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Miata Race alignment info

copyright Supermiata 2006-2023

Supermiata 89-05 Miata Suspension Set Up

Disclaimer: Performing any modifications to your car based on advice from this FAQ page is dangerous and might hurt you. Read, assume and implement at your own risk. These settings may not be compatible with your vehicle, driving style or conditions.

Alignment – before you start
The alignments shown below assume a slight change in spring rates or sway bar sizes. For our street alignment, we recommend OEM sway bars and 1.5-2x OEM spring rate with a slightly more forward rate bias. For our dual duty alignment, 2-3x higher than OEM spring rates, slightly larger front sway bar. For our race alignment, all of it.

Ride height
We do not use fender height because it is too imprecise. Race teams and OEM’s use chassis height, which translates to pinch weld height. Pinch weld allows more precise and repeatable measurements. The pinch weld is the body seam jacking point. For the Exocet, use jack pad heights. If you are using tires that are very different height than OEM, you will need to do some math to convert our numbers for your car.

Exocet ride height
The Exocet chassis has its rear subframe roughly 10mm higher than the Miata. To keep the critical roll center axis where it needs to be, the rear ride height recommendations listed here should be adjusted 10mm lower in rear to compensate. The Exocet chassis has its upper shock mount locations raised roughly 45mm from the position in the Miata. Exomotive did this to allow stock shocks/springs to lower the car, but ignores the ball joint articulation and geometry problems it causes. If you plan to use aftermarket Miata shocks/springs the simple fix is a shock mount spacer which Exomotive offers. Set up info on this page will not work without these optional Exomotive spacers.

Use the small jack pads to measure height on Exocet. Note that the jack pads on the Exocet are manually welded on and vary in both location and thickness. This and the relatively loose dimensional accuracy of the Exocet chassis means the ride height measured at these jack points may not be very accurate. It is recommended to at least once, measure the lower, inner suspension pick up points on the subframe and compare those to the jack points on the same corner. We find that the production variances will necessitate a “correction factor” unique to your chassis that can be used for all future ride height measurements. Extra work but once it’s done, there is no mystery to your ride height.

Measuring pinch weld height
Take measurement from front and rear jacking points. This is identified by two dimples and triple layer sheet metal. If you measure frequently, a small dot of contrasting paint or other mark on your exact measuring point is a good idea. Pinch weld heights listed below are assuming a 22. 7 to 22.9″ tall tire which when loaded, will have a static loaded radius of about 11.25″. Verify tire pressures before measuring ride height.

Measuring fender height
You must locate the exact center of the hub and this is difficult to do accurately. If you hold the measuring tape next to the hub you induce an error because the tape will not be 90° the ground plane. The fender lip on an unrolled fender can be 3/16″ thick so two different people will often interpret the exact point differently. For these reasons we recommend not using this method and instead learn to use pinch weld heights for any suspension tuning.

Don’t tune a sick car
Make sure your car is healthy before trying to tune for more grip. This means carefully inspecting the entire suspension for worn, cracked, broken or mismatched parts. We often see high mileage Miatas with broken OEM end links, rubber bushings pushed out of control arms, bent suspension pivot bolts causing binding, worn ball joints, bent wheels, mismatched tires..

There is no “best” alignment for every condition, only the best compromise for your driving conditions, equipment and preferences. What one driver calls easy driving, another driver might call hard driving. Fine tuning alignment is fine tuning for your car setup, roads and driving habits.

To maximize the performance in a competition environment you need to employ basic scientific method. If that sounds like too much work, remember that you clicked onto this page to get the low down from experts. Well, this is how it’s done.

Observation – Pay attention to what your car is doing and narrow down just what precisely you are trying to change. Here is a related article on that very subject: https://www.949racing.com/supermiata/tech-info/three-ws-race-car-handling-terminology/

Research – Learn what needs to change to achieve your goal
Hypothesis – Plan your change
Test- Set up a controlled test of some sort. Change one thing at a time to affect your original goal
Analyze – Review the results of your test
Conclusion – Did the change you made achieve your goal. If not, start the process over again, It’s a constant loop.

