How my iPhone made my car go round corners

Not quite as catchy as Freddie Starr ate my hamster but it’s up there...somewhere.

I should be old enough to know by now that if a job’s worth doing etc etc. However I was just trying to recommission the Amilcar so I thought I could cut a few corners (sorry).

Having bought the car and tried with some difficulty to get it to steer around corners I put it down to the fact that the car doesn’t have a differential. Nevertheless one of the first jobs I had done was to check the toe-in of the front wheels; toe-in will differ from make to make depending on the suspension, tyres etc. In fact sometimes the toe-in may actually be supposed to be toe-out. You need to check with your manual and I decided to take it to a garage...big mistake; anyway to cut a long story short I eventually found someone who could do it and the Amilcar did drive better in a straight line but it still didn’t like corners.

Actually it didn’t always like straight lines either as it suffered from wheel shimmy; this is seriously scary. The car may be only doing 20mph over a rough road surface (and there are plenty of those in Brighton) but suddenly the steering doesn’t...the steering wheel oscillates wildly from one side to another as do the front wheels but its saving grace is that it continues in a straight line. I’ve never been brave enough to try driving through it and really all you can do is stop and then try again.

I could blame Brighton council (so I will) but of course some of it is down to worn steering joints. So the next job was to have new king-pins made and fitted; now, touch wood, I don’t get wheel shimmy anymore but it still didn’t like corners.

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There was one last job to do, although I wish I’d done it first and that is to check the caster action. Caster angle is what makes trollies, barbeques, tables etc more manoeuvrable.

For positive caster, it is the angle by which the King Pin points ahead of the vertical; positive caster angle will help the car go in a straight line.

By definition too much positive caster angle will keep it in a straight line and make it difficult to go round corners.

So, how do you find out how much caster angle you’ve got?

Well, here’s Method 1 which I thought was very clever; it involved a broom handle and a camera. Then all I had to do was print the photo out and put an old, school protractor on it.

However I’m trying to prove to you that you need a Gizmo so, here’s the iPhone solution....

As you may have read, there are something like 500,000 Apps or Applications available for the iPhone. These range from playing Patience through the Complete Works of Shakespeare, Jamie Oliver, Angry Birds and Gauguin to even more useful things such as a free Spirit Level - simplistically, they are software programmes.

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Background Photograph taken on AC rally in Ireland, 2010

Correcting your caster angle by phone -1