1. 'bant

    'bant Loyal Comrade

    My 601 is running tubeless Pneumant 5.20x13 crossply tyres. These look like original equipment and come with the comforting message "Made in the German Democratic Republic". There is enough tread and no obvious sidewall damage. They might be NOS but even so they are well past their "Best before" date. I am going to replace them with some radial tyres next summer. In the mean time I will invest in some winter tyres on new rims (I was going to go with 145/80 R13 tyres).

    During the 250+km drive home, after buying the car, the handling and steering characteristics were interesting to say the least. Poor directional stability, very vague steering round centre and significant amounts of hopping sideways at the front and rear in bumpy corners. I am fairly sure that the dampers are OK as on straight bumpy roads the ride comfort and damping was surprisingly good. Greasing the ball joints and steering rack has stopped the steering "binding" when just off centre (in gentle sweeping curves) but the steering does not seem to self centre.

    I am assuming that some of these things are standard for a Trabant, short wheelbase, firm springs and light weight when unladen. If so, which are normal :) ? I expect that radial tyres should help directional stability and improve cornering a bit, will they improve steering response? Are there any other things I should check with regards to suspension and steering?
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2015
  2. mati0921

    mati0921 Loyal Comrade

    It will never self centre, and it will go in the direction it wants. you will blow off the road in sidewind. get used to it. when you have driven it enough all other cars steer horribly. :)
  3. Ron

    Ron Premium Member Forum Donor

    I have all new Vredestein Quatrac mud and snow tyres fitted.

    The winters here can be very snowy, and I didn't think that something as light as the Trabi would chew them up on summer roads. Sure enough the car handles and grips very well indeed. It's too early to say how long they will last, but so far I would definitely recommend them. I wouldn't quite agree with Mati about the directional stability... mine follows steering inputs instantly, maybe that very direct connection (compared to other vehicles), could make them seem 'twitchy', but as he said, once used to it, all other cars seem to steer very poorly.

    It is possible to drift all four wheels if a corner is approached too fast, the rear will slide if you lift off sharply in a tight corner etc, but it all happens so intuitively and is easily controlled. I would stress that this has only ever happened when I've deliberately set out to do so, the Trabi has a lot of grip! It can also ride rough surfaces easier than my heavier cars, seeming to 'skip' over bumps that the Jeep (for example) crashes and thumps over.

    You're doing the right thing greasing the joints, I do mine every couple of months (the car does about a thousand miles a month), and the steering rack did improve gradually from being a bit sticky as you described.

    Spend enough miles driving your Trabi, and it will become second nature, but yes, tyres make a huge difference.

    Good luck with it, and keep us posted!
  4. 'bant

    'bant Loyal Comrade

    Good to hear that the rack gets less sticky and that radials should help the general road behaviour. My first car was a Mini and is my reference point for the Trabant, being front wheel drive and a similar size and weight.

    My daily driver is a Citroen Dyane and I have some old studded tyres for winter use (they really need replacing). It is lighter than a Trabant and also manages quite well in winter. It only struggles on fresh powdery snow. Both the Mini and Dyane have very direct steering and have safe handling although very different driving experiences.
    Ron likes this.
  5. mati0921

    mati0921 Loyal Comrade

    Grip is indeed very good with trabis, it will slide in a corner if you want it to, but it rarely does it on it's own. :)
    on mine steering is very precise. dont move the steeringwheel too much on the highway.
    The side wind ability may just be me comparing it to my audi 80. that thing is never touched by wind at all. :)
  6. 'bant

    'bant Loyal Comrade

    I compare side wind ability to my '71 VW camper which is not a good place to be on a motorway even with only moderate side winds :) The Syncro is somewhat better in this respect, 50-50 front-rear weight distribution and better aerodynamics help a lot. The Dyane, particularly when fully laden is the most stable of the bunch. I am now a bit curious to see how my Trabant behaves in side winds.
  7. hunterknox

    hunterknox Premium Member Forum Donor

    Hi 'bant,

    My Trabi came with the same "made in the DDR" tyres but mine were radials. I replaced them with Kleber Viaxers all round - these are the only tyres I could find that advertise their softer sidewalls as a virtue. I figure that with the the camber on the Trabi you probably don't want radials with mega hard sidewalls and a super square profile. So far they've been great but I'm definitely getting winter tyres if I don't garage it when the roads get salty.
  8. Keri

    Keri Leader

    Radial tires here, with great handling.

