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Trike Designer
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58 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Everything you never wanted to know about wheel alignment on reverse trikes (or cars, trucks and all other front wheel steer vehicles)

First off just for simple validation purposes, not to be taken as chest pounding or arrogance in any degree. I am an engineer and designer of reverse trikes. It's what I do and have patents and trademarks related to my work. And I do it all from design to fabrication and R&D, I have experienced much success and failure and learned valuable lessons from both.

The following is meant to be of assistance only, I do not do front end alignments for hire and this is not a solicitation of any kind.

There disclaimers aside;

One of the big questions people will ask me is "how do you do your front end alignment?"

Well on my designs there is no simple answer as my units have fully adjustable alignment configurations. Toe, caster, camber and ride height are all fully adjustable so several systems of alignment are involved.

But when it comes to the simplest and l do mean simplest - toe, there are several methods one may use.

Before going into this let's see what toe really does. If you have positive camber (outward lean) on the wheels then each wheel will tend to drift apart so positive toe will compensate for this.

And then there is also a slight tire deflection that happens due to the rolling resistance of the tire so this also adds a slight amount of needed positive toe.

Will a simple toe alignment change the way the unit drives or handles? Well while the owner may think so the real answer is not really. I have purposely misaligned by using toe in of 1-1/2" to the other extreme of toe out 1-1/2" with only slight changes in handling and then only at slow speeds in tight corners. Excessive toe out will cause mild bump steer also. Caster and Camber do affect steering and handling to a great deal but toe just saves or destroys tires.

So how do you know if the wheels are in need of a toe adjustment? The tires tell the tale, no matter what the manual says if the tire wear on the inside edges you need to add positive toe, wear on the outside then decrease the toe in. If the tires wear in the center then reduce air pressure (16 psi is about right on the spyders) If the tires are cupping then you have way too much air pressure and are getting excessive bounce which will cause all kinds of handling and wear issues. Cupping is caused by the tires loosing contact and skidding, excessive pressure and bad shocks are the only thing that will cause cupping on automotive tires. Feathering is normally the result of improper toe adjustment to a major degree.

With correct adjustment you should see 50k as average run on normal radial automotive tires. The original Kenda tires are not the best but you should still see 30k on them.

Now normal toe in should be ¼" to 3/8" and to put this into perspective lets go with ¼" which is the measurement from axle to 12" radius front to back so the measurement at the front of the tires is 1/4" less than the measurement at the rear. This translates into 1/8" toe on each wheel which then translates into a difference of approximately .003 at the tire footprint. So what you are actually doing is altering the tracking difference in the footprint by about the thickness of a sheet of paper. This is why I say ¼" to 3/8" as 1/8" make very little difference.

So how to set the alignment? Simplest way is to get two pieces of 1x4x24" lean them against the outside of the tires and take your measurements. Adjust each tie rod to achieve the proper toe (3/8")

Method #2 use a standard alignment fixture which mounts to the rim that has an arm at the bottom which is 24" long and allows the tape measuring front and back. Again adjust as needed. These units are commercially available or if you are really handy you can fabricate your own. Eastwood has these on hand also.

Method #3 laser alignment - most expensive and usually done by an alignment shop. Once again the wheels are simply aligned with the slight toe in. And the laser just eliminates the need to use a tape measure.

Which is most accurate? Well laser really sound techie but fact is the most accurate overall is the hard fixture that fastens to the rim where you use a tape measure. But in general all three do the same thing within perfectly allowable range.

While laser sounds cool the laser must be calibrated and inline and really all it does is replicate what you can do with a fixture and tape.

Myths include - improper toe will cause pulling to one side or the other. No that is not possible as if the tie rods are not adjusted in unison then the wheels self-center and the handlebars are crooked.

It is impossible for a vehicle to dog track due to faulty toe adjustment. Only if the rear wheel is crooked may the unit dog track.

Alignment should be done only after you replace the tires - false as you are not aligning the tires you are aligning the rims (or I should say using the rim as reference)

Pulling to one side - This is normally caused by a dragging brake or a substantial imbalance in tire pressure. Improper toe cannot cause pull.

How difficult is this process - if you can change a tire you can do a professional 100% accurate toe adjustment, it is that simple. The hardest part really is getting at the lock nuts on the tie rods the rest is a slam dunk. Also keep in mind the only adjustment possible on the Spyder is toe. All the complicated and meaningful adjustments are fixed and factory set so simple toe is it.
 

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NautiBrit
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243 Posts
Great post, much appreciated.
 

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I don't understand that. I know they seem to all like laser alignments, maybe the sponsors that do them didn't like the info ?
 

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Trike Designer
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58 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Well they are primarily driven by sponsors so anything that is not in the best interest of the advertisers is forbidden. Laser is OK but certainly no better than static adjustments. After all you really can't do any real alignment except for simple toe which is a 5 minute job at most.

Oh well such is life.
 

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NautiBrit
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243 Posts
Maybe it would help the understanding part if you knew that the site owner performs laser alignments.
 

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Trike Designer
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58 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Maybe it would help the understanding part if you knew that the site owner performs laser alignments.
That is the point - People using sites to promote their products and not allowing free speech or alternate views. It's one thing to be a sponsor and pay for the right to promote or advertise but when the site owner banishes others who do not use his services then that is wrong.

There are many shortcuts and alternate methods in doing most mechanical repairs and adjustments, do you want your ideas and methods banned just because the site owner wishes to sell his product or his method only?

Simple alignment is something anyone can do in 5 or 10 minutes. Laser is just a way to extracting $500 from those who don't understand the simplicity of a toe adjustment.
 

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Great info! Having been into Jeeps all my life I've done quite a few DIY alignments. We call them shade tree alignments in the Jeep world. They always worked well before, and have on my spyder when I did it about 2 years ago.
It's not difficult stuff, just takes time and persistence.


Sent from my SCH-I545 using Tapatalk
 

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Great article,

I to feel that some sites discurage intelegent tips and feedback to problems people are having, I have been a mechanic in heavy machinery for 24 years and a trainer for the last seven years. I love working on my trike and dread having to bring it into the shop. I to have wear on my front right tire on the inside. I mentioned this to the dealer when I braught it in for the steering module recall, the dealer informed me that this was a common issue with the Spyder in Quebec because of the heavy crown on the roads here, he said we are always compensating to keep the trike in line, same as a two wheeler the left side of the tire wears moore than the right near the middle.

I am defenitely going to measure this and see for myself. I own the spyder service manual but it usses BUDS software as part of the alignement proses.

Thank's again for the article.
 

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Trike Designer
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58 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Here is a simple jig I made up that I use for all my alignments. it's 100% accurate and on my trikes I can adjust camber,caster, toe and sway bar stiffness.

I made the jig in 15 minutes for a cost of about $25 and it's every bit as accurate as the high priced laser jobs.

I just hate seeing people ripped off only because they don't understand the simplicity of a simple toe in adjustment. (I do adjustments for free)

DSC_7599.jpg
 

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All you need is a 8 foot aluminum flat bar to clamp to the frame allowing to frame aligne the wheels like you do on any other motorcycle. There laser alinment do dad was evened by some race car guys that need a perfect for the track they have done to be at and the alignment machien is back at the shop.
 
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