There are many types of spoilers for cars, with some being optimized for function, while others are to enhance the design of the car.
Spoilers were created to disrupt or “spoil” the airflow over the car to enhance the car’s road-holding ability or performance. Modern spoilers have taken on a design element to enhance the car’s look and improve visual appeal. Spoilers can be located in several positions on the car’s exterior.
As we examine the types of car spoilers, we will detail the function and effectiveness of each type for performance enhancement.
1. Pedestal Spoiler
The pedestal spoiler is a common design and performance enhancement for many cars. This type of spoiler can be used to enhance the car’s look, and some cars would have an unfinished look without a pedestal spoiler.
A pedestal spoiler is typically mounted on the rear, upper surface of the car’s trunk. It is a wing-shaped bar that extends across the width of the trunk. Pedestal spoilers are mounted to the trunk using vertical pillars or pedestals, from which this spoiler gets its name.
Pedestal spoilers are intended to change the airflow leaving the car’s rear and increase the downward force on the rear wheels. This improves traction in rear-wheel-drive cars and improves fuel economy.
Some pedestal spoilers are part of the car’s original design, and the model is released with the spoiler installed by the factory. Aftermarket pedestal spoilers can be fitted to cars, but performance enhancements are questionable in these instances.
2. Active Spoilers
Active spoilers are dynamic spoilers that are adjusted electronically by the car’s onboard computer according to changing conditions.
Active spoilers can be any type of spoiler on a car, but they are typically rear-mounted spoilers where they do the most good for performance enhancement.
Some active spoilers are retractable and folded into a hidden compartment in the car’s rear when not in use. The spoiler can be deployed automatically by the car’s computer when certain speeds are reached or loss of rear-wheel traction is detected.
The dynamic nature of these spoilers allows the height and angle of the spoiler to be adjusted to compensate for changing driving conditions.
Cars that include active spoilers are typically higher-end cars. Examples of cars with active spoilers are the Audi TT, Porsche 911, and the Bugatti Veyron.
3. Lip Spoiler
Another common car spoiler is the lip spoiler, which is a rear-mounted spoiler on the end of the car’s trunk. The location is similar to that of pedestal spoilers, but the lip spoiler is mounted flush with the car’s trunk lid.
There is no air gap for the wind to flow under and over the spoiler; rather, the airflow is directed over the upper surface of the spoiler.
Lip spoilers aim to improve the airflow stability over the vehicle, increasing performance and reducing drag as the air leaves the rear of the car.
Lip spoilers also add a stylish design aspect to the rear of the car and can enhance the sporty look of the car’s design.
Lip spoilers offer performance enhancements, but due to the smaller size and lower profile, these effects are less dramatic than pedestal spoilers.
4. Front Spoiler Or Air Dam
Front spoilers are known by several different names, including air dams, chin spoilers, or scoops. Front spoilers are typically located under the front bumper and are sometimes integrated into the front bumper design of the car.
When installed on racing cars, the air dam controls the airflow in front of the vehicle and directs it where it will add the best performance benefit. In the racing environment, the front spoiler’s benefit is reducing drag at speed and increasing the downforce to improve traction on the race track surface.
The focus of the front spoiler design on standard road cars is to direct the airflow into the engine bay under the hood to improve the engine’s cooling.
The value of the front spoiler for downforce is usually not a factor for road cars since they do not attain the same speeds seen on the track.
The exceptions are the supercars, such as the Porsches, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Bugattis, which are capable of extremely high speeds. In these cases, the front spoiler plays a role in the car’s performance and road-holding.
In some cases, manufacturers add a front spoiler to the car design more to portray a certain style or visual attraction to the car than to provide performance benefits.
Aftermarket kits are available for front spoilers to change the look of a car or enhance the performance and aerodynamics for amateur racing.
5. Side Skirt Spoiler
Side skirt spoilers are similar to front spoilers in that they are installed in the lower bodywork of the car. Side skirt spoilers are usually installed in conjunction with front spoilers since the two spoilers work together to adjust airflow under the car.
Side skirt spoilers are installed along the sides of the car and reduce the ground clearance of the body above the road surface.
Combined with a front spoiler, this design creates a lower air pressure below the car. The higher air pressure above the car pushes the car down, and the lower air pressure below the car sucks the car towards the road surface.
Combining these forces improves the vehicle’s road-holding and allows the car to navigate corners at higher speeds.
