Many people are familiar with the concept of a wheel alignment. They know that if their car is pulling to one side or the other, then it may be time for an alignment. What many people are unaware of is the full scope of wheel AND suspension alignment. You vehicles suspension is more than just 4 springs that bounce up and down. You vehicle’s suspension is responsible for the position and angle of your wheels. If this position is off, it can have severe effects on your driving. Things like tire wear, grip, and stopping power can all be affected. There are many different dimensions your suspension can be aligned to, and all are important for proper vehicle control.
Suspension Alignment – The Basics
There are three basic aspects to suspension alignment: camber, castor, and toe. Each one refers to a different direction your car’s suspension and wheels can be aligned to. This is how each angle and dimension works in relation to your vehicle:
Camber: When facing the front of your vehicle, camber is the amount the top of your wheels are slanted inwards (towards your engine, also known as “negative camber”) or outwards (away from your engine, also known as “positive camber”). There are times when different driving styles call for a particular camber. For example, more performance oriented drivers who find themselves taking corners at high speeds benefit from a negative camber. When cornering at high speeds, the weight of a vehicle shifts to it’s outside edge. A negative camber is a way of accounting for that shift, providing more traction during hard corners. However, a negative camber can lead to uneven tire wear and less control on straight sections. A positive camber may be used for off-road vehicles with large amounts of suspension travel, as this allows for the tires to remain even and to increase contact when going over bumps. For most passenger vehicles, a neutral camber or slightly negative camber is sufficient.
Caster: When facing the side of your vehicle, caster is the angle your suspension is tilting either towards the front of your vehicle (towards your headlamps, also known as negative caster) or toward the rear of your vehicle (towards your tail lights, also known as positive caster). A positive caster is beneficial in nearly every application, with the exception of vehicles that lack power steering (a rarity on today’s roads). Think of positive caster as a way for a vehicle to stretch out its legs, improving its stability. A positive caster effects driving similar to negative camber, without the added tire wear.
Toe: Toe is the type of directions most people think of when considering wheel & suspension alignment. Toe refers to the direction that your vehicles wheels are pointing when looking at your vehicle from above. Toe in refers to wheels pointed inwards (towards your vehicles engine). Toe out refers to wheels pointed outwards (away from your vehicles engine. Toe can be one of the most important aspects of suspension alignment. A vehicle’s toe alignment that is off by as little as 7mm will have the equivalent effect as dragging the wheel sideways over 50cm per kilometre. Toe in and out are used to control vehicle oversteer (cornering too sharply) and understeer (not cornering sharply enough) respectively.
These factors are all adjusted accordingly to ensure safety when driving. Adjustments are made to account for the natural camber of the road, what side the driver is on and many more aspects. Things like increasing or decreasing your vehicle’s ride height can affect the camber of a vehicle as well. When raising or lowering a vehicle, you may need to consider adjusting the length of control arms and other parts in order to not negatively affect your vehicles camber.
When Is It Time To Book Service
If your vehicles cornering performance seems off, or that it pulls to the left or right, then it may be time for suspension alignment. Another major area to look at is your tires. Tires will wear based on how they are driven, which is a great indicator of what is wrong with the suspension of a vehicle. Wear on one side of the tire can be an indication of excessive camber in one direction. If you notice your treads have feathered edges, that can mean you have incorrect toe alignment. A tire with scalloped wear on one side can be a lack of tire rotation or an out of alignment suspension. Preventative suspension alignments can help extend the life of your tires. Alignments can also ensure your drive is safer, since tires that better contact the road are capable of providing better traction and stopping power. Uneven alignments that create tire drag can also hurt fuel efficiency in the long run, so booking preventative service is best, don’t wait until it’s too late!
The experts at your local Gary’s Automotive can ensure your vehicle stays safe on the roads. We carefully measure each dimension of your suspension and make sure you have the right set up for your make and model. Book your suspension alignment today!
Book With Gary’s Automotive For Low Cost, High Quality Suspension Alignment Services Today!