Narrowed Beams, The How? and Why?
VW Narrowed Beams / Axles Explained
Why Narrow my front Front Beam / Axle?
There are several misconceptions around the reasons behind narrowing your front axle or beam, to put it simply there are two basic reasons:
1: To gain wheel clearance particularly when lowering a vehicle, allowing the wheels to steer freely without scrubbing on the out edge of the wheel arch or wing;
2: Looks, quite simply it looks cool, especially on earlier vehicles (pre-1965) where the front wheels have a wider track width than the rear (as standard), it helps balance the look of the vehicle.
How do I Narrow my front Front Beam / Axle?
As above there are two main ways to acquire a narrowed beam.
1: You can narrow your stock original beam, this process requires the cutting and welding of your beam, typically you would do this by first fitting beam adjusters and then by moving or replacing the end plates to bring the track inwards.
2: The most common way is to purchase a purpose built aftermarket beam or front axle, this cuts out most of the guesswork and you get a brand new axle that is guaranteed to fit and last.
How narrow should my Front Beam / Axle be?
Now this we could discuss for some time, but the truth is there are several options, based on how much of a headache you want with fitting, how bothered you are about originality and what you want the final look to be:
Here at Limebug we have manufactured Beams ranging right the way down to 10" narrowed, while it is possible to do this, it certainly isn't for everyone, here is what you need to consider:
1: The most common narrowed beam size is 4" for a number of reasons, firstly you do not need to cut/ weld or drill anything on your VW, this applies for T1 Beetle/ Ghias, T3 Variants, and all T2 Buses. You can simply un-bolt your original axle and replace with your new unit. on the whole, you get a nice narrowed look, reasonable steering lock, and minimal headaches and compromise with spacing, most importantly you will gain enough spacing from the edge of the arch to drive very low and get that look you dreamt of.
2: Another common option is the 2" narrowed beam, most customers who opt for this are normally not trying to get a narrowed look at all (typically Cal-Look) and are just resolving offset caused by an increase in track width by disk brakes.
3: The 3rd most common option is 6-8" narrowed, which from us are mostly special order. these beams are a bit of a compromise as they restrict steering and will require in some cases cutting and welding to your body so not for the purists. We make specific end plates to each beam whether they be shock-less, dog-legged, straight or gusseted as typically customers opting for axles in this range are looking to achieve a certain look.
I may want Air Ride also in the future, what should I consider?
If at some point you do intend to fit ours or any other air ride system, typically Air Shocks will be used, this throws all of the weight bearing aspect of the vehicle onto the front shock towers. A standard tower or a straight laser cut tower will flex under this additional load, so we would recommend to either gusset your existing tower or purchase one of our jawbreaker beams which have this facility already in place. Note our Jawbreaker beams can also be run as static normal torsion bar beams you do not have to have fit air ride immediately in order for them to work.
How does a Narrowed Beam / Axle affect my Steering Lock?
Steering Lock can be affected by narrowing your front axle. Most of the steering lock issue is caused by your Ackerman angle becoming too sharp (normally isolated to one side on off centre steering box Aircooled VW's such as Beetle / Ghia and Type 3), especially on the short track rod (this is always the driver's side).
What happens is as your wheels travel round in an arc motion the inner wheel should always turn sharper than the outer to travel evenly around the curve in the road. If this does not happen the car will hop, or drag the wheel with the least grip. To combat this effect we produce a component called a quick steer kit, which in effect steps the length of the drag link or pitman arm out ensuring the Ackerman angle is retained and hence cures the majority of the steering lock issue caused by narrowing your beam.
A further note to add here is the effect is different depending on the year of your vehicle as, degree of narrowing and which hand drive the vehicle is.
Anything Specific to my T1 Beetle or T2 Bus I should look out for when Narrowing my Front Beam / Axle?
Beetles on average are quite simple, the only thing to bear in mind is that early vehicles on King and Link pin front ends will require lower shocks re-locators.
With regards bus's, if you intend to drive the bus very low a degree of tubbing the front wheel wells will be necessary to get the vehicle to drive properly. Remember the more you tub the less headroom you will have. You want the best of both so don't overdo it, especially if your a tall chap/ chapess 😉 .