04-21-10 - Car Alignment

I got a "performance alignment" done for my car about a week ago. I'd heard it was the #1 best thing to do for your car if you are a serious driver (after or when you get good tires if your car doesn't come with them), but MY GOD I was not prepared for what an incredible difference it was. It was like "night and day" or "a whole new car" or whatever cliche you want to use to express the incredible difference in feel. It really felt like a different car. Before, the 997 felt powerful but a bit heavy and clumsy and mild, with the more aggressive alignment, it felt way sharper, much more "bite" for turn-in, much more grip in the corners, able to get more power down through the corner without losing grip, just awesome. I immediately went out and did some mad driving around the city because it just felt so damn good.

If you are a serious driver and are still running stock alignment, I highly recommend it. But do your research first.

Most people think of "alignment" as making the wheels straight to fix pulling issues. In reality alignment is much more than that and can give you a lot of parameters to tweak to play with the way the car handles. It's much cheaper than doing suspension mods, and often more effective. The main things you will want adjusted are toe and camber. I posted these links before :

Wheel Alignment A Short Course
Caster, Camber, Toe

But to repeat myself a bit, most stock alignments come with pretty significant toe-in and pretty minimal camber. What the toe-in does is make the car more stable, it acts to straighten itself. That means the front end doesn't wander under braking or when you hit bumps. Most pussy comfort drivers complain when cars are "wiggly" (which means they are "lively"), so manufacturers sell the cars with lots of toe-in. This makes them feel nice and stable on the freeway, but it sucks for making crisp turns. The other issue is camber - lots of negative camber means the wheels are tilted in; this will give you better contact patches when the car is in a lean through a corner. If you spend most of your time going straight on freeways or just turning slowly, then the stock alignment with minimal camber is fine, but if you do a lot of hard cornering, you will get much better grip with lots of negative camber. I now have my car set to zero toe and -1.2 degrees camber. Race cars will go even more extreme, sometimes even using toe *out* which makes them super lively and easy to turn-in, and tons of negative camber.

For Porsches you can ask for the "RoW Performance alignment" or just go to a good sport alignment shop and ask for an "aggressive street alignment" or something like that.

The next step on a Porsche is get to the GT3 "Lower Control Arms" which let you go to greater negative camber (-2 degrees seems good). You can hack this with "camber plates" but camber plates are like $50 and the LCA's are like $150 and labor will be $200 or so, so just go with the better LCA solution.


Chris said...
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cbloom said...

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