The A-Z Of Corner Balancing Your Car For A Smooth Ride
Corner balancing is a term that should ring a bell if you’re even slightly familiar with racing. Perhaps you must have heard NASCAR presenters speak of a “wedge” which basically refers to this term. Corner balancing is a term that is frequently misconstrued and this article aims to shed light on what it is capable of and why you must balance your car.
When prepping your car for a long ride, corner balancing is the most important facet that has to be considered. So, you have fitted the coilovers on your car, fixed the approximate ride height, reinstalled the tyres and wheels and set it back on the ground to see if any additional alterations are required. Of course, the car settles down the way you want it, but the pressing question here is whether there is uniformity in the weight distribution of the vehicle throughout all four corners.
If this is not the case then it’s clear as day that the entire weight falls on just two corners which cannot be a good thing. All four corners have to be firmly planted on the ground so as to experience a smooth ride.
What has to be done?
The goal here is to divide the weight carried evenly between the two diagonal sets of wheels to enhance expected handling. Imagine elevating the ride height of the left/front and right/rear wheels to an absurd amount of say 10 inches. Your car would resemble a teeter-tottering chair. You would be able to lift up and push down the front/right fender and see the car wobble back and forth. Since we’re working on a car that is resting on springs, the problem can still persist even if it appears like the car is squarely planted on all its fours to the untrained eye.
Corner balancing a vehicle correctly will improve its overall performance when on the road and to do this, it’s very important to get an insight on what corner balancing involves and how you can do it.
Understanding Corner Balancing
Corner balancing is the adjustment of the spring perches on the vehicle in order to obtain a well balanced diagonal weight on the tyres with the help of four individual scales. It is quite often referred to as ‘corner weighting’ or ‘scaling’. Corner balancing can be understood with the help of a simple analogy of a basic four-legged table. To prompt even distribution of weight all across the table, it is necessary that all four legs be of the same length. If even one leg of the table is shorter than the others, the whole table will become unbalanced and unsteady. In terms of a car, the wheels tend to function in pretty much the same way.
Corner balancing is done to adjust the transverse weight distribution, which is basically the weight that sits on each tyre. This technically means that the driver should be in the car with the fluids topped off with just the right amount of fuel in the tank to imitate race-weight conditions as precisely as possible. This also includes relocation of batteries, lead ballast and other elements.
Importance of Weight Calculation When Corner Balancing
There are two aspects that come into play when measuring a car’s corner weights and these are left weight percentage and rear weight percentage. This is basically applied with the static weight distribution of the car. Left weight percentage is determined by adding the left front and rear weights and then dividing the sum by the total vehicle weight. The reason for the importance of weight on the left side is to compensate for the weight of the driver. The rear weight percentage is determined by adding the left rear and right rear weights and then dividing the sum by the total vehicle weight. A lot of electronic scales will help you calculate these percentages.
The diagonal or crossways weight is the ‘cross weight’, which is an essential factor of corner balancing. For instance, the left front and right rear should weigh the same as the right front and left rear – a 50/50 cross balance. As mentioned earlier, cross weight is also referred to as ‘wedge’. If the cross weight is over 50 percent then it’s a given that your car has a wedge. If the cross weight is below 50 percent, your car has something that’s called as ‘reverse wedge’.
One of the major problems with cross weights is that it will alter the handling balance from right to a left turn. When racing down a road course, the cross weight should be very close to 50 percent as much as possible, or at least within a percent or two either way. That should keep the handling balance similar in a right-hand turn in comparison to a left-hand turn.
If the car’s cross weight isn’t properly balanced, it will turn seamlessly in one direction as compared to the other. On certain tracks, there are considerably more right turns than left and so a biased cross balance will work in your favour. But the thing to keep in mind is, not all tracks will be like that; not all tracks will have equal number of left and right turns.
In certain situations, the driver may want the car to handle lopsidedly but this is restricted to particular tracks only. In order to get the desired asymmetry, the car needs to start with a balanced and even baseline.
Adding Weight To Aid Corner Balancing
Corner balancing can be achieved by adding weight to the car where it is needed or by reallocating certain select components to other areas of the car. In the past, car enthusiasts have used nearly anything they could find to add weight to their vehicle in order to achieve cross balance that is near perfect. Weight plates that were made from dumbbells, lead weight bars, gallons of water and sandbags have been seen and used to do the corner balancing deed.
When speaking of racing your car down a race track, any enthusiast racer would want two things – one that his car looks great and two that it is perfectly corner balanced. When it comes to breaking it down to the core function, driving a race car on the track eventually comes down to its weight management. Managing the car’s weight evenly on each of the tyres to intensify the grip, the rear for traction, the front for braking and left/right for cornering is very critical. Having the corner weights at static makes this function a tad bit easier.
That being said, the higher the level of performance and skill set of the driver, the more important corner-weights become. For beginner and intermediate drivers, corner weights aren’t as important as polishing their basic driving skills.
Corner Balancing Your Vehicle
Corner balancing is important if you own a race car and are a professional racer but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay attention to it in general with your vehicle. There are few key aspects of corner balancing that you must take into account.
