Read This Before Buying A Direct Drive Wheel Base
Direct drive wheel bases are powerful units that are considered to be the ultimate tool to take your sim racing realism to the next level. The internal design of the direct drive wheel reduces mechanical interference and provides you with a more complex driving adventure with stronger and smoother force feedback.
Before you make a decision to buy a direct drive wheel though, there are a few essential considerations you should know. In this comprehensive guide, we'll dive into everything you should be aware of to make an informed choice. From performance and compatibility to budget and setup, read on to ensure your investment aligns perfectly with your racing aspirations.
What is a Direct Drive Wheel?
Most consumer-grade wheels, such as the popular Thrustmaster T-GT II, use a belt or gear system in combination with an electric motor to achieve force feedback. The direct drive wheel is a powerful motor directly attached to the steering wheel. This allows the user to experience the full-force feedback of the electric motor. With fewer components involved, the immersive feel of the sim racing experience is massively enhanced.
These motors are generally much larger than those installed on consumer-grade wheels and generate much greater torque. Most belt driven wheels will generate torque at around 2 Nm, while some direct drive wheels can generate torque of up to 40 Nm! This kind of power has been known to severely injure people during crashes if they didn’t let go of the wheel in time.
Often the come with a "kill switch" to prevent the user from taking an unexpected trip to the emergency room.
Reasons to Consider a Direct Drive Wheel
If you want to upgrade your steering wheel, firstly you need to ask yourself, why? If you just want a change from the current model, this may not come with much benefit. If you're current wheel provides enough force feedback to match your play style, it may not be worth the hefty investment. After all, direct drive wheel bases can get pretty expensive.
Direct drive systems improve realism and have a lot of charm, but like anything it will definitely take some getting used to and is not favorable for everyone. If its your first time using one, you’ll likely find yourself exhausted after even just a few laps!
That being said, direct drive wheelbases still give you the best level of immersion and realism compared to belt and gear driven models.
Plug and Play
The convenience of using a plug-and-play direct drive wheelbase is important in the sense that it does not need to be configured or adapted for each game, additionally they do not often require constant updating. This makes it convenient and often improves your overall gaming experience.
In addition, it is recommended to choose a steering wheel with only one cable to power both the steering wheel and the base, reducing the system's complexity. However sometimes this isn’t always the case.
Fanatec is known for their direct drive superiority, and even lower models like the CSL DD have an upgradable power option that increases the power from 5Nm to 8Nm.
Video Game Compatibility
The most compatible brands are the long-established brands like Fanatec, Thrustmaster, and Logitech, but new challengers like Asetek and Moza are also gaining more support and compatibility.
When choosing a direct drive wheelbase, video game compatibility is essential. It's important to choose a compatible steering wheel that you can enjoy in a variety of games. For example, if you’re keen on playing Gran Turismo, you’ll need a PlayStation compatible base.
At the moment, Fanatec and Logitech are leading in this space by adding console compatibility for the direct drive ecosystem. Most other high end wheelbases are built only to run on PC.
Motor Par and Slew Rate
When choosing a direct drive wheelbase, the motor par and slew rate are essential. In order to feel the unevenness of the circuit and obtain a more realistic feeling, it is important to choose a steering wheel equipped with a powerful premotor that can accurately transmit large force. The slew rate is often an indicator of quality. Only the best servo motors can achieve 4Nm/s or more.
Choosing a direct drive wheel base with a sturdy and durable structure is essential. Warranty periods are on average 3-5 years. Rest assured though, they won't break easily and are always rigorously tested in multiple environments.
Drawbacks of a Direct Drive Wheel
Direct drive wheel bases are said to be the gold standard of sim racing, but there are also disadvantages you should be aware of.
Direct drive wheels are incredibly more costly than belt-driven or gear-driven wheels. Depending on your brand and model, some items range from $1000 to over $3000. This kind of upgrade is always a huge investment for most sim racers, and not everyone will be willing to spend that kind of money.
Direct drive wheels need more care than other types of wheels. There are many moving parts, and it is necessary to periodically lubricate and check them to ensure they function properly.
Failure to perform maintenance can result in damaged or damaged wheels and costly repairs and replacements. It’s also important to monitor how much heat a direct drive wheelbase generates throughout a session. If the base gets too hot permanent damage will be done.
Grinding and Jumping
Direct drive wheels can sometimes feel a grinding or jumping sensation when rotating. This is due to the torque ripple specific to direct drive systems. Often people won’t really notice this, whereas others can be easily distracted.
Torque ripple is a phenomenon that occurs in a direct drive system due to the magnetic field of the motor. It may cause the wheel to vibrate or rock slightly and is felt through the pedal or seat. It is not a major problem for most sim racers, but can be a problem for those sensitive to vibration or less resistant to discomfort.
What are the most popular direct drive wheels for sim racing?
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular direct drive wheelbases on the market.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the direct drive wheel improve lap time?
To put it simply, no. Lap time depends on the skill level of the driver and what game they’re playing. Direct drive wheels however can provide more accurate and precise force feedback and which can help drivers make better split second decisions on the track.
What are the advantages of direct drive wheels?
Direct drive wheels offer several benefits, including more accurate force feedback, smoother and more realistic steering operations, and more immersive racing experiences. It is commonly more durable and requires less care than other types of wheels.
Is the direct drive wheel more responsive?
Yes, direct drive wheels generally respond better than other types of wheels. It is due to the fact that the motor and steering wheel are directly connected, so there is no force feedback delay. This makes it easier for drivers to feel and react to split second changes during a race.
How do I compare Direct Drive Wheels to other types of wheels?
Direct drive wheels are the most advanced type of racing wheelbase. They provide the most precise, accurate force feedback mixed with smooth and realistic steering.
What is the difference between a direct drive wheel and a belt drive wheel?
The main difference between the direct drive wheel and the belt drive wheel is the method of transmission of force feedback from the motor to the steering wheel.
The direct drive wheel directly connects the motor and the wheel, whereas the belt drive wheel uses a belt to convey the force feedback.
Is the direct drive wheel more realistic?
Yes, direct drive wheels are generally considered the most realistic type of racing wheel. This is because direct drive wheels provide the most precise and accurate force feedback, making it easier for drivers to feel and react to road surface and course changes.
In general, it has a more immersive and realistic steering feel and can enhance the overall racing experience.
In conclusion, investing in a direct drive wheel for your racing simulator is a significant decision, and this guide has aimed to provide you with the essential knowledge needed to make the right choice.
By considering factors like performance, compatibility, budget, and setup, you can ensure that your investment meets and exceeds your racing aspirations. It is expensive, requires maintenance, and can feel chipped or jumping due to torque ripples. However, if you are willing to invest time and money in the direct drive wheel, you will get unparalleled realism and immersion in the sim race experience.