During the past few months I've tried every possible wheel alignment setting on my C4. You have to understand that at we at Team VETTE try to take a perfectly good Corvette and push it past all the limits. The idea is to take our own Corvettes and keep going until we really screw them up. Boy, did I do that.
I finally found an alignment setting that was fantastic on the race track. The only problem was that my old white '85 Corvette became undriveable during morning and afternoon commutes. I fully demonstrated that what is good for the track is not very good at 65 mph, and it's even worse at 40.
There are two very important things we need from our '84-96 Corvettes. First, we want the car to go down the road in a straight line. Secondly, we want those big expensive tires to last as long as possible. These goals are the same for the street or the track. How we get there, however, is a whole different situation.
Proper alignment is absolutely essential for maximum traction and high-speed performance, not to mention optimum tire wear The one thing that makes all this possible is a quality four-wheel alignment. The only time you should need an alignment is when something causes the wheels to move from the last time you had an alignment. A giant pothole could cause something in your suspension to shift. Also, wear in the steering components could cause all the settings to change. (In our case, we just kept screwing with the settings every time we put it on the track, but that's a story for another day.)
The problem is that suspension and steering components wear gradually. The aforementioned pothole damage is something you'll notice immediately. Accumulated wear, on the other hand, is something you'll adjust your driving style to. It's not until someone else drives the car that the poor alignment becomes readily apparent.
An annual preventive maintenance alignment will tell you if anything has changed. If it has, some usually minor adjustments will put you back in business. If you wait until you actually feel a change in the steering, or notice a high-speed wander, some serious changes have already taken place, and the repair bill will test the limits of your Visa card.
There are several ways to decide if an alignment is really necessary. First, check the tread depth of your tires on a regular basis. Uneven tire wear is a dead giveaway that your Corvette needs help. All four tires should wear evenly across the tread. There shouldn't be any difference in the wear on any corner of the Corvette, or across the tread of any given tire. Anytime you notice excessive tire edge wear, beware-you have an alignment problem.
Another dead giveaway is having to steer your Corvette constantly while you drive down the road. Any Corvette, of any year, should go down a straight road without steering input. Steering wander at highway speeds is a definite sign of a problem. It might be because of accumulated chassis wear, but it's a sure sign that your wheels are not pointed in the appropriate direction.
Where Do You Go For An Alignment?
Finding someone to align your Corvette is getting to be a major problem. There are very few people left in the service industry who can align a Corvette properly. I used to train technicians, and only about 10 percent of the people who claim to be alignment specialists have any real knowledge of what they're doing. It takes a certain amount of intelligence, and a lot of experience, to do the job properly. Very few shops can attract and hold this type of service technician.
There's no special type of service center that's better than another. Your Corvette needs an outstanding alignment specialist, whatever type of shop they work in. They might be at a local tire center, or at an independent garage. You might even find one at the local Chevrolet dealership. It isn't that the Corvette is so difficult to align-it's just that most of us are very picky about the way we want our Corvettes to drive.