Less pronounced side skirt spoilers are often installed on cars where a sporty, edgy look is intended but do little to enhance the vehicle’s performance since they are not close enough to the road surface.
Side skirt spoilers can be part of the manufacturer’s design or added to the car as an aftermarket kit, often included with a front spoiler kit.
6. Roof Spoiler
Roof spoilers are included in car designs with limited trunk space for installing a pedestal or lip spoiler.
Spoilers on a car’s roof are typically low profile compared to pedestal spoilers and more closely resemble the size of lip spoilers.
Roof spoilers provide similar functionality to trunk spoilers in that they change the flow of air leaving the vehicle and increase the downward force, improving traction on the road surface.
The most common location for roof spoilers is on the roof of the car just above the rear window, which has resulted in these spoilers sometimes being called window spoilers.
The cars where roof spoilers are most common are hatchbacks, station wagons, and SUV-style cars that have limited trunk space for the fitment of a lip or pedestal spoiler.
7. Illuminated Spoiler
Illuminated spoilers can be trunk-mounted or roof-mounted and add an extra level of visibility for the vehicle, especially at night or in low-light driving conditions.
The height of these illuminated rear spoilers elevates the LED lighting at the back of the vehicle to be almost at eye level for the person driving behind the vehicle.
The lights on the spoilers are usually a combination of rear tail lights and brake lights, which helps reduce the risk of rear end collisions at night or during rain or other low-light road conditions.
In certain sectors, such as the street-racing community, lighting under the side skirt spoiler has become common.
However, this practice does not serve any functional purpose and is only for effect. In some locations, illumination under the side skirt spoilers of a vehicle is illegal.
8. Ducktail Rear Spoiler
Ducktail spoilers are a type of lip spoiler and are installed on the edge of the trunk where lip spoilers are typically positioned.
Duckspoilers are solid, similar to lip spoilers but differ in size and shape. Ducktail spoilers have a much more accentuated upward sweep to them, resembling the shape of a duck’s tail, giving them their name.
In some designs, the ducktail spoiler does not extend all the way across the width of the trunk, reinforcing the resemblance to a duck’s tail.
The lines on the car must be suited to this type of rear spoiler and flow into the spoiler design. Otherwise, the spoiler looks out of place and detracts from the car’s appearance rather than enhancing it.
Porsche models released in the 1970s popularized the ducktail spoiler design, featuring this type of spoiler on the Porsche 911 Carrera RS, released in 1973. The design has since been incorporated into other cars and models produced by other manufacturers.
9. Whaletail Spoiler
The Whaletail spoiler is another rear spoiler design pioneered by Porsche. It is also a rear-mounted spoiler but is much flatter and more wing-shaped, with less upward sweep than the ducktail spoiler.
Although Porsche originally designed these spoilers for racing, they were included in the design of the Porsche 930 and 935, released to the public as road cars in 1975.
These large rear spoilers were designed to limit any rear-end lift, preventing over-steering when driving at high speeds. Whaletail spoilers became iconic symbols associated with the Porsche brand and made their cars stand out from the pack.
10. Pickup Truck Load Bed Spoiler
The load bed of pickup trucks is notorious for creating an inefficient Windstream behind the vehicle, creating turbulence at the tailgate. This turbulence increases drag and reduce the fuel economy of the vehicles.
Some pickup manufacturers have addressed this problem by incorporating a load bed spoiler on the truck. The load bed spoiler can be built into the design of the top side of the tailgate or included in a cover designed for the load bed.
These load bed spoilers are seldom effective unless combined with a load bed cover to eliminate turbulent air behind the truck cab.
11. Pickup Truck Cab Spoiler
As previously mentioned, the air behind the cab of a pickup truck is turbulent and messy, creating drag over the truck’s load bed.
Some truck manufacturers have designed a cab spoiler into the roof of the truck cab. This spoiler is similar in design to a lip spoiler on the trunk of a sedan and built into the roof’s trailing edge.
The upward sweep of the spoiler is designed to direct the airflow up from the cab’s trailing edge and only descend behind the tailgate.
This change in the airflow from the cab reduces the drag caused by turbulent air over the load bed. The effectiveness of the cab spoiler is enhanced when combined with a cover on the load bed and a load bed spoiler.
Spoilers are installed or incorporated into car designs for two primary reasons; improving the look of a car and improving the airflow around the car with a view to enhancing performance or fuel economy.
Irrespective of the reason for the spoiler, these features certainly change the look of a car and can affect the public sector to which the car will appeal.