    Trabants, like many cars, are quite sensitive to toe-in adjustment. I have comrade Trabi set for very little toe-in, maybe 1-2mm tops.
    If a lot of toe-in is set, the handling suffers greatly. If toe-out is set, expect rapid tire wear and adverse handling.
    It doesn't help that the repair manual specifies a huge amount of front toe-in, 4mm for radial and 7mm for bias-ply. It will handle terrible at these settings.

    Steering wheel returnability is a function of caster angle, which is not particularly adjustable on a Trabant.
    Cars with a huge amount of caster are difficult to steer, but they usually have power steering so this effect isn't noticed by the driver..
  9. 'bant

    'bant Loyal Comrade

    Thanks for all the replies, I will get the toe-in checked after I have fitted the (winter) radial tyres.
  10. turbofiat124

    turbofiat124 Loyal Comrade

    I'm currently running 13 SR145 Vredestein radials. When I got the car one of the tires had "Made in Czechoslovakia" stamped on it if that tells you how old there were. Two was made in Hungary and the other one was made in China. I'm not sure if they were radials or bias plies. When I had my wheels sandblasted the guy removed them and they almost fell apart!

    My Trabant tends to drift at high speeds depending upon which direction the steering wheel is pointed but not too bad. If that doesn't sound dumb. I mean it doesn't pull but might drift to the right or it might drift to the left if the steering wheel is turned just slightly in one of those directions. I have yet to have the front end alignment checked but I suspect the toe-in is out of adjustment.

    Unlike my 68 Ford with 4 wheel manual drum brakes, one thing I can say is after I replaced all the shoes, wheel cylinders, hoses and hardware, the car will stop perfectly straight even under hard braking and the drum brakes don't lock up or overheat. Of course like any car with manual brakes you have to stand on them to get it to stop.

    I think the handling is great but the ride is quite bumpy. But that's the payoff with a transverse leaf spring suspension. There has been a few times I've hit a hard enough bump to actually stall the engine. I suspect the bump caused the float valve is open up which sent excess fuel into the engine which stalled it?

    I once had a Jeep Wrangler with 4 wheel leaf suspension and it had very little body roll compared to other four wheel drives with tall coil springs.

    By the way. I got some wrong information from a couple of websites concerning tire pressures. One may have been copied from the other. I read the correct tire pressures should be 35/35 PSI so that was what I ran. One day I was thumbing through the English owner's shop manual and it gave the tire pressure in Kilopascals. Something I'm not familiar with here in the US. So I converted it to PSI and it said the tire pressures should be more around 21 PSI.

    For some reason I had 31 PSI in the tires. I don't know if I initially pumped them up to 35 PSI and some of the air had leaked out or what but all were consistent.

    I let some of the air out and tried 25 PSI and the ride is much smoother now.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2015
  11. 'bant

    'bant Loyal Comrade

    I drove in the rain the other day, what a hoot. These old crossply tyres perform even more poorly in the wet than the dry. On a moderate bend at low speed the rear end broke away ever so slightly :) Can't wait for those new tyres to arrive!
  12. Bill Overbaugh

    Bill Overbaugh King Trabi Administrator Forum Donor

    I have new radial tires on mine, and a rebuilt steering rack, upper and lower arm bushings, new shocks, new ball joints and tie rod ends. Is there anything original left in the front end?

    With that, I have been very happy with how my trabant handles. For all the derision they receive, they're actually quite responsive and a lot of fun. Fast they are not, nor quick. I can see how you might describe the steering as jerky, because they will track quite quickly when you wiggle the wheel. And the ride never will be smooth like my 55 Buick. But honestly after driving my Trabi for a year, I'm afraid to drive my buick and ready to invest the same efforts into the front end on that car, which has carried me over 100,000 miles in the 25 years we've been together.
  13. 'bant

    'bant Loyal Comrade

    Progress. The steering has improved somewhat, the sticking just off centre has all but gone after some grease and a bit of use. I also got hold of my winter tyres today, Continental TS800's. I hope to get a chance to fit them this weekend and take the car for a spin.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2015
  14. 'bant

    'bant Loyal Comrade

    Wow! What a difference four tyres can make. The Trabant is so good now that it is just like driving my old Mini which is pretty much what I expected before I bought the car. This is on new winter tyres that had 0km on them when I started my test drive. Dry asphalt sunny autumn afternoon. I am one happy bunny right now. :cool:
    Ron likes this.

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