Basic testing tips
Same tires, same driver, same conditions, change one thing at a time. Record tire temps with a probe type pyrometer (no lasers!), lap times, tire wear patterns, tire pressures and most importantly, driver impressions immediately after run.  What works that day with the sun out, might be less than optimum 30 minutes later with the sun behind the clouds. You shouldn’t expect to be able copy the settings published on this page verbatim and have it turn out 100% perfect for every possible car, driver, course. Two different drivers under the exact same conditions can generate very different tire temps and require different set ups. The settings you finally settle on are your setup, which is different than our setup. We are merely providing you with a starting point. This same basically applies for testing stuff on public roads. Focus on one thing at a at time and eliminate variables.

The pyrometer is your friend, learn to use it Using a tire pyrometer
Don’t assume anything when reading tire temps or any other measurement. Drive it hard, pay attention to the car and experiment. Clocks don’t lie.

Tire wear
Tire wear is balance between the chassis set up and how the car is used. One can not achieve ultimate grip and response on track while achieving lowest possible tire wear in gentle street driving conditions. A compromise must be made with an honest assessment on how the car will be driven. Our criteria:

Street   No competition use. Significant expressway/highway driving. Tire life is highest.
Dual Duty  Occasional autocross or HPDE, mostly street and highway driving. Some accelerated tire wear is OK.
Race Optimized for competition, autocross or track. You don’t tell your SO what you spend on race tires every year.

My Miata isn’t symmetrical!
The unit body of the Miata nor the Exocet is rarely perfectly symmetrical. This means one side might have pinch weld heights that are not even with the other side. In this case, average out the measurements to reach your target. Test drive then determine if you need to make further adjustments. We see particularly large dimensional discrepancies on the Exocet chassis. Don’t attempt to get it dead even left to right without using corner weight scales.

Corner weighting vs making it level
These are two different things. A corner weighted car with fixed length shocks may not have equal pinch weld heights at front and rear. Corner weighting involves adjusting preload so the LF/RR diagonal pair of wheels carries exactly half the total weight of the car as the opposite RF/LR pair. If the preload is not balanced this way, the car will have more weight transfer turning one direction as the other. Meaning your car might oversteer in left turns but be neutral or even understeer in rights, for example. This adjustment is done by placing the car on scales. For more info, google “corner weighting”.

Because the weight of an NA/NB Miata is not equally distributed left to right with a driver onboard, the actual pinch weld heights may not be level after corner weighting. Do not attempt to exactly match pinch weld heights on your car if it involves drastically different preload left to right. It’s better to carefully measure the physical height of the preload collars and shock length and match them left to right. Even though the car will often sit lower on LR than RR, it will handle more predictably with equal preload. A bone stock base model 90 had perfect cross weight with 1/2 tank and 170 lb driver, but sat much lower on LR than RR.

Supermiata Street Alignment
For most street driven Miatas, tire wear is the most important parameter. Excess toe in or out will usually cause more tire wear than somewhat aggressive camber will. The OEM alignment numbers with more rear camber than in front, are designed to induce a bit of understeer. Lawyers ultimately dictate the OEM alignment, not the clever engineers that designed the suspension. The actual suspension geometry is designed to require greater front than rear camber. The Supermiata Street Alignment will generally result in no increase in tire wear over OEM and possibly a reduction in tire wear if you occasionally load the tires to maximum cornering forces. In general, this Street alignment is conservative and intended for cars that never slide their tires and spend almost no time at maximum cornering loads.

NOTE: This alignment works with OEM (19 or 22mm) or a slightly larger front sway bar. FM (24mm) or Racing Beat 1″ (25.4mm) solid bars will work. The Racing Beat 1.125 bar is too much for normal street tires (>240 treadwear

NA/ NB specs assumes ~23″ tall tire
NC, ND specs assumes ~24.7″ tall tire

Street Alignment

NA-NB 89-05
125 – 140mm front pinch weld height
5-8mm rake, rear higher
(Exocet – 7-10mm negative rake, rear lower)
Front camber: -1.4°
Caster: >4.5°
Front total toe: +1/16″  (.06″)
Rear camber : -1°
Rear total toe: +1/8″  (.12″)

NC 06-15
130-155mm front pinch weld height
5-8mm rake, rear higher
Front camber: -1.2°
Caster: >5~5.5°
Front total toe: +1/16″  (.06″)
Rear camber : -1°
Rear total toe: +1/8″  (.12″)

ND 16+
135-155mm front pinch weld height
7-10mm rake, rear higher
Front camber: -1.0°
Caster: >7.3~8°
Front total toe: +1/16″  (.06″)
Rear camber : -1.2°
Rear total toe: +1/16″  (.06″)

Dual Duty Alignment is intended for cars that will occasionally reach the limits of traction and slide the tires but don’t want to give up too much tire wear for daily driving. To reach target camber and ride height will usually require modifying front suspension with extended ball joint or offset bushings.

