By Brandon Baldwin
Alignment is about as important as Engine Performance. It’s one of the legs of the triangle of racing performance. Keeping your suspension aligned not only saves the obvious part called “tires” but saves fuel as well. How? If you are scrubbing the tread off the tires, then you are using more power and therefore, more fuel to apply the effort to remove the tread. We can use the tires to help us determine some of the misalignment problems.
First, if the tires are worn on both the inside AND outside edges, your tire is underinflated, or your tires aren’t rated for the weight you are putting on them. If the tire is worn in the center, the tire is overinflated. If your tires are worn just on the inside edges of BOTH front tires, this is typically that your toes adjustment is too negative. If the inside edge of a tire is worn on just one side of the car, that is a camber correction that is needed. This usually accompanies the complaint of pulling to the other side of the car. If the outside edge of a tire is worn out, then the camber is too positive on that side. Usually the car will be pulling to that side.
If the car wants to wander down the road, especially upon bumps, which is called “bump steer”, then the caster is too negative. Positive caster makes the front tires want to return to center naturally, as well as making the tire sit flatter upon the road when you proceed around a turn as the car leans.
All of this is assuming that you had already checked all suspension components and ride height to be good. Every time you change ride height, alignment changes. There is more to this, but this is a start.
Keep in mind that many alignment racks databases go back many years, and you don’t necessarily have to align to stock conditions. For instance, I always make the camber more positive with wider tires if the customer isn’t planning on track time. This makes the tires wear better. If your race car is doing left turns all the time, you set it up for that. If you change the ride height of your truck, do an alignment. You’ll be glad you did.