Wheel alignment is crucial to the health of a vehicle and its tires, and many things can affect the alignment. We’ll talk through what affects wheel alignment and explain the importance of understanding a vehicle’s weight transfer in this episode of the Tire Review Continental Tire Garage Studio series.
When a vehicle rolls through an alignment bay, the view the sensors and targets get on the vehicle are limited and offer only a snapshot into the geometry of the suspension as alignment angles change when a vehicle is accelerating, braking and cornering.
The amount of weight transferred onto the suspension depends on the weight of the vehicle, center of gravity, height and dimensions of the vehicle. Weight transfer can be reduced by lowering the center of gravity height, which reduces the total car weight or by increasing the car’s track or wheelbase width. Moving the wheel further apart helps expand the base that is supporting the center of gravity.
When a driver hits the brakes and turns the steering wheel, a number of things happen. When the brakes are applied, weight transfers to the front wheels and the nose of the vehicle dives and the rear may rise up. When the wheel is turned, that weight transfers to the outside front wheel and the body tilts that way. When the driver accelerates and turns the wheel back to center, the weight is moved to the rear and squats it down.
This change in the body of the vehicle and the suspension in relation to the road during weight transfer affects the angles at the wheels. Changes to the angles can increase traction by changing the footprint of the tire or cause the vehicle to skid out of control.
Let’s say a customer rolls through an alignment bay. Since alignment angles are not static, this may not give an accurate alignment picture. It’s important for technicians to understand that and to complete a careful inspection while taking other measurements.