The Fundamentals of Vehicle Dynamics



This eLearning course featuring vehicle dynamics expert and best-selling author, Thomas D. Gillespie, provides a broad overview of vehicle performance, including engineering analyses and formulas that will allow participants to calculate useful performance metrics. The goal of this course is to provide participants with the tools to predict the performance of a car or truck in accelerating/braking, ride, and handling/rollover. In the process, participants come to understand the basic mechanisms and engineering principles that govern steering and suspension system design, as well as develop familiarity with the terminology. While the course is approximately 17 hours in length, the estimated time to completion, including knowledge checks and the learning assessment, is 18 hours.

This course has been approved by the Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstruction (ACTAR) for 16 Continuing Education Units (CEUs). Upon completion of this course, accredited reconstructionists should mail a copy of their course certificate of achievement and the $5 participant CEU fee to ACTAR, PO Box 1493, North Platte, NE 69103.

Learning Objectives

By participating in this eLearning course, you'll be able to:

  • Determine how wheel loads on a vehicle relate to center of gravity location loading, aerodynamic forces, road grade, trailer towing forces, and acceleration, braking and cornering
  • Describe how the powertrain and brake systems work to produce longitudinal acceleration and deceleration, and how these are influenced by powertrain type and traction limits
  • Explain the basic mechanics of road load resistance forces arising from aerodynamics and tire rolling resistance
  • Explain the basics of ride and how to design a vehicle and tune suspensions for good ride
  • Examine the physics of turning to understand low speed maneuverability and the mechanics of high-speed cornering quantified by the understeer gradient
  • Explain the tire, suspension, and steering system properties that account for understeer
  • Review the principle types of suspensions, their attributes, and how each functions
  • Describe the primary architectural features of a steering system
  • Explain the primary mechanisms involved in the vehicle rollover process
Who Should Attend

The course will be beneficial to anyone interested in automotive performance, including professional engineers who need to understand the vehicle as a system, have technical interest in vehicle performance, or are involved in the design and development of automotive vehicles. The course could also be valuable to technologists working to achieve a high level of vehicle performance and managers responsible for vehicle design, development, and testing. Anyone involved in the manufacture of cars or trucks, OEM or after-market components, design and construction of specialty vehicles, racing, or vehicle safety and accident analysis/reconstruction could also find value in this course.


While not required, potential participants should have an undergraduate engineering degree or a strong technical background. As a minimum, a basic knowledge of college algebra, college physics, and a familiarity with vehicle brake and suspension systems is required.

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