First, you’ve got to ensure that your scales are level with the ground. A smallest difference in height of the scales can be the cause for your measurements to be inaccurate. Place the scales on the ground and then check the height of each scale comparing it to the other scales. You can do this by using a correct method like a laser or water level. Whichever scale is more elevated than the others is chosen as the primary scale. The remaining three lower scales must have their height raised to match the level of the primary scale. The heights of the scale should be adjusted so all the measurements are with 1/16-inch of the primary scale.
Before your car even touches the scales, it needs to be set up in a manner that it imitates the track on which it is to be driven. This means that your vehicle needs to be aligned and the ride height has to be set. The tyre pressure also needs to be taken care of and set appropriately with the weights added so as to simulate the driver and the fuel load.
The next step of preparation involves the detachment of the sway bar. Detaching one end would work but detaching both ends will ease up on more friction from the suspension. Another thing that you need to absolutely pay attention to in order to successfully corner balance your car is to set up the ramps. This should be in such a manner that one ramp is set behind each scale so it becomes easier to roll the car on and off of the scales.
After several height adjustments, your car has to be rolled off and put back onto the scales. Doing so, will let the tyre’s cross positions readjust itself evading any chances of binding from the suspension scrub. Remember to never lower a vehicle directly onto the scales. Once your car is on scales, you will be able to see how its weight is distributed all across the four tyres. If a certain corner of your ride has more weight on it as compared to others, you can lessen the weight by lowering the height in that particular corner.
When you do this weight adjustment, it will not only reduce weight on that corner but also on the diagonal opposite corner. If there’s too little weight on one corner of the car, you can add some load by raising the ride height in the said corner. By doing this, you will be balancing weight in that corner and the one on the opposite side as well.
Taking Your Time And Making Notes
Corner balancing is something that cannot be done in a jiffy. You’ve got to take time and carefully note down the weights and various measurements that will help you scale your car efficiently. Corner weighting a vehicle is extremely strenuous and time consuming which is why every single adjustment made has to be noted with the result in mind. With so many things that are to be considered you obviously won’t be able to memorise everything, which is why writing it down will really help. If someone has hands-on experience dealing with corner weighting a car, the process becomes fairly quicker and easier as they are likely to have enough notes on various adjustments and results to refer to.
It’s of utmost importance to make small adjustments in every corner, crosschecking your results on the scale and taking them down as you go. Another aspect to be mindful of is that the more rigid the suspension is, the less vertical height adjustment you will need to make. One turn on the coilover sleeve is enough to prompt a considerable change in the overall weight.
Taking time to wrap your head around the consequences of the adjustments you make is the keystone to corner balancing a vehicle successfully. The slightest mistake in understanding this can lead to wrong adjustments being made and your car won’t swerve as per your expectations not to mention the handling issues that you will be facing.
Bringing Order To The Chaos
Before we go all out and start hoisting and lowering the car as we please, there has to be some semblance of method to the chaos at hand. This is where we need to be extra cautious as measuring the ride height is critical to corner balancing and weighing. The aim is to have the diagonal corner balance at 50 percent without having to tilt the ride height for visual and aerodynamic reasons. At last, scrutinise the measured corner weights and observe the way the front weights are different from each other by roughly 70 lbs. You will see that the rear also varies by approximately 70 lbs – at both the opposite corners.
This is what corner balancing involves and you can very well fix it!
Keep in mind that physically, it’s not possible to shift the weight around without shuffling components in the car, so the front weight in its entirety will always be the same as the total rear weight. However, you can move the load from one set of diagonals to another. Keeping this in mind, try to foresee what will happen when making the first adjustment itself.
Coming back to the height measurement of your ride, take measurements from the bottom of the rim to the fender. This will give you a rather precise reading, presuming that the vehicle’s body is fresh. If it’s dented or bent at places, then you will have to measure the frame rails or in case of cars you will have to use several aerodynamic tools for the job. Measure the splitter and diffuser height which is generally essential for cars.
At times, people fail to grasp what can be achieved by proper corner balancing and what cannot. People often tend to make references related to corner balancing to adjust things that it cannot actually change. This tells us that we need to be very careful with the measurements and tactics we apply to correctly corner balance our cars.
Voila, We’re Done!
There you have it! Your car is now ready to glide smoothly on the road with flawless alignment and perfect corner balancing, or is it? Nothing is as easy as it looks. When it comes to suspension tuning, every change you introduce will affect every other dynamic of your car. Large ride height adjustments are bound to change the overall alignment just like large alignment changes can affect a car’s corner balancing. Changing camber, caster and toe can change the height of your ride. For this reason solely, it is best to set the ride height exactly where you want it to be then align the car and lastly look into getting it corner balanced.
Generally, you will be close enough so a few mm here and there won’t really affect the alignment when taking measurements. Lastly, before anyone assumes that corner balancing is the answer to suspension tuning, we’re here to tell you that it’s not. Static weight distribution is the most important aspect and will continue to be so whenever corner balancing crops up.
Corner balancing is simply making the most of what you have. If you gauge your car and see that it’s unbelievably heavy on the front left side due to the batteries mounted there, consider shifting them. Every single time that you shift weight from one side to the other, you help yourself twice – once by removing weight from the heavy area and again when you adjust that weight in a lighter area.
Now that you are aware of the nitty-gritty involved with corner balancing, you can guarantee a smooth ride for yourself anytime. Although, do familiarise yourself with the process and take professional help if need be.