Alignment & How it Affects Handling
If you are like me sometimes you overlook the obvious while in hot pursuit of the glitzy, cool (expensive) stuff. Front end alignment is one of those obvious things that seem so mundane that why bother? In some ways it’s a trip to the alignment shop is like a trip to the dentist to get your teeth cleaned. Besides that it seems like some alignment shops are more interested in selling you things you really don’t need so why go? We will look at the benefits and some tweaks which can be done with the front end alignment that will pay off in a better handling car.
Factory specs for alignment are established as a trade off in tire wear and better handling. This is because of some basic geometric principals like camber, covered later, which can improve how your car “feels” can cause more than normal tire wear. It is all about the kind of driving you want to do. If you are a boulevard cruiser and corners are not of interest then probably the factory settings are close but no where optimum. With that said, things have radically changed in tire profile since our classics were new which may mean you might want to revisit the factory settings.Let’s look at the alignment settings for a typical classic car’s front suspension and see what they do.
This setting is the angle of the front wheels as viewed from above. Toe is determined by measuring the distance between the track of the wheels in front and in back. It can be toe out or toe in depending on how it is set. This setting is influenced by ride height. A car at high speed can have appreciable changes in the toe setting as the suspension is loaded by the aerodynamics of the car. Most cars are set with toe in.
Here is a chart of suggest settings depending on your driving preferences. These are just starting points. In order to set them to optimum you will need to do some experimentation and determine what is best for your car.
|Touring||0.25 to 0.5 Deg neg.||2.5 to 5.0 Deg pos.||0 to 3/16″ In|
|Autocross||0.5 – 1.0 Deg neg.||2.5 to 5.0 Deg pos.||1/8″ Out to 0|
|Road Racing*||0.5 – 2.0 Deg neg.||2.0 to 7.0 Deg pos.||0 to 3/16″ In|
There are many variables to work with but the key is to make the adjustments and systematically measure performance improvement. The results will be a car that is dialed in for the type of driving you do, not what the factory decided you might do.