It goes without saying that an automobile is a rolling marvel of engineering. Being fans of cars, we’re pretty certain Motor1.com readers are familiar with at least the fundamentals of how it all works, but when you dig deeper you’ll find a completely new level of respect – and perhaps a bit of trepidation – at how everything works together to get you to work every day, or around a race track a second quicker than the previous lap.
One aspect seldom discussed but extremely vital is caster angle. In simple terms, it’s the steering angle applied to the front wheels that can affect how the car turns. You won’t see this visually on the wheel itself, but rather, on the steering components behind the wheel. Learn Engineering on YouTube offers a very clear explanation on all the specifics (featured in the video above), and though there are numerous benefits to the caster angle, the primary benefit is that the front wheels will naturally return to a straight-on orientation when you let go of the steering wheel. Here’s why.
Gallery: Understanding Caster Angle
For the front wheels to turn, they obviously must attach to the car at a pivot point. Instead of having that point directly perpendicular to the ground, it’s angled backward slightly. That angle is called caster, and it’s important because it moves the rotation point of the wheel forward with respect to the ground. The place where the tire actually contacts the ground doesn’t change – it's still straight down. But with the pivot point moved forward of that contact patch, centripetal force naturally brings the wheel back to a straight position.
There are performance aspects to caster angle as well. Under high cornering loads, the suspension will compress and that can change the caster angle slightly, thus affecting how the front wheels respond at higher speeds on a race track. Caster angle typically isn’t adjustable on normal cars, but race cars can often change this up depending on the track to increase cornering ability.
There’s nothing like a bit of automotive tech to kick off a new year. Use your knowledge wisely.
Source: Learn Engineering via YouTube