Wheel alignment can get extremely complicated once you step out of the comfort zone of daily drivers. Toe, camber, and caster all play a major role in how a vehicle tracks. In this installment of the eEuroparts.com Car Owners’ Manual, we’ll discuss the importance of toe angle and how it affects your ride.
We’ll also cover the difference between toe setups on RWD and FWD vehicles, and why toe angle is arguably the most important aspect of wheel alignment in general.
What is Toe Angle?
Toe angle represents the horizontal angle of the front wheels on your car, in relation to the direction of travel. Toe-in angle translates to your wheels being pointing inwards, while toe-out angle means that your wheels are pointing away from each other.
Even though camber is more widely discussed in the automotive world, it’s the amount of toe that truly determines how your vehicle handles on the road. To further emphasize the importance of toe angle, it’s worth mentioning that different types of vehicles require different toe settings in order to perform optimally.
How Does Hardware Affect Toe Angle Alignment?
Contrary to popular belief, a neutral static toe where both front wheels are pointed straight forward isn’t necessarily the optimal solution for all cars. In fact, depending on what you drive, a neutral toe angle can be quite detrimental to vehicle stability, but also the way that vehicle responds to user input during cornering.
Why is that? Because toe angle has a lot to do with the type of suspension bushings, and other suspension components that came with the car. As it turns out, your car’s suspension tracks differently when you’re driving slow compared to when you drive fast.
Most car manufacturers account for this change in driving dynamic by setting a certain amount of toe-in or toe-out for the front wheels.
Why Do Front-Wheel Drive Cars Feature Toe-out?
Suspension isn’t the only thing that affects the optimal amount of toe on modern vehicles. There’s also the small matter of drivetrain design. Front-wheel drive cars traditionally feature a slight amount of toe-out angle on the front wheels.
The reasoning behind this is fairly straightforward — the front wheels of an FWD car have a natural tendency of driving ‘inward’ due to the force they exert on the road surface. The fact that front wheels provide both power and steering in this scenario is also relevant. When a front-wheel puts down power and translates that force onto the surface it’s moving across, it has a natural tendency to toe-in on its own.
To counter this effect, most FWD cars feature a slight toe-out angle as default. That way when the car gets up to speed, the forces balance each other out, leaving you with a neutral, or healthy amount of toe.
What About RWD Cars?
The front wheels on rear-wheel-drive vehicles, unlike those found on front-wheel-drive cars, don’t have to multitask. Since there’s no force pushing the front wheels toward each other, car manufacturers generally use a tiny amount of toe-in to keep the vehicle stable at higher speeds.
That way, when the car is traveling at speed and the front wheels naturally turn out due to all the forces involved, you’re left with a fairly neutral toe angle that helps with stability.
Rear Wheel Toe Angle?
Front wheel toe setup is a subject that has been covered quite extensively. However, rear-wheel toe is often ignored, even on more technical forums. One of the reasons why rear-wheel toe is somewhat taboo is the fact that it has very few practical applications outside the track.
When you change the toe angle of rear wheels, usually by creating a toe-in angle, you’re making the car more stable at higher speeds. However, you’re risking introducing oversteer when you play with rear wheel toe.
That being said, rear-wheel toe-out setups are generally a big no-no, unless you’re setting the car up for a very specific type of use. The reason is that just like with front wheels, excess toe-out angle on the rear wheels will make them easier to follow the direction of a corner. In other words, you can turn in more with less input.
Where can this be useful? Think low-speed autocross applications where more agility in corners makes the most difference. However, you don’t want your car to be overly sensitive to driver input while you’re doing 85 mph on a highway. In fact, even a slight amount of toe-out angle on the rear wheels can be downright dangerous in regular traffic.
Do Toe Angle Requirements Change with Suspension Upgrades?
The answer is yes. Installing performance suspension upgrades, poly bushings, and generally tightening the ride can drastically reduce the amount of speed induced toe. Cars that feature these upgrades can get away with using static toe alignment angles that are much closer to neutral than what most regular cars run.
If you’re looking to get quality aftermarket suspension components for your European car, you’re at the right place. Here at eEuroparts.com, we carry quality performance coils, shocks, coilovers, bushings, and more, produced by some of the most reputable brands in the industry. All you need to do is head over to our online store, select your car using our vehicle navigation tool, and you’ll be presented with a list of parts that are a guaranteed fit for your vehicle!