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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-18-2009, 04:07 PM Thread Starter
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DIY 4 wheel alignment

So this isn't specific to LH cars but I find the concept very interesting. There are several webpages out there describing how this is done. The one page I found that is great is:
DIY 4 Wheel Alignment. It takes you through the entire procedure carefully and is well written. Here's a series of 3 youtube videos that describes a similar procedure with many good ideas. Though you should follow the webpage version instead because it is more general.

,
,
.

I followed the procedure and fixed my front toe angle (each wheel was off by about 6 or 7 mm). Some comments I would make about the procedure.

1. Understanding the overall concept is very important: you are trying to setup a box squarely around the car so that the box is parallel to the imaginary box made by the 4 centers of the wheel. This particular procedure does not require the distance between the front wheels to be equal to the distance between the rear wheels (which is sometimes the case for performance cars).

2. I didn't level the car because I was in a very level garage and I wasn't concerned about the slight difference. The guide also requires putting in a turn plate made of the tiles under each car. I found that because of our car's general lowness and sloped shape in the front, if you just put the car on two tiles, you can't really reach in to turn the tierod adjustment sleeve. So I had to measure, then adjust and then realign the box and then readjust. That was annoying.

3. 2 ton jack stand work the best to hold the metal pipe. If you are going to use a clamp to secure the pipe, you need a fairly large clamp. The 2 in ones I got didn't work. So I duct taped the pipe to the stands.

4. If you need cheap supply, harbor freight is a good place to go. Supplies such level, ruler, ...

5. You can make a camber gauge with a straight piece of metal and an angle finder (which has a vertical and horizontal level bubble). The straight piece of metal should be about the same length as the size of your wheel. Then place the metal piece flush with the wheel vertically. Place the angle finder on the metal piece and pull the angle finder out until the horizontal bubble is level. Then read off what the angle is.

After I did my alignement, the steering firmed up and is much more responsive. (my steering rack has some issues so that the steering wheel keeps steering to the left by itself). The procedure worked great. Please post results if you also followed this idea.

Yiran Hu
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-18-2009, 04:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yiranhu View Post
So this isn't specific to LH cars but I find the concept very interesting. There are several webpages out there describing how this is done. The one page I found that is great is:
DIY 4 Wheel Alignment. It takes you through the entire procedure carefully and is well written. Here's a series of 3 youtube videos that describes a similar procedure with many good ideas. Though you should follow the webpage version instead because it is more general.

,
,
.

I followed the procedure and fixed my front toe angle (each wheel was off by about 6 or 7 mm). Some comments I would make about the procedure.

1. Understanding the overall concept is very important: you are trying to setup a box squarely around the car so that the box is parallel to the imaginary box made by the 4 centers of the wheel. This particular procedure does not require the distance between the front wheels to be equal to the distance between the rear wheels (which is sometimes the case for performance cars).

2. I didn't level the car because I was in a very level garage and I wasn't concerned about the slight difference. The guide also requires putting in a turn plate made of the tiles under each car. I found that because of our car's general lowness and sloped shape in the front, if you just put the car on two tiles, you can't really reach in to turn the tierod adjustment sleeve. So I had to measure, then adjust and then realign the box and then readjust. That was annoying.

3. 2 ton jack stand work the best to hold the metal pipe. If you are going to use a clamp to secure the pipe, you need a fairly large clamp. The 2 in ones I got didn't work. So I duct taped the pipe to the stands.

4. If you need cheap supply, harbor freight is a good place to go. Supplies such level, ruler, ...

5. You can make a camber gauge with a straight piece of metal and an angle finder (which has a vertical and horizontal level bubble). The straight piece of metal should be about the same length as the size of your wheel. Then place the metal piece flush with the wheel vertically. Place the angle finder on the metal piece and pull the angle finder out until the horizontal bubble is level. Then read off what the angle is.

After I did my alignement, the steering firmed up and is much more responsive. (my steering rack has some issues so that the steering wheel keeps steering to the left by itself). The procedure worked great. Please post results if you also followed this idea.
That is very interesting. I'm not brave enough to do it lol, tires are pretty expensive. Brings up a good point though, you hear all these stories of alignments gone wrong and potentially someone can do a better job in their back yard.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-18-2009, 04:52 PM Thread Starter
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I think this procedure is only for people who have the interest to do it. That said, if you do it careful enough, the result is the same as an alignment shop (or better because sometimes you want some control over the alignment). Really the only difference is that the shop can setup flag (equivalent to the string) faster because what they have screws onto the wheel.
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-18-2009, 05:28 PM
 
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I ve done alignments with a tape measure and level before, and alignments with the machine.

You can't beat having the machine.

And The LH platform, as much as I love it is one of the worst o align Toe in the front. I just wished they had camber adjustments though.
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-18-2009, 06:00 PM
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I agree with 93'TrepFTW. machine is the only way to go. Now if I had a car tore all apart rebuilding the font suspension, then you could use that method to get it in the ball park so you can make it to the shop, but I'd never drive it on the street that way until a shop fixed it.

