Toe (automotive)

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Toe is the symmetric angle that each wheel makes with the longitudinal axis of the vehicle, as a function of static geometry, and kinematic and compliant effects. This can be contrasted with steer, which is the antisymmetric angle, i.e. both wheels point to the left or right, in parallel (roughly). Positive toe, or toe in is the front of the wheel pointing in towards the centreline of the vehicle. It can be measured in linear units, at the front of the tire, or as an angular deflection.

In a rear wheel drive car, increased front toe in (i.e. the fronts of the front wheels are closer together than the backs of the front wheels) provides greater straight-line stability at the cost of some sluggishness of turning response, as well as a little more tire wear as they are now driving a bit sideways. On front wheel drive cars, the situation is more complex.

Toe is always adjustable in production automobiles, even though caster angle and camber angle are often not adjustable. Maintenance of front end alignment, which used to involve all three adjustments, currently involves only setting the toe; in most cases, even for a car in which caster or camber are adjustable, only the toe will need adjustment.

One related concept is that the proper toe for straight line travel of a vehicle will not be correct while turning, since the inside wheel must travel around a smaller radius than the outside wheel; to compensate for this, the steering linkage typically conforms more or less to Ackermann steering geometry, modified to suit the characteristics of the individual vehicle.

It should be noted that individuals who decide to adjust their car's static ride height, either by raising or lowering, should immediately have the car properly aligned. The goal is to bring total front and rear toe settings to 0°, as toe is the major contributor to abnormally increased rate of tire wear. The common misconception is that Camber angle causes an increased rate of tire wear, when in fact camber's contribution to tire wear is usually only visible over the entire life of the tire.

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