A Worthwhile Investment of Your Time
For better or worse, the Force RS is built like a tank. I suppose it's a tribute to a manufacturer to be so concerned about the longevity of it's products. In this case, the large motor, wide belts and coarse gear pitch (on the pulleys) add to the drag of the mechanism. The powerful motor saves this configuration by overpowering the drag and allowing some subtle feedback to show through. Now, don't misunderstand what I mean by drag. The wheel operates smoothly, but it feels like damping is turned on even when the wheel isn't turned on. And, the wheel has a large diameter so you have plenty of leverage that lessens the amount of drag you feel while steering. Of course, what's really important is the power to drag ratio. In other words, how much power is required to overcome the drag. To test this, I turned on the wheel and opened Windows Controller Panel. I turned the Overall Device Gain to maximum, cocked the wheel all the way to the right, set the Default Spring to a certain percent and clicked "Always On". Then I'd watch the wheel rotate to see how close it would get to top dead center. I'd increase the percent of Default Spring until the wheel would snap completely to top center. After that, I did the same, cocking the wheel to the left. One side might need a little more spring than the other to center completely.
As a comparison, the Logitech Wingman Formula Force with it's thin steel cable and smooth pulleys, has little drag. But, it also doesn't have a very powerful motor. It needed an average of 30% Default Spring to make the wheel snap to top center. When the Force RS was new, it needed 27% Default Spring in order to center. After about 60 hours of use that dropped to about 23% and there it stayed. However, after the wheel was lubricated it dropped to a low of 15%. An amazing reduction, and almost as low as the 13% required on the Guillemot Ferrari wheel. But what's even more impressive is that the Force RS is rotating the wheel a greater distance and is moving more mass. The greater mass is because of the large diameter of it's wheel, and the distance is because the Force RS has a turning arc of 270°. The Ferrari has an arc of about 215° and the Logitech has only 180°.
What this all means is that if you lower the drag, you should be able to feel more subtle force feedback effects. Low voltage inputs to the motor (subtle force effects) can be masked by a high drag ratio. Even if the motor is not powerful and the power to drag ratio is high, a low amount of drag helps you to feel subtle feedback effects. This is proven by the Logitech wheel which does a pretty decent job at this despite all it's shortcomings. If the Logitech wheel had a more powerful motor it would have a better power to drag ratio and would probably match the Ferrari wheel in it's ability to feel subtle effects. So, if you lubricate the Force RS, you'll be lowering the drag and getting a very good power to drag ratio in the process. The result is a wheel that's really built to last and still comes very, very close to the Ferrari wheel in feeling subtle feedback.
So, if lubrication works so well on the Force RS, what will it do for the Ferrari and Logitech wheels? Well, I don't know, and nothing. I did lubricate the Logitech wheel and it eliminated a small amount of noise, but did nothing to reduce the power to drag ratio. I haven't - yet - dared to lubricate the Ferrari wheel. Internally it's similar to the Force RS, but has finer pitch teeth and thinner belts. I'm a little concerned that adding lubrication will cause the belts to slip on the pulleys. Eventually, when I have time to undo it if necessary, I suppose I won't be able to resist giving it a try. I may also try a different lubricant on the Force RS. I've been using white Lithium grease which won't hurt the belts or pulleys.
I'm breaking this article into two pages. You can continue to Page 2 when you're ready, but keep in mind that, as with all my articles, there are a few pictures on it that may take some time to load.
Continue to Page 2
May 8, 2000