5 Minute Read

Find Your Performance Car’s Perfect Point of Balance

Posted by - Paul Garlick on 23 May 2024 (Updated 30 May 2024)
Categories: Advice

Step inside any relatively modern sports or supercar and you will have a seemingly infinite number of ways to adjust the chassis set-up to reach your own handling nirvana. A driver can adjust this, tweak that, and lower the other, all from the comfort of the driver’s seat. Drive an older car, and there are still many expensive and advanced parts you can use to upgrade and improve its handling and driveability.

But did you know that one of the most effective ways to perfectly balance your car needs no new parts and can do more for its driveability than spending a day with the owner’s manual, trying to work out what factory settings to use? 

No? Welcome to the art of wheel alignment and geometry set-ups.

Fine Tuning for Better Fast-Road Handling

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Many of us know we need to have our wheels balanced, especially when fitting new tyres or after running through the potholed tracks we now call the UKs road network. But this is far removed from that. Proper, professional alignment ensures your vehicle’s wheels are pointing in the right direction, and while that may sound obvious (surely all wheels point forwards, right?) going through this process will make a noticeable and valuable difference to the way your car drives.

 

What prompted us to write this feature was hearing how Windrush Car Storage Founder Tim Earnshaw takes all of his cars to alignment specialist Center Gravity. He told us: 

“Any car, be it a daily-driver, sports, classic or supercar, may need more concentration that you would like to keep it in a straight line or from feeling like it is pulling to one side or the other. Sadly, many people think this is simply how their car behaves and don’t do anything to correct it but, in my experience, every car should be able to drive in a straight line and go around corners (at a sensible speed) without too much effort from the driver. If problems like that persist or have become worse after the fitment of new tyres, it is likely something is out of tune, and it isn’t as the manufacturer intended, and that is where alignment and geometry refinement can make a real difference.”

It’s All About Wheel Alignment and Geometry Set-Ups!

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During a specialist wheel alignment, the toe and camber angles of the vehicle, along with the castor is precisely measured and adjusted to suit the demands of the owner, be that to standard specifications, or perhaps to suit fast road or track use. And an enthusiast owner will soon feel the difference after the geometry has been adjusted, as turn-in becomes sharper, cornering grip is improved, and handling characteristics will be more predictable, as Tim has noticed:

“In my experience, whenever I have taken a car for geometry alignment it has transformed its driveability and sharpened the handling. The effort required to drive at lower speed is reduced and the car feels more cohesive and in-tune with the road. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t tame the beast and remove the handling exhilaration of your sports car, more the fact its contact with the road is improved, meaning a driver can explore and enjoy more of the car’s inherent characteristics than ever before.”

So, what happens to make such a dramatic difference? 

4-Wheel Alignment

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Misaligned wheels can affect the handling of a car, it can create premature and uneven tyre wear, increase fuel consumption, and even accelerate wear on steering and suspension components. 

Poor alignment of the front wheels, in relation to the rear, will offset the steering wheel and interfere with the straight cruising stability of the car, while also unbalancing its turning performance. Toe (the angle of the wheels when viewed from directly above) settings are also vital, as getting these wrong can create dangerous and dramatic oversteer, or understeer.

Prior to undertaking any full wheel alignment check, Center Gravity will determine how an owner plans to use their car so they can understand their expectations and requirements. Then, the car is driven on their own evaluation route consisting of four different road types. This process allows them to test the car against benchmark behaviour, and gives the data needed to create perfect handling.

Using state-of-the-art equipment, toe settings are reconciled with the driving evaluation results, before fine adjustments are made to ensure perfect symmetry. It is a methodical and thorough process, which produces reliable and repeatable results every time.

Further chassis tuning can also be carried out, including:

Geometry Correction

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Center Gravity tells us that camber is pre-set to achieve grip when turning. Usually, the more camber there is, the longer grip will last when turning, but too much (or little) can have a negative effect. 

Fine tuning camber can produce just the right amount of grip at each axle to produce either understeer, a neutral balance, or oversteer. The camber setting also has an effect on traction while accelerating and braking, and also on lateral stability – the ability of a vehicle to resist rollover or excessive yawing when subjected to lateral forces, such as cornering, crosswinds, or road irregularities. 

During geometry correction, all of these elements are checked, tested and corrected to create the optimum settings to suit the owner’s driving style.

Chassis Tuning

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Chassis tuning is available for cars that have ride height adjustable suspension. The process encompasses 4-wheel alignment, geometry alignment, and other refinements to adjust parameters within the chassis, which includes ride height, damper stiffness or softness, and anti-rollbar stiffness or softness. Lower cars can also bottom out on bumps, creating issues such as bump steer (when wheels steer themselves without input from the steering wheel), excessive camber and harsh ride comfort.

Damper Efficiency Measurement

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A damper’s health and efficiency will directly affect the rate of turning, braking distance, control of the car over bumpy surfaces and will also have a direct effect on ride quality. 

Center Gravity has a floor-mounted drive-over machine that can test damper health while the dampers remain fitted to the car and, utilising their extensive damper data, they are able to check damper health and efficiency and adjust, or recommend replacement, as required.

Fancy Fine-Tuning Your Performance Car?

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As experienced by Windrush Founder Tim, the results of this type of tuning can transform the way your car drives, steers and handles and only takes a few hours to carry out. 

Before you delve into the settings menu on your own car, or start to adjust your coilovers, consider booking in for 4-wheel alignment and chassis tuning to experience the changes it can make for yourself. Sometimes, just a few tweaks and corrections will be all you need to find the perfect settings for your own driving style.  

Windrush clients who wish to use the services of Center Gravity should speak with their Cotswolds or London Car Storage contact to arrange an appointment. Transportation of your vehicle is also available.

Get in touch
Call Cotswolds +44 (0) 1451 821 008
Call London +44 (0) 207 458 4418
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