What Is Toe On a Car? (Toe-In vs Toe-Out Effects)

Cars are like ballerinas. They got their own feet, with their own toes that point in or out. They can dance around the track, or fail terribly and break their ankles.

The difference between proper toe settings and a miserable failure can be a matter of a few degrees when it comes to your car’s suspension. In this article, I’m going to learn you a thing or two about toe.

What is Toe?

Imagine your car’s front tires are feet, and the front of the tires (closer to the front bumper) are the toes.

If your car has “toe-in”, the fronts of the tires will be pointed inward toward each other. If your car has “toe-out”, the fronts will be pointed outside away from each other. 

Toe vs Camber

From a bird’s eye view, toe is the angle at which the fronts of your tires are pointing. Toe-out is with the fronts pointed outwards, away from each other and toward the outside of the car. Toe-in is with the fronts of your tires pointed inward toward each other.

Camber, on the other hand, is related to the tops of your tires and their relationship relative to the bottoms of your tires. If you have a negative camber angle, the tops of your tires will be closer in to the center of your vehicle, with the bottoms of your tires further out.

This gives a more “flush” or squat look to your vehicle’s stance, and looks AWESOME. Negative camber also increases the size of your contact patch, which helps when you are drifting as you’ll want the largest amount of surface area on your turning and braking surfaces (your front tires). 

Positive camber, on the other hand, should be killed with fire. Not really, but positive camber is when the tops of your tires are further out away from your upper control arm than the bottoms of your tires.

Next time you see a rally car or off-road racing truck, check out the camber on those front wheels. Generally, there’ll be a bit of positive camber so the trucks can have the best contact patch possible throughout the entire travel distance of their suspension.

See AlsoPositive vs Negative Caster Effects

Toe-In Effects

toe in effects

1. Steering Response

Toe-in reduces the effects of your steering inputs. This means it will take a bit more effort to change direction when you are going forward if you have excessive toe-in.

If you are looking for super-responsive steering in, say, an autocross, track car, or drift car, toe-in would make it more difficult to change direction quicker.

2. Stability

On the other hand, if you’re going for high-speed comfortability and stability, dial some toe-in to your front suspension.

This means your car will be much more stable at high speeds as it will take more steering input to upset the vehicle. Your car will want to stay straight if you have dialed in some more toe-in.

3. Cornering

With cornering, you’ll have a harder time on short, tight corners if you have too much toe-in. But, you’ll have a better, smoother time on long sweeping corners if you have some toe-in.

Basically, your car will want to go in a straight line, so take that into account when messing around with your toe settings.

4. Excessive Wear

Excessive Toe-in will make the outside edges of your tires wear out quickly, so you’ll have to buy new tires more often.

If you make BOKU bucks and you’re a standing mile king, then this shouldn’t be a problem for you. But if you’re a normal person, we’d recommend you use restraint and make small adjustments until you dial in how you want your car to behave at speed.

Toe-Out Effects

toe out effects

1. Steering

Toe-out will cause your car to oversteer and be more difficult to control at high speeds. This is because each steering input is magnified by your toe-out angle.

While a little bit of toe-out is beneficial if you are drifting or are searching for more extreme turn-in and cornering, too much can be a bad thing. Furthermore, if you have excessive toe-out at the rear of your vehicle, the car won’t be as stable at high speeds and will wiggle around.

One benefit is improved acceleration due to increased grip and surface area that’s in contact with the road. But, as with all things Newtonian, something’s gotta give, and in this case, it’s top speed as the increased grip simply won’t allow you to reach that threshold. It will be hard to control and could turn into a dangerous situation. 

2. Wearing

If you have excessive toe-out, you’ll wear out the inside edge of your tires quickly.

If you’re made of money, this won’t be a problem, but for most of us, this is a good reason to chill out and make small, incremental adjustments to your steering geometry instead of going whole hog with several degrees of toe out adjustment off the bat.

3. Braking

Excessive toe-out will make braking more unpredictable and less stable, but it’s natural for your car to increase its toe-out under heavy braking—just due to the forces enacted on these suspension parts, pushing the wheels outward. 

How is Toe Adjusted?

toe - tie rod adjustment

Unlike adjusting caster, you’ll adjust your car’s toe by rotating the inner tie rod with a wrench. This will adjust the angle that your wheels are pointed.

As you increase the space that your inner tie rod takes up, that will push the fronts of your wheels inward, toward each other (toe-in). As you rotate the inner tie rod the other way, the fronts of your tires will point away from one another, giving you more toe-out.

See AlsoSymptoms of a Bad Tie Rod

As with all suspension issues and questions, it’s helpful to take these questions to an alignment shop as they will be able to tell you what each part of your vehicle’s suspension does, how to properly adjust them, and how much an alignment will cost.

If you’re not ready to take the leap into adjusting your own car’s suspension geometry, I would recommend picking up a copy of Forza Motorsports or Gran Turismo, the video games.

These games have insanely detailed tuning menus where you can twist and dial every bit of your car’s suspension geometry to your heart’s content. If you’re a more visual, active learner, this is a great place to figure out how your inputs impact a car on a race track. 

If you dare, try beating my 100,000 point drift record on Forza Motorsport’s Fujimi Kaido track. S13 Silvia with a big turbo, if you’re wondering.


Al Seizovic

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