Alignment question re Japanese cars vs American

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3,463
Location
Coastal South Carolina
Most of the american cars I owned in 70s and 80s always had excessive front tire inside side wear and also tended to pull either right or left. most of them were heavier cars with v8 engines (maybe heavy on the front end). they seemed sensitive to road crown. The ferrin cars I owned mostly hondas and Toys do not need much realignment and do not seem to ever pull or follow the road crown, most had lighter 4 cyl or small v6 engines. they track well. My question is are Japanese cars like Toyota and Honda aligned to different specs such that they are less sensitive to pulling one way or another? they all have tracked great, no steering wheel pull, 2 hondas 3 toyotas one isuzu,
 
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Messages
5,532
Location
Canada
When I first began to visit North America in the mid 70's I was surprised to see that most cars were fitted with (what was termed) 'conventional steering' ie. NON Rack and Pinion steering. In Europe R&P steering had been the norm at least since the 1950's and also seemed standard on the Japanise cars that I had seen. Conventional steering has many external, exposed joints (pitman arm etc.) all of which can wear and effect alignment. Worm and Peg, worm and Roller and recirculating ball steering boxes also tend to be more prone to wear and create imprecise steering. I don't know if this answers the question, but it was an observation I made Back in the Day. American cars of that era were also set up to REALLY under steer! Look at some of the car chases featuring cars from 70's.
 
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Messages
8,859
Location
Texas
Well, I'd say its how alignments are practiced more than how they are spec'd. The idea of precision alignments has come a long way in the past 20 years, aolthough the tech was always there it just wasn't out there in most shops. A properly aligned 60s-80s American car won't do any of what you described. LOTS of tired iron and improperly aligned cars were on the road back then. Most of the time when you went to get one of those $20 alignments in the 80s, all they did was is set the toe, maybe give camber a casual look. It takes some doing to simultaneously get camber, caster, and toe within spec on some cars. But once its set, it takes a pretty hard knock to actually change it, and I'd say on that score the old American cars have the advantage. Most would be better off had their owners NEVER tried to have an alignment done. Most cheap alignments did more harm than good. I will add that one problem with a lot of American cars with conventional (upper/lower arm) front suspensions from that era was available factory adjustment range. My '69, for example, is at the absolute limit of upper control arm adjustability on one side in order to get all parameters right. I'll probably add an adjustable lower strut rod the next time I'm into the front suspension to clear that up.
 
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36,528
Location
ME
A better question would be to compare numbers between say a new Fusion on 17" wheels vs a new Camry on 17" wheels. The old cars of which you speak were heavy and rode on tall skinny tires. I believe when they come up with the factory alignment numbers they assume a particular stock tire/wheel combo and how much intentional slip it's going to need to feel right. Anecdote: co-worker put really sticky Cooper Zeon tires on his economy Vibe and was having "darting" issues. We were thinking the tires were grabbing "too much" like they were loading up and then spontaneously releasing. And yes he (also) had rear camber/toe issues that could only be fixed with shims, but the sticky tires amplified the issue.
 
Messages
3,967
Location
Somewhere in the US
Wow. So much to comment on. First, US cars in the 70's and 80's were dealing with the changeover to radial tires. Radial tires require a different setup than the old bias tires did. Radial tires are less sensitive to camber changes, but more sensitive to toe in. Second, tires of that era were also changing fairly rapidly. The early radial tires had a very pronounced adhesion break off point. Unlike bias tires, where as you approach the limit of adhesion, the steering input greatly flattens out, the radial tires of the era peaked pretty sharply and small steering inputs were required to stay there. It was very easy to overdo it and lose control. There was a lot of work done to design this out. And third, car manufacturers and tire manufacturers didn't have a good handle on what tolerances produced good handling and avoided pull and drift issues. One of the things the Japanese vehicle manufacturers quickly learned was how to optimize conflicting priorities. They certainly did a better job than the US car manufacturers. As a result, their cars felt more precise. Certainly the use of rack and pinion steering helped in that regard and the US car manufacturers were somewhat slow to adopt this. So I don't think this is so much the alignment values, as much as it is the suspension design. And commenting on Eljefino's post about the darty Vibe. Toe out will do what he described - and since the allowable tolerance for toe is so wide, it is quite possible for the alignment tech to think things are OK. Plus, there is a thing called P-Rat (Plysteer - Residual Alignment Torque.) Plysteer is the property a tire has that constantly pushes sideways. It is a characteristic of the tire design and all tires have it to some extent. It is different than conicity, in that reversing the tire reverses conicity, but not ply steer - and concity varies from individual tire to individual tire, where P-Rat is pretty constant for a given make and model. Plysteer and Residual Alignmment Torque are different ways to looking at the same thing. Many vehicle manufacturers specify an upper limit to minimize drift and pull issues. Because of this, tire manufacturers should pay attention to P-Rat, but Cooper (who doesn't supply tires to any vehicle manufacturer) may not realize the importance and therefore, not try to control it.
 
