The steering and suspension system in your truck may look simple enough, but in actuality it is a pretty complex series of arms, links, springs, and pivots. All of it is there to do a few basic things like soak up bumps in the road, keep the tires on the ground, and allow you to turn a corner. Even though the stuff is there to do these basic things, there are settings you can adjust even on a brand-new vehicle to make the truck handle better and make the tires last longer.
What does all of this have to do with the custom truck owner? Well if you have lowered your truck or slapped on an expensive rim and tire combo, you will need to have the alignment checked and reset to get everything back to specification. For those of you with 'bagged trucks, set your system to ride height and have it aligned there. Let's face it, there is nothing worse than dumping a bunch of money on new tires and wheels only to have the front tires go bald.
We contacted the suspension gurus at Hotchkis Performance to get the skinny on alignment and what are the best settings for a street performance truck. We used a '93 Chevy truck owned by Drew, who works at Hotchkis and drives the snot out of it on a regular basis.
While the truck was up on the rack, we walked through a few checks to determine why the truck was pulling to the left. Come to find out, one of his tie rods was bent and after it was replaced the alignment was set to the performance specs. The truck was ready to carve up a few more corners.
A Few Defintions
Caster: Caster angle is basically the angle of an imaginary line that runs through the center of the upper ball joint to the center of the lower ball joint. The truck will always be set with positive caster as it improves high speed stability, helps the truck track straight, and improves the tires' contact patch during a turn by complementing the camber setting. Too much positive caster will make the truck hard to turn and slow steering response.
Camber: Camber is the vertical angle of the wheel when viewed from the front and is adjusted with shims on older trucks and eccentric bolts on newer trucks.
Toe: Toe is the horizontal angle of the wheel when viewed from the front and is adjusted by lengthening or shortening the tie rods.
Oversteer: Oversteer is when the back end of the truck breaks loose and slides toward the outside of a turn.
Understeer: Understeer is when the front end of the truck breaks loose and slides in a corner or pushes toward the outside of a turn.
Good Street Performance Settings
0.5 degrees positive camber
3.5 to 4.5 degrees positive caster
Most Factory Settings
0.5 degrees positive camber
3.8 degrees positive caster
PART ONE: INSPECTION
1. Before you start adjusting stuff, visually inspect the front suspension. Look for thing
2. This truck had a bent outer tie rod, which was affecting the alignment. If you have to
PART TWO: CAMBER
Positive camber means that the top of the sticking wheel is out farther t
Negative camber means the bottom of the tire is out farther than the top.
PART THREE: TOE
Toe-out is when the front of the tires are farther apart than the back of the t
Toe-in is when the front of the tires are closer together than the back of the t
3. If you have lowered your truck you will need to adjust the toe setting before driving t
4. Once at the alignment shop, the technician will set the toe, adjust the camber, and the
5. Dodge trucks come from the factory with a poor camber curve, which makes the truck safe
The Final Word
Once all of the settings are adjusted properly in your truck, you should be able to feel the difference in steering response and stability. Maybe you will even be confident enough to practice controlling oversteer until you can pitch the truck sideways while staying in control.