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Steering Geometry

The term "steering geometry" (also known as "front-end geometry")

refers to the angular relationship between suspension and steering parts,
front wheels, and the road surface. Because alignment deals with angles
and affects steering, the method of describing alignment measurements is
called steering geometry.

There are five steering geometry angles : Camber , Caster ,Toe, Steering
axis inclination, and Toe-out on turns

There are two more steering geometry angles that are not specific to each
wheel but measure the spatial relationship among all four wheels .These
are Setback and Thrust angle.
Camber is the tilting in or out of the front
wheels from the vertical when viewed form
the front of the vehicle. Generally less than 3

Positive camber: if the top of the vehicle
tilts out it has a positive chamber.

Negative Camber : If the top of the vehicle
tilts in it has a negative chamber.

Camber Angle: The amount of tilt is
measured in degree from the vertical is
called the chamber angle.

Zero Camber: The wheels should run
straight up and down in a true vertical
position so that the full width of the tire will
be in contact with the ground and wear and
tear will be uniform across the tire.
Camber Contd..
However zero camber does not occur at all the times during driving. This
is because the camber changes as the body and vehicle moves up and

When the tire hits a bump the camber goes negative while the tire drops
into a hole the camber changes from zero to slightly positive.

The upward movement of the vehicle is called jounce and the downward
movement of the vehicle is called rebound.

Any amount of excess camber either positive or negative will cause
uneven and more rapid wear.

Camber Contd..
Tilting the wheel puts more load on one side of the tire tread than the other
side . This is the reason it is called as tire wear angle.

Excessive positive chamber will cause the outside of the tire tread to wear.

Excessive negative chamber will cause the inside of the tire tread to wear.

Both these conditions are known as camber wear.

If the vehicle is rolling on a perfectly level road the ideal positive camber is
same for both front wheels.

Vehicle tries to pull towards the side where the positive camber is higher.

Camber Contd..

Many of the roads are crowned slightly i.e., they are higher at the center
than on the two sides. When the vehicle travelling in these kind of roads
with equal cambers will have tendency to pull away the vehicle towards
the side of the road.

In order to compensate this that the camber on the right wheel is more
than that of the left wheel (Right hand drive when the vehicles running on
left side of the road).

In passenger cars the variation of the tire wear may be not be much as the
weight of the vehicle is light. But it is clearly seen in case of heavy

During a turn centrifugal forces causes a body to roll and the sideward
forces against the bottom of the tires causes their tops to tilt outward.

Camber Contd..
In a left turn left wheel has positive camber and the right wheel has
negative chamber. Incorrect camber at both the wheels can cause hard and
unstable steering and wander.

Wander: It is the tendency of a vehicle to drift from one side of the road to the

The driver must continually fight the steering wheel to keep the vehicle
travelling in the desired direction.

Unequal camber can cause a low speed shimmy.

Low Speed Shimmy: It is the rapid in and out movement of front wheel on
its steering axis.

Sagging springs can change in camber. When rear spring sags it affects the
camber of the diagonally opposite front wheel. For each one inch of rear
spring sag, the camber can change as much as of degree.

Steering Axis
In older cars all steering systems had a king
pin that attached the steering knuckle to its

In the modern design the king pin is
replaced by the ball joints making it a single
unit ( Steering knuckle and its support).

The steering knuckle is supported by upper
and lower control arms.

A line drawn through the centers of ball
joints is called the steering axis.

Steering axis inclination is the angle
measured in degrees between the vertical
and line drawn through the center of the ball
joints when viewed from the front of the

Why do we want inclined steering axis

Returning the wheels to a straight head position after the car has turned . This
is called returnability.

It reduces steering effort when the car is stationary.

It tends to keep the front wheels rolling straight a head.

The inward tilt of the steering axis causes the front of the vehicle to raise
slightly as the wheels swing away from the straight a head.

The spindle of the wheel is at its highest distance when the wheels rolling
straight a head and when the wheels swings the height of the spindle
decreases but as the tire is in contact with the ground it cannot move
further down. So the steering knuckle ball joints , suspension and the
vehicle body moves up.

Steering Axis Inclination
The lift is slight it is one inch or less but this height is enough to bring back
the turned wheels to straight position.

Steering axis inclination is non adjustable as it is designed into steering

If camber is adjusted to its specifications SAI is usually correct.

When SAI is not with in the specifications the spindle, Steering knuckle,
ball joints are bent or worn and those has to be replaced.

It is measured in degrees. Steering axis inclination varies from 3.5 to 8.5
and its average value is 5 degrees.

Scrub Radius

Scrub radius: The distance at the road surface
between the tire line and the steering axis
inclination (SAI) line extended downward
through the steering axis.

Positive Scrub: When the intersection is
below the surface of the road, positive scrub
radius results.

Negative Scrub: When the lines intersect
above the road, negative scrub radius occurs.

Zero Scrub: If these lines intersect at the road
surface, a zero scrub radius would be present.
Effects of different types of Scrub Radius

Scrub Radius is also known as steering off set or scrub Geometry. The
effect of positive or negative scrub radius is to provide a turning movement
which attempts to turn the wheel away from its central position when the
vehicle is in motion.

On rear wheel drive with positive scrub radius the vehicle forward
motion and the friction motion between the tire and the road causes a force
which tends to move the front wheel back this would cause the wheel to toe

If it has negative scrub radius the front wheels attempts to move back and
it will cause toe in.

On the front wheel drive the opposite occurs positive scrub causes toe in
and the negative scrub causes toe out.

