If you’ve ever tracked your car, you know that road tuning is rarely the best setting for fast lap times, even on cars like the C8 Chevrolet Corvette Z51. Chevy is one of the few manufacturers to provide track alignment settings in the owner’s manual, but aggressive settings mean your tires will wear out more quickly and unevenly. We left our long haul Corvette on a parallel track for most of its stint tour to see what would happen.
Experienced track day participants already know performance-oriented alignment and aggressive driving will drain a set of tires much faster than road and commuter alignment, but we wanted to know how fast. Obviously, you can burn a set of car tires in a day of track driving if you try hard enough, so we focused our testing on owners who want to occasionally track their car between driving it to work, not the person. build a track car or their car trailer onto the track.
Adjusting the alignment on any car generally requires a professional repair shop. Some people have the tools, skills, and time to do it in their garage, but most people just pay someone else to do it. Appointments at the straightening shop take time and money; our four-wheel alignment cost $150 at a local shop after paying a local dealer $275 labor to do half the job and telling us they didn’t know how to use the tools needed to get it done. This isn’t something you want to do—or find you can’t—before and after every day of running.
It may be cheaper, though. A set of four factory-spec replacement Michelin Pilot Sport 4S ZP tires costs $1,889.96 from Tire Rack before taxes and fees. That equates to nearly 13 alignments on our local line, Song Sync. But let’s say you don’t have the time or inclination to realign your car before and after each track day, or like us, you just like the way the car steers better in track alignment. What happens if you keep running errands and driving to work and traveling by car in a straight line?
As we said, this greatly reduces the life of your tires, but more than that, it causes your tires to wear unevenly, and you should keep an eye on them. We put our car on a parallel track a month after we took delivery with 1,979 miles on time. Less than nine months later with 11,589 miles on the car, the tires are down to the cord. Michelin doesn’t guarantee a certain number of high-performance tires like the Pilot Sport 4S, but it does guarantee a tread of 15,000-30,000 miles depending on the application, so we shortened the life of our tires from 30 to 60 percent.
Equally important is the way the tires wear out. Chevy’s track alignment specifications require, among other things, a lot of negative camber. (Camber is the inward or outward tilt of the tire. When you look at the car from the front or rear, negative camber looks like the top of the tire is tilted slightly inward, not directly parallel to the bottom. Positive camber is the opposite, the top is tilted toward the bottom.) outside.) Running a lot of camber on the inside is great for grip, but puts more pressure on the inside edge of the tire tread and makes it wear out more quickly.
Sure enough, after less than 10,000 miles of track alignment, the inner edges of the rear tread wear out completely. Since the Corvette sits so low, the only way to see wear and tear is to lie on the ground in the back of the car. It’s almost impossible to see from any other angle, including looking between the tires and the fender. Although the tires have become unsafe with the increasing danger of explosion, the center and outer edges of the tread look like they have thousands of miles of life left in them.
This is the real lesson here. You probably already know track alignment will make your tires wear out faster, but you need to know where to look for wear before you blow up a tire, when to start looking for it, and do it often.
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