NA/NB 89-05
105m – 125mm” front pinch weld height
3 – 5mm rake, rear higher
(Exocet – 7-10mm negative rake, rear lower)
Front camber: -2.5°
Caster:  +3.5 ~ 4.0°
Front total toe: 0
Rear camber : -2.0°
Rear total toe: + 1/8″, (.12″)

NC 06-15
110-135mm front pinch weld height
3-5mm rake, rear higher
Front camber: -2.5°
Caster: >5~5.5°
Front total toe: +0″  (0.0″)
Rear camber : -2°
Rear total toe: +1/8″  (.12″)

ND 16+
125-135mm front pinch weld height
7-10mm rake, rear higher
Front camber: -2.0°
Caster: >7.3~8°
Front total toe: +1/16″  (.06″)
Rear camber : -2.0°
Rear total toe: +1/16″  (.06″)

Race Alignment
NA-NB 89-05

100mm ~125mm front pinch weld height.
Zero rake with driver and fuel
(Exocet – .7-10mm negative rake,  rear lower)
Front camber: -3.2° ~ 4.2° depending on pyrometer readings
Caster: ~ 4.0° or max available once you reach camber targets
Front total toe: 0
Rear camber : Road course -2.8°. Autocross -2.5°
Rear total toe: +1/16 for <200whp.  ~+1/8″ for greater than 200whp.

NC 06-15
100-125mm front pinch weld height
0-5mm rake, rear higher
Front camber: -3.5°, adjust with pyrometer readings
Caster: >5~5.5°
Front total toe: +0″  (0.0″)
Rear camber : -3°
Rear total toe: +1/8″  (.12″)

ND 16+
115-130mm front pinch weld height
7-10mm rake, rear higher
Front camber: -3.5°
Caster: >7.3~8°
Front total toe: +0″  (.00″)
Rear camber : -2.8°
Rear total toe: +1/16″  (.06″)

Fine tuning with rake
The Miata seems to work best with 0 to .25″ positive rake (rear higher) measured at the pinch welds without driver in car and about 1/4 tank. The roll center axis doesn’t like to be too far out of sync with the roll centers. In general, you can lower the rake to increase rear grip and improve transitional stability up to the point that the rear suspension begins to bottom. Lower the front to increase front grip and turn in response, again, until it begins to bottom excessively. In general, once we have an alignment we like, the only tuning we do at the track is to raise and lower the rear to fine tune. Lower to add rear grip, raise to reduce it. Too low and the suspension will bottom so that’s your limiter.

What ride height?
Ultimately, the lower your Miata is, the faster it will be in competition. The limiters are bump travel and ground clearance. If your suspension bottoms too frequently, bouncing over bumps instead of soaking them up smoothly, it’s too low. Ground clearance for street driven cars is really up to you. Decide how much ground clearance you need to clear obstacles in your daily driving such as steep driveways, speedbumps, drainage dips, etc. For track use, we generally start with 4.5″ front & rear pinch weld with driver, tune springs and sway bars to get basic balance. We will then fine tune mid corner- steady state balance by making small adjustments to rear ride height.

Sway bars (anti-roll bars)
Disconnecting the rear sway bar on a lowered Miata allows the inside wheel in a turn to droop further. Since the inside front with swaybar still attached will not droop, rake changes. This means the front stays low, the rear jacks up in a turn. The effect is slight but it changes the roll axis, camber gain and a few other things. For autocrossers, this compromise is sometimes worth it as it will greatly reduce wheel spin and reduce oversteer during low speed transitions. For track use however, this will usually result in terminal understeer on corner entry that will have you pulling your hair out trying to fix. In short, if you can get your autocrosser to work with the rear bar, keep it hooked up. If your budget or autocross class restrictions don’t allow you to get good balance with the rear bar connected, then you have to ditch it. For track use, save yourself the headache and leave it on.

