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Vehicle Centre of Gravity It all starts with a definition

Locating the Center of Gravity (CG) in three dimensions (length, width and height) is an important first step to analysing many aspects of a vehicles performance, especially the suspension characteristics. For instance, the length and height dimensions are important when analyzing anti-dive and anti-s uat suspension geometry. !n this article !"m going to try to e#plain the $%ath& 'y deriving the main e uations. For those of us who are challenged to remem'er 'ac( as far as high school or first year college math and )hysics, don"t worry, although ! use some trigonometry functions to derive the formulas, the end result uses $real& measura'le num'ers. !n order to calculate the length and width dimensions of the CG, the vehicle will need to 'e weighed on a flat level surface. *sually this entails measuring the weight at each wheel 'y placing a scale under each. +e careful when lowering the wheels onto the scales, so as not to push the scale sideways. !f this does happen you ris( causing the mechanism to 'ind which may result in a false reading. Commercial scales for measuring the corner weights of race cars are availa'le that allow the vehicle to 'e driven onto the scales thus avoiding this concern. ,ote- you might consider loo(ing around at the local performance car clu's. .hese clu's will often have invested in a set of scales for mem'ers to use. /hops that setup race cars or performance street suspensions may also have a set of scales. .o find the height dimension of the CG, the vehicle will need to 'e safely raised (as high as possi'le) at one end and the weight under each wheel again measured while in the raised position. .o avoid the previously identified scale 'inding concern, the rear wheels are often easiest to lift, especially if the vehicle is e uipped with a solid rear a#le. %y formula"s assume that the rear has 'een lifted. 0ith reference to the various figures, we need to first measure the values of the following varia'lesVariable Description

1w' 1t(f 1t(r

0heel +ase - measures the distance 'etween front and rear wheel centres. .his can 'e accomplished 'y suspending a plum' 'o' from the centre of a front and rear a#le on the same side of the vehicle and measuring 'etween the suspended strings.

Front .rac( - measures the distance 'etween the centres of the front tyre ground contact patches.

2ear .rac( - measures the distance 'etween the centres of the rear tyre ground contact patches.

1w'up should in all cases 'e less than 1w'. 0flup 0frup 0rlup 0rrup 0eight under the front left wheel ( after lifting the rear wheels 'y height 1up ) 0eight under the front right wheel ( after lifting the rear wheels 'y height 1up ) 0eight under the rear left wheel ( after lifting the rear wheels 'y height 1up ) 0eight under the rear right wheel ( after lifting the rear wheels 'y height 1up ) . this should 'e measured 'etween the rear wheel centre and the ground. . *sually a lift height of 34-35 inches is the ma#imum necessary to achieve usa'le results. 0heel +ase lifted .0fl 0fr 0rl 0rr 0eight under the front left wheel ( with vehicle on level ground ) 0eight under the front right wheel ( with vehicle on level ground ) 0eight under the rear left wheel ( with vehicle on level ground ) 0eight under the rear right wheel ( with vehicle on level ground ) 1up 1w'up . For convenience and accuracy.he measurement can 'e accomplished in the same way as 'efore. 'y suspending a plum' 'o' from the centre of a front and rear a#le on the same side of the vehicle and measuring 'etween the suspended strings.he height that 'oth rear wheels are lifted off the ground.measures the horizontal distance 'etween front and rear wheel centres once the vehicle is lifted 'y height of 1up.

Table Length Dimension 0ith reference to the side view of Figure 3.1wr 1istance of the centre of the a#le to the ground. when all four wheels are sitting level on the ground. . we can see that the distance 1cgl defines the length co-ordinate of that imaginary point where the total weight of the vehicle would 'alance front to rear.

. the front wheel a#le centre 'ecomes the pivot point.Figure 1 !f we ta(e a point 6 some distance 7 in front of the vehicle we find the moment e uation for that point is descri'ed 'y- (7 8 1cgl) 9 0total Loo(ing at the diagram we can see that the following conditions hold0front : 0fl 8 0fr 0rear : 0rl 8 0rr 0total : 0cg : 0front 8 0rear /u'stituting varia'les and generating a 'alanced e uation of moments we get( 7 8 1cgl) 9 0total : (7 9 0front) 8 ((7 8 1w') 9 0rear) !f we now define 7 : . /u'stituting for 0total and solving for 0cgl we derive our first e uation- .

!uation 1" 1cgl : 1w' 9 0rear 0front 8 0rear #idth Dimension Figure $ Loo(ing at the rear view of figure 4 we can see that the following conditions hold0left : 0fl 8 0rl 0right : 0fr 8 0rr 0total : 0cg : 0left 8 0right +y the same reasoning used to derive e uation 3. we see that we can generate an e uation of moments a'out the point + as follows(< 8 1cgw) 9 0total : (< 9 0left) 8 ((< 8 1t(f) 9 0right) .

the left wheels 'ecome the pivot point. /u'stituting for 0total and solving for 1cgw we derive our second e uation- !uation $" 1cgw : 1t(f 9 0right 0left 8 0right *sing these two e uations together. how the co-ordinates relate to each other. we see in the top view of figure =. .6s 'efore if we ta(e <:.his can 'e done 'y calculating 1cgwCentre>ffset as follows- !uation %" 1cgwCentre>ffset : 1cgw ? ( 1t(f @ 4 ) . Figure % From a practical measurement perspective it may 'e easier to find the centreline of the vehicle and measure an offset in the transverse direction..