Front wheel driven vehicles will have negative scrub radius. It causes
toe in and as the vehicle moves forward and maintain stability.

Effects of different types of Scrub Radius on braking
During braking on any type of drive if braking effort is greater on one side of
the vehicle on the other, the positive scrub radius will cause the vehicle to wear
towards the side with greater effort. Negative scrub radius will cause the
vehicle to wear away from the side of the greatest effort.

How much it wears depends on the size of the scrub radius.

This is why the vehicle with diagonal split break system negative scrub radius
will built into its geometry.

If one half of the break system fails it will tend to pull the vehicle in a straight

Since the offset of the wheel rim determines it is important that offset does not
change when the wheel rim changes. Changing the rim off set changes the scrub
radius and the productivity of the vehicle handling if the brake fail.

Included Angle

Included angle is the angle formed between
the SAI and the camber.

Included angle is not directly measurable.

Included Angle: Camber angle + SAI

Included angle is not adjustable.

If the camber is negative, then the included
angle will be less than the SAI, if the camber
is positive, it will be greater. The included
angle must be the same from side to side even
if the camber is different.

The improper included angle indicates bent
spindle or strut ( Steering Knuckle)

Caster Angle
Caster: It is the tilt of the steering axis
towards the front or rear of the vehicle when
viewed from the side of the vehicle. It is
measured in degrees.

Positive Caster: A rearward tilt provides
positive caster when viewed from the side of
the vehicle.

Negative Caster: A forward tilt provides
negative caster when viewed from the side of
the vehicle.

Three reasons for using caster:

To maintain directional stability and control.
To increase steering returnability.
To reduce steering effort.

Caster Angle Contd..

Positive caster aids directional stability.

The point of contact is above the road surface so the push on the steering
axis a head of road resistance to tire. Positive caster tends to keep the wheels
pointed straight ahead. It helps overcome any tendency for the vehicle to
wander or steer away from straight ahead.

Vehicle with power steering has positive caster then the manual steering
vehicle. The additional caster will need more effort to steer the vehicle.

Excess positive caster may cause increase steering effort, steering wheel
snap back after a turn, low speed shimmy and increased road shock in
steering wheel.

Caster Angle Contd..
Decrease in positive cater will result from giving sag. This is one reason
to cheek suspension height.

Positive Caster tends to make the front wheels Toe in.

Negative Caster tends to make front wheels Toe out.

However negative caster makes steering easier. Then only SAI needs to
overcome by the driver to steer away from straight ahead.

Picture Showing the sagging of spring and
its effect on Camber
Toe in and Toe

Toe is the measurement of how much the
wheels point in or out from the straight
ahead position. The measurement is made in
inches, mm, or degrees.
Positive toe: When wheels point in, toe is
positive. The amount of wheels that point
inward is toe in.
Negative toe: when the wheels point out,
toe is negative. The amount of wheels that
outward is toe-out.

Effects of Toe In and Toe Out

Toe is set with the vehicle standing still. Typically the front wheels of rear
drive vehicle are given slight toe in of about 1/8 inch (3mm).

When the vehicle move forward road resistance usually causes the front
tires to spread a part or toe out. This comprises the steering linkages and
takes up any play. As a result the tires became parallel and roll straight
ahead with zero toe.

A tire has to move in the direction of vehicle travelling. Any toe in or toe
out drags the tire sideways and causes more tire wear. The greater the toe,
the faster the tire wear.

Turning Radius: The difference in the angles
of the front wheels in a turn. It is also called
toe out on turns and turning angle.

During a turn two front wheel travels on
concentric circles which have a common
center. The inner wheel turns through a
greater angle and follows a small radius than
the outer wheel. This is because outer wheel
has to travel greater distance and makes a
wider turn than the inner wheel.

The inner wheel toe out more to reduce the tire
scrub and wear. This difference in toe out on
turns is achieved by the proper relationship
among the steering arms, tie roads and
steering gear. The inner and out angle should
not vary more than 1.5 degree from
specifications .If turning radius is not within
specifications then cheek for a bent steering
arm or tie rod

Set Back
Set- back: The difference in vehicle wheel
base from one side to the other. It occurs
when one wheel is behind the other wheel on
the same axle.
Set back results from production tolerances
during vehicle manufacture and from
collision or impact damage. It can also
result from improper placement of the
engine cradle or sub frame.
A vehicle will drift toward the shorter wheel
base. Setback of more than inch (19 mm)
is excessive.
It usually indicates bent parts.

Correct any problem with excessive set
back before performing a wheel

Thrust angle
When all four wheels are properly aligned and the steering wheel is centred the
vehicle should travel forward in straight line. However if rear wheel has
improper alignment or set back. When the vehicle moves forward it may not
moves in a straight ahead. The direction of the travel is determined by three
lines that run the length of vehicle.

Vehicle center line.
Geometric center line.
Thrust line.

Vehicle center line: Line that passes through the center of the vehicle body.
Geometric center line: The line that connect the midpoint of the front wheels
and rear wheels.
Thrust line: Line from the midpoint between the two rear wheels.
If the thrust line makes 90 degree angle with the rear axle center line. It
coincides and the vehicle moves straight line

Thrust angle
Thrust angle: The angle formed between
the thrust line and the geometric center line.

Tracking: This is the situation where the
thrust angle is zero and all the four wheels
run parallel to the frame.

The thrust angle affects handling by causing
a pull in the direction away from thrust line.

In rear drive vehicles this may be caused by
chassis damage or improper positions of rear

Also independent rear suspension can have
unequal toe adjustments. Tire wear is more.