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Importance of Alignment

Posted on June 19 2017

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The alignment of race tires is just as important as the condition of the tires you race. Throughout the years, racecar manufacturers have realized how important alignment is. It is so important that, in the past, the chassis alignment could be manipulated to cure handling problems. Nowadays, there are different alignment methods and tools available that can help establish proper alignment.

Alignment Should Top Your List of To-Dos

Having the right alignment is a must because nothing can compensate for improper alignment. If the car isn’t aligned the way it should be, the racecar isn’t going to handle the right way. A car that doesn’t handle right is a car that could pose a safety risk and won’t perform well on the track.

Car builders have realized the importance of proper alignment, which has led to racecar parts manufacturers creating the tools that help align the racecar parts quickly and accurately. With the knowledge and better equipment that’s now available, the alignment can be perfect.

What Is Involved in a Proper Alignment?

Several elements make for a proper alignment. Those elements include:

  • Toe Settings – The toe must be properly set at the front and rear. If the tires aren’t toed correctly, the car will have a lot of drag that is similar to applying the brakes. This isn’t good for when you are trying to achieve maximum speed.
  • Rear Alignment – The direction the rear wheels are pointed in relation to the chassis can have an impact on how the car behaves in turns. For instance, the car is going to be loose if the rear is pointed to the right of the center of the chassis when entering a turn. This looseness will be with the car on every turn. When the rear is pointed to the left of the chassis’ center, the car is going to be tight off the corner and through the middle.

The rear of the car should never be misaligned. The chassis centerline and the right-side tire’s contact patches are your guides because they are in line. The alignment should be perpendicular to these elements. This is called “front-to-rear tracking.”

  • Ackermann Adjust – There should be very little Ackermann, which is what happens when there is too much front toe when the wheels are turned. If the racetrack has a very large radius, a small amount of toe may need to be added to make sure the front wheels are properly aligned.

The Ackermann adjust shows why alignment must be carried out more than once. Every time the car is used, it must be aligned to accommodate the track that it is on. If this isn’t done, optimal turning may not happen due to drag.

Alignment Methods

One type of tire alignment is the Brunnhoezl Accu-Laser Measurement System. This is a recent type of alignment product, and it is designed to attack alignment issues. The tool mounts to the rear of the car, and it projects a green laser line out to the chassis. The center laser is attached to the pinion, which is at an angle to the right of the axle tubes. If the axle tubes are bent or there are wheel toe errors, those errors are eliminated. A center laser that projects past the front of the chassis is used to align with the front tires, front stub, and front cross member. The central laser is the heart of this system.

The DRP Real Square Laser Wheel Alignment System is an older system that has seen a great deal of improvement over the years. There are some high-end and more low-tech systems. Racers choose which level they want. They range from the simple string method to a more advanced system that focuses strongly on dynamic measurements. All alignment parameters can be checked.

The True Laser Track System mounts on the hub and uses lasers to align the rear to the chassis. It is used to set the Ackermann, toe, rear toe, and wheel and tire alignment. Before hitting the road, the alignment can be tested.

Tips for Aligning a Race Car

When aligning the racecar, the following are some of the tips and steps you can use:

  1. Check for run-out in the front and rear wheels. This is the wobble in the outer edge of the tire as the wheels rotate. The distortion must be compensated for. This can be done by using a jack stand and using a measuring tape to note the tire’s distance from the stand as it rotates. The high point must be located and marked so the tire can be rotated to a point where that mark is pointing straight up. A laser system can be done to achieve this. The instructions are typically included in the manufacturer’s instructions.
  1. When you have toed the rear wheels, use a laser system to square the frame. If you don’t have a laser system, you can use strong on each side of the car at the front and rear. This should form a box, and marks can be made on the floor for the outsides of the frame rails or rear and front clip rails. You can measure between the marks to make sure everything is facing straight ahead.
  1. You can center the steering box by rotating the steering wheel lock. You can find the center and lock the steering wheel shaft by using vise-grip pliers. The steering has to be centered, and this is determined when the wheels are pointing perfectly straight ahead.

These are just a few methods for aligning a racecar. You still have setting the front toe, Ackermann measurement, and rear end alignment that can be achieved using laser systems or some string and Sharpies. Of course, a laser system is most likely going to give you a more accurate result much faster. Due to cars needing to be aligned more than once, this may be the way you want to go for speed and accuracy.

How Long Should Alignment Take?

All in all, the alignment process shouldn’t take more than two hours if there are multiple members of your team working on it. A couple of hours is just a little time to ensure that the car performs correctly.

You can repeat the process as often as necessary. It is especially important to fix the alignment after the car has come into contact with another car or the wall while on the track. Once the car is aligned, you are able to focus on other aspects of the chassis. Need service on your racecar from a company you can trust? Want to look into buying a racecar or how to get more involved in racing? Contact Team Stradale today!

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