likely noticed the huge spoiler. Believe it or not, this thing actually reduces drag. Air flowing from the roof of the car at high speeds suddenly separates from the car once it gets to the rear windshield, this creates a low-pressure pocket which makes for turbulent air and drag.
In this case, the spoiler creates a pocket of circulating air behind the rear windshield so that newly flowing air from the roof simply slips by without creating low-pressure or turbulence. A similar effect can be seen with leaves in the back of an open truck bed with the tailgate up at high speed. Not only does this reduce drag but it increases stability, at least for racecars.
Can a car have both a wing and a spoiler?
Certainly, a car can have both. In fact, most cars with wings often also have spoilers too. Spoilers can take many different forms and can even be found under the nose of a car to direct airflow away from the underside.
A spoiler is really any piece of bodywork that spoils undesirable airflow. One interesting example of this can be found on some headlights predominantly on economy cars. You may find an odd bubble or ridge. Often, this is to reduce drag (and noise) on the side mirrors.