Not many will know the specifications of their vehicle, let alone measure the accuracy of each parameter. With all rail and road vehicles, the measurement of each part up to decimal places is paramount and creates a tremendous impact on the overall performance. The framework in the automobile determines the weight and how it can maneuver.
A high-end luxury car is spacious on the rear side and makes an aesthetic appeal to potential buyers. The secret behind this length is the long wheelbase. It makes a significant contribution to the shape and appearance of the vehicle.
Aside from the fact that the wheelbase determines vehicle length, it also contributes to vehicle performance and assesses the agility and stability of the vehicle. Hence, you are at an advantage if you know how to measure the wheelbase.
This article will help guide you on the basics of the wheelbase, the correct way of measuring it, and its influence on vehicle performance.
So let’s get started with the most obvious question.
Recommended Read: How to Measure Wheel Width
What is a wheelbase?
The term wheelbase may be nebulous but is an easy concept to understand. The horizontal distance between the center point of the front wheel to the center point of the rear wheel is called a wheelbase. It is not the same as the entire length of the vehicle, which is the distance from the front-most point to the back point.
The term wheelbase holds for every vehicle type, road vehicle, or rail vehicle.
Generally, you can find wheelbase written in inches and millimeters. Cars have an average wheelbase in the range of 112-114 inches, whereas, for bikes, the wheelbase is below 30 inches.
Types of wheelbase
- Long wheelbase(LWB) – The distance between the two center points of the front and rear wheels is longer than the short wheelbase. The luxury cars and jumbo vans have an LWB.
- Short wheelbase(SWB) – The distance between the two center points of the front and rear wheels is small compared to the longer wheelbase. The SWB vehicles are easier for daily commute in the city and to take fast turns.
There are other types like medium wheelbase(MWB) and extra-long wheelbase(XLWB) but they are rare.
One myth you hear is that a long-wheelbase implies big vehicles. It is false. Smaller vehicles can have longer wheelbases to make more interior space.
It is not hard to distinguish between an SWB and LWB vehicle. An LWB vehicle has a considerable gap between the back door and the rear wheel arch. An LWB vehicle is opted for a comfortable ride and carrying a heavyweight, such as in vans and trucks, while an SWB vehicle is suitable for sporty rides and driving maneuvers such as quick turns.
Tools used to measure the base of a wheel
To measure a wheelbase, all you need is a steel square, chalk, and a tape measure.
Steel Square – A steel square is a measuring scale used for measuring distance, angles, and carpentry. It has two steel blades with markings placed at an angle of 90° to each other. It comes in handy while taking accurate measurements.
Chalk – Chalk will help mark the exact line on the road or a place where you are measuring the wheelbase.
Tape Measure – A tape measure is a stretchable ruler with a hook that acts as a clutch. It is compact and is used to measure the distance and comes in fabric, metal, or plastic.
How to Measure Wheelbase?
If the wheelbase on both sides of the four-wheeled vehicle does not match, the vehicle could drag to one side and pull the rubber off the tires. Hence, measuring the wheelbase in the right way makes all the difference. Given below are the different steps to follow for measuring the wheelbase-
Step1: Ensure the front wheels are pointing to the front
Firstly, take your vehicle and park on the smooth surface. As the vehicle rests on the floor, be sure that the front and rear wheels are straightforward and parallel to the other because the slant wheels can skew your measurement as the wheelbase is the horizontal distance between the tires.
Step 2: Keep the square on the ground to align with the center of the tires
Next, place the steel square on the ground perpendicular to the tire position. Now, move the square slowly to align with the center of the tire.
Step 3: Mark the point where the tire center aligns with the square
Once you find the tire center, mark that place on the ground using chalk. Make the mark dark enough to be easily visible.
Step 4: Repeat the same process on the other tire
If you have marked the center of the front tire, repeat the same process for the rear tire since you want the distance between the two tire centers. Now you have the two points, one on the front and another on the backside.
Step 5: Measure the accurate distance between the two points
After marking the two tire centers, take a measuring tape, stretch tightly, and carefully measure the horizontal distance between the tire centers. It is the wheelbase. If it is a four-wheeled vehicle, repeat the same procedure on the opposite side. The values must match, else redo the entire process until you get the right match in the numbers.
Tips for measuring the wheelbase
The above section covered in detail how to measure the wheelbase. However, it is a skill to measure something to the tiniest detail. It requires patience, skill set, and tools. Below are some tips that come in handy while measuring a wheelbase-
- Choose a smooth surface – Instead of choosing a rough or irregular floor, measure the wheelbase in a smooth driveway or a garage floor to ensure that the chalk marks are clear and even.
- Always double check – Sometimes, human errors are possible while measuring the wheelbase, and hence taking a second measurement validates the result you have. Since the wheelbase must match on both sides of the vehicle, verify whether it is true. If not, measure again by following the above procedure.
- Check for the correct angle of the steel square – When marking the center of the wheel on the road using a steel square, aim to get the angle of the square perpendicular to the wheel. If it is a zigzag, it will hamper your wheelbase measurement.
How does wheelbase influence vehicle performance?
The wheelbase of a vehicle gives vital information about its performance. Some of the are listed below-
It influences steering and balance
The wheelbase has a considerable effect on the vehicle weight. Because of this, the wheelbase value is a must for steering and balance of the vehicle.
A long wheelbase vehicle has better balance and stability since the gap between the front to the rear tire is more and is less likely to become unstable and rocky.
The long-wheelbase gives a better comfortable ride
A long wheelbase vehicle has a better ride experience than a short wheelbase vehicle; Because an LWB has a low tendency to roll and hence provides stability.
Wheelbase effects maneuverability
A vehicle with a long wheelbase is attractive and spacious but has low maneuverability. An LWB vehicle cannot make sharp turns quickly as an SWB vehicle. It is because the wheelbase affects the turning radius. The longer the wheelbase, the less is the turning radius and vice-versa.
To sum it up, stability and maneuverability are inversely proportional to each other. The long-wheelbase gives stability to the vehicle but is not suitable for making quick turns at high speed. On the other hand, the short wheelbase lacks stability due to a higher center of gravity but is better in maneuvers.
How to calculate the wheelbase of a car?
Wheelbase is calculated from one tire center to the other on the same side of the vehicle. To calculate a wheelbase, you require only three tools: chalk, tape measure, and a square.
Which is better? A short wheelbase or a long-wheelbase?
It depends on what specifications you want. A short-wheelbase vehicle is better suited for making sharp turns and easy maneuvers, whereas the long-wheelbase gives stability and vast space in the rear seat of a car for a comfortable ride.
Is the wheelbase the width of the car?
No, the wheelbase is not the width. It is the length from the front tire center to the back tire center. The wheelbase is not the total length of the vehicle.
What type of wheelbase is suitable for off-roading and curvy rides?
A short wheelbase is better for curvy rides and off-roading since it can easily make U-turns and maneuver on dirt roads.
Of all the parameters to characterize the goodness of the vehicle, wheelbase plays a vital role. With different wheelbase, you can have different designs of tanks and, in turn, fuel pumps.
A long wheelbase and short wheelbase have their share of pros and cons. If one prefers comfort and spacious interiors, a long wheelbase is suitable. A vehicle with a short wheelbase can work wonders if you want a sporty and flexible ride.
Whatever be, knowing how to measure a wheelbase will benefit you as a buyer to cross-examine the given wheelbase value of the vehicle and have a discerning eye on the stability of the vehicle.