Caster amount for stable front end? - LotusTalk - The Lotus Cars Community
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 07-03-2019, 09:33 AM Thread Starter
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Caster amount for stable front end?

I recently bought new front tires, had them balanced and a 4 wheel alignment performed at the dealership in an effort to eliminate what I consider a wandering front end. I find this '98 Esprit to feel a little squirrely at times. Does this sound normal, or could this be a caster setting issue? How much caster could this chassis stand?
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 07-03-2019, 02:06 PM
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Curious you sound like a car knowledgeable person.

Is this "Tram-lining" where the tires follow unevenness in the road or something different?

Info post - this may be stuff you already know.

A huge profit center for alignment shops is fixing worn out suspension parts. The first thing they SHOULD do is put the wheels up in the air and grab each wheel at 3 and 9 and 12 and 6 and check for movement with the steering wheel locked.

As a former owner of an alignment shop though I can tell you when they see something like a Lotus they may figure there are no parts available to them so they dont check for worn parts. If they send you away un-able to fix worn parts they make no money!

Part two - you CANNOT align a car with floppy suspension. the alignment wont hold.

Its un-ethical but once they have your car on the lift they want to get that money and if they dont think you will let them fix it they might go ahead and "align" so they can get there $70 or $150 or whatever.

I would suggest you jack the front of the car up (securely on stands) remove the key from the ignition and get the wheel to lock with the wheels pointed as straight ahead as possible.

Push and pull on the wheels and see if you can detect anything moving that should not be moving.

Here is a list of very common problems we used to see - its fairly common sense but I post for folks who might not be that familiar:

- loose wheel bearings - tighten or replace
- control arm bushings (pushed out or deteriorated) - replace as needed
- upper or lower ball joint has failed or worn - replace
- tie rod end (inner or outer) has worn and is moving - replace
- steering rack is worn or damaged

You would not have believed the condition of some of the cars that came in - scary.

That list is for the front end - same list applies for the rear minus the steering parts.

What are your thoughts? could any of that be related to your wandering?

My 94 steering is absolutely telepathic. its amazing even compared to track prepped 911s I played with for 20 years.

I just re-read and saw that you went to the dealer...many of my comments may not apply :-)

94 Esprit S4 - Silver
Previous - lots of hot rod Air Cooled 911s
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Last edited by Erik L; 07-03-2019 at 03:44 PM.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 07-04-2019, 07:40 AM
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What are your current alignment specs?

'03.5 Final Edition Esprit ~ 5.7lbs/hp; mildly modded - 430rwhp, 353rwtq
'65 Karmann Ghia, '80 930, '89 928 S4, '92 Corrado, '02 Maserati Coupe, '06 Murcielago
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 07-04-2019, 10:34 AM
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Start with the basics. Check the air pressures in the tires. Does everything at least look straight and even? Is the steering wheel dead straight when the wheels are straight? Check the date codes on your "new" tires. How new are they really? Now check for any play (looseness) in the front and rear suspension. Is the car level or is one side higher or lower than the other. You can tell a lot of things just by looking, you don't need an alignment rack to see things that are "off". Is there a lot of 'junk in the trunk"? Take it out. Make sure the battery is secure and all of the hold-down hardware is there. Once you can pass at least these rudimentary checks take the car out on the road. At low speeds you get what I call "blocking" at low speeds because the tires are so wide and cold. Kind of a rhythmic side-to-side leading. Goes away once you warm up the tires or go faster. To do the next checks you must find a flat, smooth, level road with NO crown. The car must go straight, the steering wheel must be level, and the car has equal turns to the left and to the right with no appreciable looseness in the steering. You should not hear of feel any clunking, banging, or shuddering even when applying brakes. The car should not lead or "pull" to either side when driving or braking. Again, you can't do this on a road that is not FLAT and SMOOTH. As mentioned you CANNOT align a car with bad, worn, bent missing parts. Well, actually you can but it will be worthless. The truth is most cars really don't need an alignment as much as they need worn parts replaced. Most of the time the parts can be replaced and that, by itself, will bring the car back into alignment. Keep the rubber covers (gaiters) in good shape, replace torn ones, lubricate and grease the front end and your car will last a long time and hold it's alignment.

Now on to alignments. If you want a good job and save some money, do some "homework". Get the car ready. Replace worn parts, tires, anything that needs attention. Do a service on the suspension (lubricate it). Have the correct air pressure in the tires. Note the position of the steering wheel and the # of turns each way. Remove everything from the car (not the spare). Have 1/2 tank of gas, the specs for the alignment, and a kit of shims. Ask if they will put weight in to duplicate the weight of the driver and how much (should be close to your weight). Tell the Tech any concerns or problems to look for like leading, understeer, oversteer, play, roughness, looseness, vibration, etc. Insist on a "4 wheel alignment". The rear is as important as the front, just not as complicated. Dealerships are not the best place to go unless they do that type of car all the time. Most dealerships are only good at what they sell, they don't get a lot of experience on other kinds of cars. Better to go to a shop that does all kinds of cars, they will have more experience doing "unusual" stuff.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 07-19-2019, 08:35 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks guys for the detailed replies. Sorry for the delay in checking back. I've been busy with business things.

Yes, Erik L, I would absolutely describe the issue as "tram-lining". That's exactly what it's doing. The car doesn't really behave badly going down the road jrealty, hands off and everything is fine. It seems to be on certain roads the car is extremely skittish. I recently removed the rack and serviced it with new seals and there's no play or issues with that. I recently replaced all bushings with Poly's, so I checked all suspension components when I had it apart. But I will say that on closer inspection of my front tires I see wear on the insides. I guess they are no longer as new as I believed them to be. I guess I have about 5k miles on them now. I think I'll start there and see if that gets me anywhere.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 07-20-2019, 07:19 AM
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If you are not getting even wear across the tread of the tire you should check the camber and toe. If both tires are wearing the same way it can be the roads you drive on have excessive crown. Get a tread gauge (they are cheap) and measure all 4 tires and do each tire in several spots. Write all of your measurements down and see what is going on. Also check your air pressures and date codes. Check for any play in the steering and track rods. If you worked on the rack you may need to have another alignment to get the steering wheel centered and the front toe right. Typically you will get higher wear on the outside of the front tires especially if you do aggressive cornering.
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