Reasons to Improve Your Car’s Aerodynamics With Front Splitters

Much of the performance and aerodynamic parts seen on today’s cars hail from the experimentation first seen in Formula 1, and later on in Rally Car championships. The late 1960s saw the first use of front wing and rear spoiler combos (in the Lotus 49B) and the mid-1980s introduced the front splitter (in the Lancia Rally 037, which later morphed into the legendary Lancia Delta). Production cars of those days also started toying with drag coefficients, marking the shift from boxy to curvy designs in vehicles that followed.

The aim of aerodynamics is to improve fuel efficiency in passenger cars and increase performance and handling in racing cars. This is done with the different bodywork additions tasked to handle oncoming air. Roughly a third of that air goes under the car, another third through the grille and engine bay, and the rest around and over the car. This can result in three different things – drag, downforce or lift.

Drag roughly translates to how the car cuts through air, so less drag means better acceleration and faster top speeds. Lift is just that, the force of air under the car trying to lift it off the road surface. The Le Mans series has a few infamous cases of flying cars. To counter this, downforce or the air pressure pressing down on the car is what increases stability and improves grip. This is primarily achieved with front splitters and parts like rear diffusers and spoilers. Combined, these parts help by increasing cornering and straight-line grip, to keep the car stable. And they become more effective as speeds increase.

What is a Front Splitter?


A front splitter is a large flat surface protruding forward from the bottom of the front bumper, sitting parallel to the ground. Its main purpose is to ‘split’ or redirect oncoming air to create more downforce, effectively pushing the front of the car into the ground. To do this it needs to be positioned at the right height. The splitter creates an area of slow-moving high-pressure air redirected over the car, and a fast-moving low-pressure area that moves under the splitter and the length of the car. Balancing the two is what creates downforce while limiting drag and lift.

Why Correct Positioning is Important?


As a rule, a front splitter that is pushed further forward and closer to the ground will be more effective. This reduces the chance of low-pressure fast-moving air building up and creating lift. But a side-effect is a marginal increase in drag, though this is countered by the downforce sticking the car to the road.

More important is that splitters are fitted securely to the rest of the car. Some designs use support rods to attach them to the bumper. Bigger front splitters have been known to break off at higher speeds and the reason for serious accidents and taking the bumpers as collateral damage. For this reason, splitters are integrated into the undertray and bolted to the chassis rails of purebred race cars.

Splitters tailored to the exact dimensions of the car, down to the last millimetre, will perform best. Though this can be an intriguing DIY job in terms of installation, better have it done by a pro.

What Impact Do Materials Have?


To ensure that splitters work as they should, they need to be made of extremely durable yet flexible materials. As they’re positioned quite low, they will also endure scraping against potholes or curbs. Generally, the materials used are either fibreglass, carbon fibre, or polyethylene composites. The latter are inexpensive to buy but still offer high-impact resistance, and won’t chip or become rust magnets. While carbon fibre is strong, it is also brittle and can crack. And this is a costly option requiring even costlier repair work. Fibreglass may be the cheapest on the list but will crack and shatter even from minor impact.

Are Front Splitters Used on Their Own?

The best handling and driving dynamics are achieved with a complete body kit. This will include a front splitter, as well as front and rear spoilers, side skirts (or side splitters), and rear diffusers and wings. Front spoilers help increase downforce by ‘spoiling’ air to either side of the front end. Side skirts are fitted between the wheel arches and prevent the buildup of air under the car from the sides. These too are more effective when positioned lower to the ground. The remaining air (and that which the front splitter pushes under the car) is handled with rear diffusers. These are attached to the lower end of the rear bumper and ‘diffuse’ the air to null differences in air pressure, thus enhancing stability at the rear axle. Air that the front splitter redirects over the car are managed by a rear spoiler or wing. Both are tasked to increase downforce.

Buying a Front Splitter for Your Car

While front splitters will increase grip at the front wheels when used on their own, they come out best when combined with all the above-mentioned aerodynamic body parts. This will reduce the chances of oversteering and loss of traction at the back. Look for complete body kits with the splitter included compatible with your car model and MY.