Messages
1,555
Location
Oregon coast
Considering most Japanese cars are FWD, they will naturally pull the toe in while driving. RWD will toe out due to rolling resistance. That said, my Maxima only has adjustable toe, as did my fiero, so it really is case by case as to what's better or more adjustable.
 
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Messages
19,686
Location
Sunny Florida
Originally Posted By: CapriRacer
Because of this, tire manufacturers should pay attention to P-Rat, but Cooper (who doesn't supply tires to any vehicle manufacturer) may not realize the importance and therefore, not try to control it.
Yet another illustration of your good advice regarding OEM tires versus aftermarket. PRAT is far more noticeable on lighter cars, IMO.
 
Messages
9,559
Location
Boston, MA
Originally Posted By: CapriRacer
Wow. So much to comment on. First, US cars in the 70's and 80's were dealing with the changeover to radial tires. Radial tires require a different setup than the old bias tires did. Radial tires are less sensitive to camber changes, but more sensitive to toe in. Second, tires of that era were also changing fairly rapidly. The early radial tires had a very pronounced adhesion break off point. Unlike bias tires, where as you approach the limit of adhesion, the steering input greatly flattens out, the radial tires of the era peaked pretty sharply and small steering inputs were required to stay there. It was very easy to overdo it and lose control. There was a lot of work done to design this out. And third, car manufacturers and tire manufacturers didn't have a good handle on what tolerances produced good handling and avoided pull and drift issues. One of the things the Japanese vehicle manufacturers quickly learned was how to optimize conflicting priorities. They certainly did a better job than the US car manufacturers. As a result, their cars felt more precise. Certainly the use of rack and pinion steering helped in that regard and the US car manufacturers were somewhat slow to adopt this. So I don't think this is so much the alignment values, as much as it is the suspension design. And commenting on Eljefino's post about the darty Vibe. Toe out will do what he described - and since the allowable tolerance for toe is so wide, it is quite possible for the alignment tech to think things are OK. Plus, there is a thing called P-Rat (Plysteer - Residual Alignment Torque.) Plysteer is the property a tire has that constantly pushes sideways. It is a characteristic of the tire design and all tires have it to some extent. It is different than conicity, in that reversing the tire reverses conicity, but not ply steer - and concity varies from individual tire to individual tire, where P-Rat is pretty constant for a given make and model. Plysteer and Residual Alignmment Torque are different ways to looking at the same thing. Many vehicle manufacturers specify an upper limit to minimize drift and pull issues. Because of this, tire manufacturers should pay attention to P-Rat, but Cooper (who doesn't supply tires to any vehicle manufacturer) may not realize the importance and therefore, not try to control it.
I remember my grandfather being told back then by a tire "vendor" (who didn't have a radial in the size he needed) that "Ya CAN'T have radial tires if you've had a heart attack". I put hundreds of thousands of miles on my Toyota products, BUT I NEVER buy cheap tires. Some of the cheap ones may be good, but I stick to Conti, BGF/Michelin, and Yoki.
 
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Messages
446
Location
USA
Had a different and bad experience with Honda. Sensitive to tire lead. Did not go straight down in middle of straight road where there is no crown. Mine drifted to the right from new on day 1. Dealer claimed, all do that, will straighten out in time. Not true. Alignment within spec. Front can only adjust toe in this front strut model. Rotate tires not changed. Found other owners with same issue. No visible crash damage. Eventually had dealer do front sub frame shift. Increased right front wheel caster to greater than left. Maybe it was crashed or not assembled correctly from factory. Problem much improved. But still very sensitive to tires that pull. After every tire rotation, it might drift to one side. On the other hand, old Ford Taurus, old Mercury Villager, old Chrysler, newer Toyota Corolla with electric power steering. Went straight in middle of straight road when new or old. No particular sensitivity to drift when new, old or after tire change or tire rotation. Not so sensitive to road crown.
 
