You must have often experienced that while driving on an old patch of road, your vehicle has a tendency to follow the ruts and grooves in the road surface. It can be quite an effort to maintain the directional control of the vehicle in such cases.
The car’s tendency to follow ruts and groove on the road is called “Tramlining”. The name of this phenomenon was coined from its similarity with the trolley driver of a tram who does not need to steer because the tram follows the path established by rail.
All vehicles experience the tramlining effect on certain patches of road and it can be felt through the involuntary movement of the steering.
There is some resistance change in the steering while crossing an uneven expansion joint on the road. Even after experiencing it, you might have thought that this is not dangerous and one does not need to be bothered about it. However, tramlining effect can be dangerous at high speeds and slippery road conditions.
Some people don’t know that tramlining could be the result of some modifications they did to the car. Also, it can also be a symptom of some mechanical issue in the car chassis. Let discuss about this in detail:
Who is more prone to tramlining? (what causes tramlining?)
Upsizing and using low-profile tyres: Many people who upsize their tyres and use low-profile tyres on plus size alloys often complain that the tramlining effect is more prominent. This is because high-performance tyres and low profile means that there is reduced tyre flex and the tyre is not able to absorb road shocks like the high-profile tyres can. This improves the steering response also transmits the road undulations to the hands of the driver. If you do plan to upsize, use Upsizing tool to ensure that you remain in the safe range.
BMW drivers often complain of tramlining because most of them come fitted with run-flat tyres. The run flat tyres have a very stiff sidewall that’s unable to absorb road shocks. This increases the chances of tramlining. Increase tyre life tips
Bad suspension components: The suspension components also affect how the vehicle manages ruts and grooves on the road. Different components like suspension bushings, ball joints and suspension mounts are all a part of the chain. As the vehicle ages, some of the suspension components deteriorate.
This change is so slow that it might go unnoticed. There comes a point where due to bad suspension components, there is some play in the suspension. This allows wheels to be affected by the road irregularities. Therefore, replacing the worn-out suspension consumables will take out the play from the suspension and eliminate tramlining due to bad suspension.
Increased Wheelbase: Wheelbase is the distance between the wheels on the same axle. The tramlining effect increases as the wheelbase increased. If you install wheel spacers to move out the wheels little for stance or handling purpuse, remember that it will increase the chances of tramlining.
Over-inflated tyres: Running high tyre pressure in the cars tends to stiffen the tyres and reduce their suppleness to absorb the road shocks that, in turn, increases the tramlining effect. Simply adjusting the tyre pressures as per the manufacturer’s recommendation will fix this issue to some extent.
Wheels out of alignment: The wheel alignment is not just needed to fix the uneven wearing of the tyre but to also alter the car’s handling characteristics. The camber and toe settings both can have their effect on tramlining.
Extreme positive or negative camber makes the vehicle more sensitive to follow the longitudinal ruts and grooves. With the added camber, the contact patch on the straight line is reduced and the wheels easily follow the road irregularities.
Also, more toe-out setting, that improves the direction changing capabilities of the vehicle, reduces the straight line stability. The camber and toe setting can be tweaked according to the environment in which a vehicle will be driven. If the vehicle is used for motorsport competition, then the settings can be on the extreme side, but for the streets, it is best to follow the manufacturer’s recommended settings. 3 things to know about alignment and balancing
Keep both hands on the steering to control Tramlining
Sometimes, even after having a good chassis setup, the car might tramline. Many drivers have a bad habit of using one hand on the wheel but its always best to hold the steering with two hands in 9 and 3 0′ clock position with a relaxed grip. This allows you to know what the wheels are doing and feed precise steering inputs to correct the directing of the wheels.
Now that you know what causes tramlining, were you able to pinpoint what’s causing this in your case? If not then comment below and I will try to guide you in fixing tramlining issue for you.
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This video also explains it well: