The Importance Of Front-End Alignments - Front-End Alignment Basics
Understanding Alignment For A Better Driving Mustang
You can eliminate this ancient shim process with some of the aftermarket performance suspension systems from Total Control Products, Global West, Ron Morris Performance, and Heidt's. All have adjustable Heim joints that do away with shims entirely. These systems stay in proper alignment and improve handling.
Toe is a fundamental of your Mustang's steering linkage. To steer precisely and predictably, your Mustang should have a very minute amount of toe-in, meaning both front tires pointed ever-so-slightly inward with the wheel centered, which allows the steering wheel to return smoothly to center after a turn. With too much toe-in, they will return too quickly to center. By the same token, toe-out has the opposite effect. Return to center in a turn will be sluggish to the point that you have to help the wheel return to center. That takes the pleasure out of your driving experience. Either way, with too much toe-in or toe-out, tires will scrub and wear increases proportionally. Excessive toe-in causes heavy wear along the tire's outboard edges. Too much toe-out causes wear along the inside.
If toe-in or toe-out causes tire wear, why isn't a Mustang's toe neutral? The reason is stability. There is a finite amount of toe-in, expressed in degrees from parallel, to improve a Mustang's stability while going in a straight line. With a small amount of toe-in, steering input feels confident and sure without being too sensitive. In fact, toe-in makes steering more predictable because the steering wheel wants to remain centered. When toe is dialed in to factory specifications, there should be no wandering whatsoever unless there's a significant crown in the road or high wind.
Toe-out is another story. With toe-out, your Mustang wants to steer right or left and steering becomes very sensitive. Racers tend to like toe-out for this reason. They know they're going to get quick response in turns with a certain amount of toe-out.
Before an alignment is performed, have your alignment technician check ball joints, tie-rod ends, idler and Pitman arms for excessive wear. Upper and lower control arm bushings, plus spring perch bushings, must also be checked for wear. When these items are excessively worn, your Mustang will not remain in alignment. In fact, alignment settings will change the minute you hit the road.
Caster and camber for '74-'78 Mustangs are adjusted by moving the upper control arms. The strut rods are fixed and cannot be adjusted. Instead of shims or eccentrics, Ford got smarter by having an upper control arm that can be adjusted, then locked down. The upper control arm angle can be changed to adjust caster. Move the upper control arm in or out to change camber.
When the Mustang switched to a McPherson strut front suspension in 1979, alignment changed forever because it eliminates the upper control arm. McPherson struts are fully adjustable on top, so caster and camber angles can be changed by moving the strut and control arm. Once the strut is properly adjusted, it's locked down. Toe is adjusted the same conventional way as first generation Mustangs despite the use of rack and pinion steering and adjustable rod ends.
For complete '65-'09 Mustang alignment specifications, go to our website at www.mustangmonthly.com.