Messages
8,598
Location
Florida
You are comparing RWD cars to FWD cars. Take any American FWD car, and you will typically find the same alignment issues that those Japanese cars had. Yes, the steering parts on American cars usually didn't last as long, however if all the parts were in good shape, you wouldn't have much of a problem. I once dealt with a Japanesecar with major pull. It was a Mazda Miata, an RWD vehicle. To have some of those older American cars aligned, you would often have to pay an extra labor cost, because the upper control arm had to be loosened, shims had to be added or removed, and then the car had to be aligned again. That is why many shops set toe and ignored everything else. You can get the car to drive in a perfectly straight line, I remember having to go through all this to align a 1973 GMC Pickup. Some Japanese RWD vehicles used the shim alignment system, but many more had eccentric washers that took little effort to align.
 
Messages
3,431
Location
USA
Originally Posted By: CapriRacer
Because of this, tire manufacturers should pay attention to P-Rat, but Cooper (who doesn't supply tires to any vehicle manufacturer) may not realize the importance and therefore, not try to control it.
Cooper began supplying tires to Ford in 2013. Googling indicates that continued for 2014, but I don't know about 2015 and beyond. http://m.toledoblade.com/Automotive/2013...oper-tires.html
 
Messages
8,859
Location
Texas
Originally Posted By: artificialist
To have some of those older American cars aligned, you would often have to pay an extra labor cost, because the upper control arm had to be loosened, shims had to be added or removed, and then the car had to be aligned again. That is why many shops set toe and ignored everything else. You can get the car to drive in a perfectly straight line, I remember having to go through all this to align a 1973 GMC Pickup. Some Japanese RWD vehicles used the shim alignment system, but many more had eccentric washers that took little effort to align.
That's a GM thing. Every Chrysler product since the 50s used eccentrics for the upper control arm, but the downside was a non-adjustable LCA. Not generally a problem, but once in a while you really need an ajustable strut rod to push the LCA backward or pull it forward a bit, which is why the aftermarket has them. Its funny how people so often judge all American cars by stupid things GM did. I took my '69 R/T to a high-end alignment shop a few years ago, a guy that specializes in BMW M-series but also does a lot of Japanese autocrossers. He'd never done an old Mopar before, and he kept saying stuff like, "Hey, they have a removable access panel to get at the cam from under the hood... That's really slick!" Hey, look at that, you can get at both cams from the engine bay side, I had no idea these old cars had things like this." FWIW, BEST alignment I've ever had by far. Doesn't matter that he'd never done that type of car- the knowledge of how all the parameters interact and how to optimize across all the specs given the limits of the adjustments was the key.
 
Messages
6,170
Location
North Coast
Just find a good alignment shop with a newer Hunter rack and a guy who knows how to use it. I have a Goodyear shop about 5 miles away and they do at least 100 alignments a week. So the techs are experts. They do all of my work and get them dead on. Cost $69 and well worth it with our lousy roads.
 
Messages
4,256
Location
Central Maryland
Gotta agree with the guys here, as 440Magnum says it depended on the shop, and as eljefino said not many shops wanted to bother to fix the shims properly. It was a lot of money the customer didn't want to spend, and they got to sell more new tires all the sooner. I'll add one more thing, not every shop in the 70's had thrust angle alignment aka 4 wheel alignment. That's where the fronts are aligned according to where the rear axle points, even if the rear axle is non-adjustable (probably on leaf springs), the alignment should take that into consideration. For years this was an extra-cost option in some shops, and not available in others.
 
Messages
8,598
Location
Florida
Originally Posted By: HangFire
Gotta agree with the guys here, as 440Magnum says it depended on the shop, and as eljefino said not many shops wanted to bother to fix the shims properly. It was a lot of money the customer didn't want to spend, and they got to sell more new tires all the sooner. I'll add one more thing, not every shop in the 70's had thrust angle alignment aka 4 wheel alignment. That's where the fronts are aligned according to where the rear axle points, even if the rear axle is non-adjustable (probably on leaf springs), the alignment should take that into consideration. For years this was an extra-cost option in some shops, and not available in others.
Most newer alignment computers already compensate for thrust angle if the vehicle is RWD and has a solid rear axle. However, when the car is FWD, uses a solid rear axle, and the rear is out of alignment, then the machine typically expects you to install alignment shims.
 
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