4 @ 1w' ) 0e also (now that . Figure & Figure A shows how a wider rear trac( effects the calculations.4 and solving for . .4 )as follows. !f the result is negative we measure left of the longitudinal centre line.3 ) and 1w' ( ie.an ( theta ) : ( . 4.3 we produce- !uation &" . 6 positive result is measured to the right of the Longitudinal centre line as drawn in figure =. !n this case !"ve specified the front and rear trac(s to 'e e ual. .his is rarely the case and normally the trac( at one end of the car is a little wider than the other. where the opposite sides represent the additional width with adBacent side lengths 1cgl ( ie.3 @ 1cgl ) : ( . .otes3.4 : ( 1t(r ? 1t(f ) @ 4 /u'stituting ..3 : 1cgl 9 ( 1t(r ? 1t(f ) 4 9 1w' . <ou can see that the additional rear width can 'e descri'ed using two similar triangles of angle theta.

.3 goes to zero and e uation C reverts to its previous form as shown in e uation =.e. we assume that the vehicle is a solid o'Bect and that the CG doesn"t move. 'ut also in height (i.ote that if the front and rear trac(s are the same width. . 1cgh). Dssentially.3 ? ( 1t(f @ 4 ) . 1cgl) and width (i. (eight Dimension .his one is a little more complicated.e.e. 1cgw). within that o'Bect. we see that the location of the CG is not only defined 'y varia'les in the length (i. !f we refer 'ac( to Figure 3 E 4.1cgwCentre>ffset now 'ecomes- !uation '" 1cgwCentre>ffset : 1cgw ? .his is true regardless of the o'Bects orientation. 'ut the way it is calculated has 'een around for years and once you see how it is done. . ! thin( you"ll agree that the reasoning is rather clever.

For 'est results it is necessary to immo'ilize the suspension so that the springs do not compress.o find the height of the CG. Loo(ing at the diagram.Figure ' . we can find the $new& horizontal dimension of the CG (ie. For each triangle. we can see that the following conditions hold1cgh : 1hy 8 1wr 1h# : 1cglup . we need to lift one end of the car (in this case the rear) and weigh all four wheels again using the same scales as 'efore.1cgup /in( +eta ) : 1h# @ 1hy :G 1hy : 1h# @ /in( +eta ) Cos( +eta ) : 1cglup @ 1cgl :G 1cglup : 1cgl 9 Cos( +eta ) /u'stituting and simplifying1cgh : (( 1cglup ? 1cgup ) @ /in( +eta ) 8 1wr 1cgh : (( 1cgl 9 Cos( +eta )) @/in( +eta ) ) ? ( 1cgup @ /in( +eta )) 8 1wr 1cgh : ( 1cgl @ . /pring compression changes the relationship of the wheel to the 'ody and therefore also the CG. the angle shown as +eta is also e ual. 1cgup) and produce the following e uation- !uation )" 1cgup : 1w'up 9 0rearup 0frontup 8 0rearup *sing the same reasoning that was applied to the derivation of e uation 3. we (now that the following definitions hold0frontup : 0flup 8 0frup 0rearup : 0rlup 8 0rrup *sing similar triangles we (now that the triangle with hypotenuse : 1w' and 6dBacent side : 1w'up is similar to the triangle with hypotenuse : 1cgh and >pposite side : 1h# and the triangle with Fypotenuse : 1cgl and 6dBacent side : 1cglup. +y su'stituting the new weight measurements.an( +eta ) ) ? ( 1cgup @ /in( +eta ) ) 8 1wr Furthermore we (now that/in( +eta ) : 1up @ 1w' .

. 6uthor.edu).%ar( Dl'ers 1isclaimer. we can determine ( in theory ) the e#act location of the CG of any four wheeled vehicle. +y plugging a num'er of relatively simple measurements into the three main e uations ( 3. !f you find errors in my wor( ! would appreciate hearing from you..mit. su'stituting into e uation 5 and simplifying a little we derive the final e uation- !uation *" 1cgh : ( 1cgl 9 1w'up ) 8 (( 1w'up 9 0rearup ) 9 1w' ) 8 1wr 1up ( 1up 9 ( 0frontup 8 0rearup ) ) Conclusion .lcs. 4 E H ). Bust a guy with access to relevant technical documentation and a sense of curiosity. 'ased on the research and general reading that !"ve performed on this topic.!"m not an engineer. ! can 'e contacted through the 000D1GD e-mail list (trIJmercury. .here you have it.an( +eta ) : 1up @ 1w'up /u'stituting further1cgh : (( 1cgl 9 1w'up ) @ 1up ) ? (( 1cgup 9 1w' ) @ 1up ) 8 1wr Finally.his article presents my thoughts.