What are Canards and Do They Really Help With Aerodynamics?

Modifying a car means more than just adding a bunch of parts under the hood and on the exterior to make it look and feel fast. In reality, in order to squeeze more power and performance out of your modified car, you’ll need to ensure that all of the parts that you add on are working well in conjunction with one another. If anything is off, then it could mess up the balance of the car.

This rings especially true if you’re modifying the aerodynamics of the car. While you can install front and rear lips and even a huge wing for downforce, you might need a little more. That’s where pieces like canards come into play. But what are they and do they really help with aerodynamics?

What are canards?

Simply put, canards, also known as “dive planes,” are small triangular wings that are attached to the front bumper of the car in order to slightly modify the aerodynamics of the car. According to the Formula 1 Dictionary, canards help to generate downforce in a couple of different ways.

The first way is that the canard redirects the oncoming airflow upward, which in turn creates downforce on the canard. The second way the canard increase downforce is when it is used in conjunction with a vortex generator, or a front splitter, in order to generate vortices that travel down the sides of the car.

A pair of canards on a race car |
A pair of canards on a race car | Amazon.com

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Placed correctly, and those little canards can assist in keeping the high-pressure around the car and away from the low-pressure region underneath the car. With all the redirection of the airflow that canards can produce, they ultimately assist with adding downforce to the front of the car, thereby increasing traction and improving the car’s overall handling characteristics.

Kyle Engineers, a YouTube channel dedicated mostly to the engineering side of aerodynamics, also added that canards are “a tool for getting forward balance on your aero package,” which means that they are a great tool for when you’ve done every other exterior modification to the car and need to tweak things a little.

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Canards can be somewhat limited in their effect

While adding canards to your car’s aero setup can aid with getting more downforce over the front axle, their overall effect is somewhat limited. Turnology notes that the air flowing around a car has viscosity to it, like a liquid, and the air closest to the car sticks to it, creating what’s known as a “boundary layer.”

Since canards are small, they don’t often jut out enough to pass the boundary layer, which restricts their ability to interact with the air that’s moving around the vehicle. As such, many vehicles that utilize canards will use more than one on each side of the bumper in order to create downforce and make better use of their overall effectiveness.

Canard winglets shown in pieces
Canard winglets shown in pieces | Amazon.com

What are canards made of?

Canards are usually made of plastic, carbon fiber, or sometimes even fiberglass-reinforced plastic. They’re usually pretty inexpensive ($200 to $300), however, if you’re planning to use them, do note that they can flex the paint on your car’s front bumper, which can result in stress cracks.