The RSW Service Team is happy to present to you the first of several technical articles to allow the automotive enthusiast to have a better understanding of their own vehicle and the systems it is built upon!
Of all the components on the car, the single most important is the tire. Regardless of the car you drive the tire is the one piece that actually touches the road. Keeping the tire in contact with the road surface is the goal when it comes to suspension tuning. Maintaining proper suspension alignment play a large part in the performance of your vehicle and we are going to explain how.
There are 3 variables that we generally adjust when it comes to the alignment of your vehicle’s tires. Keep in mind that this is a cursory overview, and that situations exist where what’s mentioned below doesn’t apply (off road vehicles, drag racing vehicles, etc.)
We will start with Toe. Toe is the angle of the tires if you were to look down on them from an overhead view. Toe-out, is when the tires are pointing towards the outside of the car, Toe-in is when the tires are pointing inwards, towards the engine. Rules of thumb...
- The more Toe (In Or Out) you run the more quickly you will wear the tires as a tire that is pointing straight ahead will face less resistance than one angled in one direction.
- Toe -out will cause improved steering response, too much will cause the inside edge of the tire to wear prematurely.
- Toe-In will cause the outside tire to wear prematurely when it’s excessive, and will provide added straight line stability.
Camber is how angled the tire is when looking from directly in front or from the rear of the car. More camber (generally negative) would mean that the top of the tire is further inboard and the bottom of the tire is angled out. Less camber (generally positive) would mean that the inside of the wheel is tucked in, and the outside of the wheel is angled out.
Generally for increased performance more negative camber is wanted than what a car originally comes with. This allows the tire to have more contact with the road when turning hard, however the compromise is that you have less straight-line traction. A couple rules of thumb...
- The more camber you run, the better grip you will have for turning and cornering but the worse grip you will have for straight-line acceleration and braking.
- The more negative camber you run the more likely the car is to track straight.
- If you run excessive negative camber than what is required by your suspension setup, tire compound, and driving style you will have accelerated wear on your inside edges.
Caster, Possibly the weirdest of the 3 to understand but we will try anyway. Caster is negative -when the wheel comes forward like a motorcycle or bicycle and positive when it it’s leaned back towards the rear of the car. Rules of thumb...
- Caster is a tradeoff between steering effort, and stability/turn in at the wheel. Increases in the amount of caster (positive caster) will increase the force required on the wheel to steer.
- The benefits of added caster are, stability in a straight line, turn in, overall traction, and self-centering effect.
Now that you are familiar with the mechanical aspects of what constitutes an alignment you can better understand why it is so important to have this service performed by professionals. The tire is your cars only connection with the road, whether it’s for performance, style, or safety, we are able to advise and adjust your car to handle properly.
This is where the "tuning" aspect comes in. There is no one optimal setting for your make and model Setup varies depending on usage, suspension, driving style, and a host of other values. What sets us apart is that we are able to draw from a large database of customers and feedback to provide your vehicle with alignments suited to your individual needs.
. . . stay tuned for the 2nd edition of "Understanding Your Vehicle's Suspension Geometry", where we will discuss the benefits of aftermarket adjustable performance components & corner balancing!