Q: “I hear the term ‘maintenance throttle’ used, but I don’t really know what it is. And how and when I should use it. Can you explain?”
A: Maintenance throttle is the amount of throttle application you need to keep your car maintaining its speed. If you’re on a level surface and driving in a straight line, it’s not much throttle application at all. This is what you’re doing when driving along a freeway at a constant speed. If you’re driving up a hill, mind you, you’re going to need to apply more throttle to maintain speed. And the same is true if you’re going around a corner. See, as you corner, your tires are scrubbing some amount of speed, so you need some throttle to keep your car’s speed constant – to maintain that speed.
Beyond maintaining speed, there’s something else that maintenance throttle does, and that’s balancing the car. As you know, if you brake, or even lift off the gas pedal, your car “nose dives” somewhat. That’s because weight has transferred forward. Alternatively, as you accelerate, weight transfers to the rear. Maintenance throttle balances the car, so its weight is evenly distributed front to rear.
There are times, like in the middle of a corner, where having the car balanced will help it generate more cornering grip. Without going into great detail here, just know that a car that is perfectly balanced – with no weight transfer front-to-rear, rear-to-front, or side-to-side – has more overall grip or traction than one that is unbalanced. Watch this video (Why Smooth is Fast) I created about driving smoothly to learn more about why this is the case.
And this is why it’s important to use maintenance throttle sometimes – to balance the car, and keep its speed up. But also understand that sometimes using maintenance throttle is not the best thing, and in fact, hesitating before getting on the throttle will allow the car to finish turning a little more – and that will mean that when you begin to accelerate, you’ll be able to get to full throttle sooner. Check out some of the other videos on my YouTube channel, as well as other Q&As here on this page for more details about when to hesitate before applying the throttle.
Good question and fine answer! I never really thought to ask but I am glad someone did! I do instinctively maintenance at certain corners and other times but had not understood why. Thanks to both you, Ross, and the questioner.