Most people think wheel alignment is best left to professionals. This is true in many ways, but some alignment specs can easily be checked yourself, and toe is one aspect of alignment that can be checked at home.
Not everyone is familiar with the terminology surrounding wheel alignment. While you may not find it necessary to familiarize yourself with terms like camber, caster, and toe, it is beneficial to understand how these three main alignment parameters work. Proper wheel alignment is essential to maintaining vehicle and tire longevity while ensuring your ride is both safe and comfortable.
WHAT IS CAMBER?
Camber is the angle of the wheel relative to the vertical of the vehicle and is considered either positive camber or negative camber depending on tilts. If the top of the tire slopes away from the center of the vehicle you have positive camber, and if the top of the tire slopes inwards you have negative camber. One isn’t better than the other, but different camber angles will have different effects on your vehicle.
- Positive Camber – When your wheels are tilted outward, the vehicle has improved stability.
- Negative Camber – High-performance vehicles that require better cornering tend to use negative camber because it gives the driver more control in this regard.
Quick fact: While some positive or negative camber is good, too much of either is bad.
How Does Camber Differ for Different Types of Vehicles?
All vehicles are different: an obvious fact that raises an important point. While positive camber is used to improve the ride quality and vehicle stability, high-performance vehicles may require better cornering performance. In any case, your vehicle manufacturer has the exact angles for this adjustment. We use these angles to properly align the camber.
How Does Suspension Affect Camber?
Part of your suspension has these so-called rubber bushings. Yes, this part has a funny name, but its meaning is no laughing matter. Bushings can crack over time, causing excessive movement in the suspension. This extra flexibility leads to poor cornering and accelerated and uneven tire wear.
Why Do You Need an Alignment?
Depending on the type of vehicle you drive, a little positive or negative camber can be useful, but too much of either is both dangerous and bad for your tires. All vehicle manufacturers will provide accurate information on the appropriate camber. Technicians use these angles to properly line up the camber.
WHAT IS A CASTER?
Caster is the angle that identifies the forward or backward tilt of a line drawn through the top and bottom pivot points of the steering. It does not affect tire wear, but the caster does affect steering directional control. Caster angle adjustments allow manufacturers to balance steering effort, high-speed stability, and front-end cornering effectiveness.
- Positive Caster – If the line slopes down toward the rear of the vehicle, you have a positive caster. The disadvantage of a positive caster is when the vehicle does not have power steering. In this case, the steering effort is increased. A positive caster is primarily beneficial to the vehicle because it increases the pitch of the tire when the vehicle is cornering while returning it to an upright position when going straight.
- Negative Caster – If the line slopes towards the front of the vehicle, the caster is negative. A negative caster allows you to steer less in turns but can cause you to drive when going straight.
Positive and negative caster applies primarily to race cars, and unless your vehicle has been raised or adjusted in any way that requires adjustment, road cars will typically run at factory settings.
What Does Caster Do for Alignment?
It’s all about straight lines with a caster. Look at a bike. Trust us, this is the best way to understand the caster setting. Caster is why your bike steers in a straight line even when you take your hands off the handlebars. That’s because the front axle of your bike has a built-in forward angle (caster).
Your car’s caster works the same way. If your car pulls straight down the road with little handling from you, it’s because of your caster setting. If you’re going down a straight path but start to pull sideways, that’s a sign your caster is turned off. We make you fit and realigned.
What does caster provide to your alignment?
- Directional stability: The ability to stay on a straight course with little or no effort.
- Returnability After completing a turn, your steering wheel spins back to the “straight-ahead” position. You can thank the caster for that.
Do Caster Settings Change For Different Types Of Vehicles?
Without doubt. Caster angle is determined by your vehicle’s suspension design and intended vehicle use. When you have a fast and powerful drive, your sports car needs more caster to handle better on the straight and exiting corners. Can we get a Vroom here?
Can You Detect A Caster Problem On Your Own?
Once in a while. The most obvious and easiest sign to spot is when you feel your vehicle pulling sideways. This may mean that your alignment needs to be adjusted. But to be on the safe side, bring it to us and let us look at it.
Quick Fact: Negative caster settings were more common when vehicles didn’t have power steering. That may be before your time, but inquiring minds want to know.
WHAT IS TOE?
Toe is a measure of how far the front and/or rear wheels turn in or out from a straight-ahead position. The amount of toe-in, whether toe-in or toe-out, is expressed as the difference between the toe-in widths as measured at the leading and trailing edges of the tires.
Toe is expressed in degrees or fractions of an inch, and while your wheels should be pointing straight ahead when driving straight, toe has a few benefits depending on the type of vehicle you drive.
The purpose of the toe is to ensure that all four wheels roll parallel to each other. However, racing cars use toe-out to promote improved turning ability. Road cars or simple passenger cars use toe-in because there is no need to corner quickly.
Toe-in also provides increased stability as it prevents turning. If your vehicle has the correct toe-in, you should experience ideal straight-line stability, corner entry, and very little tire wear.
What Does “TOE IN” Or “TOE OUT” Refer To?
To fully appreciate and understand this alignment angle now, you should walk like a penguin. Now point your feet outward. This counts as a “toe-out”. Ok, now show them inside. That’s toe-in. Quite easy. Apply this position to your front and rear tires and you are now a top performer. Show your friends your new knowledge.
Knowing the Importance of “total toe.”
The total toe should be at or near zero while driving. If the entire track deviates, severe tire wear can occur. You see, the right toe-in settings will ensure that there is the least amount of resistance when your tires spin.
When the overall toe is out of balance, you will notice uneven wear on the outside or inside of your tires depending on whether your vehicle’s toe-in or toe-out adjustment is compromised.
Did you know? Toe problems are the root cause of most tire problems and tire wear. It’s easy to miss the signs of a toe alignment problem. Getting your wheel alignment done as recommended (approximately every 6,000 miles) will protect your tire investment over the long term. Fewer tire changes, more money in your pocket.