In general, the Miata likes a much stiffer front sway bar than stock, on the order on 3-4x more rate. For street only use, we prefer a smaller diameter front bar and OEM rear. For track, autocross or canyon driving, we prefer a 1.125″ front. For autocrossers, usually the OEM 11 or 12mm rear bar or sometimes nothing. For track cars, we like a 14mm rear bar. We have yet to find a car or environment that needs more than a 14mm rear bar. If you have a rear bar larger than 14mm and want to keep it, don’t. Bite the bullet and get the correct sized bars. The surprising thing to us is that all generations of Miata seem to like that 14mm rear bar.

High power Miatas  can run a bit extra rear  toe in to attenuate corner exit power oversteer. Autocrossers forced to run wheels much narrower than optimum for the tire width will usually benefit from 1/8 to as much as 1/4″ front toe out (front toe out rapidly wears your tires on the street).

Record tire temps and test to see what works for you. Don’t rely on visual tire wear to fine tune camber. If you can’t get enough front camber on your Miata, welcome to the club! Offset front upper bushings reduce inner tire clearance but can allow full race camber. The only front lower bushing that will work is a custom Delrin offset that is pinned in place by a bolt or stud. Front offset urethane lower control arm bushings tend to shift, so we don’t recommend them. Only the forward bushing should be used in conjunction with a normal (not offset) urethane or rubber bushing. Installing a delrin/Acetal in forward and aft positions of the front control arms will cause binding. The lower the ride height, the more static front camber you will get. The NB front subframe has a slightly higher roll center and more camber gain. For this reason, it is the best solution to gain more front camber and help keep the roll center closer to the CG after lowering. If your class allows the NB front subframe, do it.

NC and ND can employ an offset knuckle bushings or offset suspension bushing to increase camber. Offset Knuckle Bushings for NC

The NA/NB also have the option of an Extended Lower Ball Joint or ELBJ . ELBJ will typically allow an additional 1-2° of negative camber. ELBJ increase effective caster so steering will be heavier.

More caster can help mid to low speed turn in, makes steering heavier, may increase wheelspin in very low speed turns with a Torsen or open type differential. Higher caster values will increase steering effort, lower values reduce steering effort. If running power steering, go for caster settings above 3.5°. If running manual or depowered rack, lower caster can reduce steering effort. The Miata platform likes caster greater than 3.5°. Balance that against the steering effort you prefer. Running caster below about 2° can result in very vague steering with little or no self centering force. High camber with ELBJ (extended lower ball joints) will make the steering very heavy. We recommend dialing back caster to 3 or 3.5° when used with ELBJ to reduce steering effort.

NB2 control arms, high camber and fat shocks
The 2001-2005 Miata OEM FUCA (front upper control arm) have two gusset plates that reduce shock body clearance. At full droop and full bump, and larger diameter aftermarket shock body can sometimes hit the control arm. Check clearance on your car. Grind the gussets a little to clear your shocks if needed.

The last bit
We have attempted to make it clear that no single alignment specification can be ideal for everyone. Copying on of our alignment specs exactly will probably be good enough for you and it might even be perfect. If you are looking for more speed however, you will need to experiment and tune for each track, tire and weather condition. At the national level of road race or time trial, alignments are often asymmetrical. Meaning different alignments at each corner. Deliberate wedge where the car turns one direction better than the other. Very different ride height left to right. An extreme example might be an alignment we successfully won a national championship with that had one side 1/2″ lower than the other, longer springs on the one side, -2° difference in camber left to right and about 8% wedge. Hot tire pressures on that setup varied about 7psi, each tire different. While that is an extreme, the point is that the more you want to push the performance of your car, the more time you will spend aligning it and that is changing constantly for conditions. Be open minded, be willing to experiment, look at your data, test.

Favorite local performance shops in SoCal:

West End Alignment Alignment, suspension set up and installation
Chris Nishimura
5422 Oceanus Dr.
Huntington Beach, CA 92649

Pit Garage (race prep, engines, tuning, suspension)
Sky Chan
9825 Max Shapiro Way
South El Monte, CA 91733

Front End Service Kit