We have all the proper tools to do an alignment in my race shop. You can buy a caster camber gauge from Long Acre for about 100 to $120 bucks. The digital ones go for much higher though, but you get what you pay for. Turn tables cost a bunch. Around 3 to $400 for good one with ball bearing sliders in them. And using a tape measure to set toe is a no no for sure. I've seen them as much as a 1/2" off using a tape measure. The problem with the tape, you can't stretch it tight enough to use it correctly and it's not as finite and adjustment either. They do make a toe stick that works pretty good. You can find this stuff at Speedway Motors and Stock Car Products. And it's a must for the car to be level or none of it will work right, sine the equipment rely on it being completely level to produce a good reading.

If you want to do it by the video to get you to a shop, then go for it, but it wont be accurate until you get it on the machine or get the right tools for the job.
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-18-2009, 06:43 PM Thread Starter
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I agree with the tape measure. A hard ruler is the way to go . In fact I would use a level and ruler together to ensure horizontalness. I also agree that if I had the resource, shop will be the way to go. This is because the shop will get good results very easily whereas with this you would need to do it very carefully to obtain similar results. Done sloppiliy, you can easily have 1/2" misalignment like DWC said. However, considering that an alignment is like 70 to 100 bucks a pop, this is an alternative.

The thing to remember here is that the "machine" is an almagamation of these simpler tools that makes the job quicker and more consistent. So there's less varibility with a machine alignment (assuming that the technician does it right, which is a big if). So for anyone considering doing this DIY, you need to take your time to do it right. Ultimately what makes these DIY worthawhile is that on newer NON-performance cars, there's not much that can be adjusted independently. So the simple string box and tile turn plate is good enough.

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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-19-2009, 11:31 AM
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Interesting. It looks like with some time and careful measurement, you can get it done pretty accurately. My local tire shop charges $69 for a 4 wheel alignment on a laser machine though...personally I would probably just pay them to do it.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-21-2009, 07:38 PM
 
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Very nice information. Ill have to try that sometime!
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-21-2009, 10:53 PM Thread Starter
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I can tell you that after I did mine, all the random rubbing noises went away. But to get the strings squared up, it took lots of small movements which is easier done with 2 people.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-22-2009, 12:50 AM
 
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The alignment shop i use does it either old school stick and string like they showed or Machine. For big 4x4's with over sized tires he prefers stick and string. the machines don't really handle the over sized tires on the swivels well. Also he shims alot the price goes up with shims. Best alignment i've ever had i could let go of my wheel and it will go straight forever. He's an insane perfectionist your steering wheel will also be straight when hes done and NO he doesn't remove it to get it straight. Most shops won't even worry about getting the wheel straight anymore. I don't get it cause that drives me insane.
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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-25-2009, 02:51 AM
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A few points:
1) To just check toe, you can skip all the leveling stuff. Toss some sand on the floor to keep the suspension from binding.
2) Measure the distance to the flat of the rim, not the edge. The edge can get beat up, or nicked and mess up your measurements.
3) Measure to the nearest 32nd (or 64th) of an inch if possible.
4) Use fishing line instead. (And don't boot it or trip over it.)
5) Gently bounce the suspension before measuring. (You don't want the suspension bound up.)
6) Leave the car as you generally drive it. If you always drive with 100 pounds of stuff in the trunk, leave it in. Or take it out permanently.
7) Race cars only: Place weight in the car to represent the driver. (Production cars specs assume no one is in the car.)

These procedures are probably only useful if you mess with your suspension a lot (or don't drive very well). If you only need an alignment every X years it probably won't be worth it to learn how to do a DIY alignment.

Last edited by 98IntrepidTan; 01-25-2009 at 02:58 AM.
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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-04-2009, 12:50 AM
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Bouncing the car doesn't really settle the suspension. Let's take the rear of the LH's as an example. It's track width is 62". If you raise the car and hang the tires. The track width narrow's by about an inch. Say 61". Drop it down and tires will touch the ground 61" apart and the rims try to extend out to 62" apart. Bounce it around and you may get it to 61. something but not quite 62. I prefer to roll it back and forth. It will then truely go back to 62".

For the toe. You can also draw a line on the tread while spinning the tires. Now measure with a solid ruler or use a flat ruler and 2 squares to reach up half way onto the tire.

93Trepftw. What is it you don't like about setting up toe on LH's.

If you do decide to adjust your toe on an LH. Make sure you leave the outer tie rod end clocked to the center or better said, level. Since these cars have a bushing as in inner the outer must be indexed correctly since bushings only rotate in one plane.

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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-04-2009, 04:27 AM
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me and my dad did a 2 wheel alignment on my S-10, back in January 2005 due to a wreck that I was in (Not my fault). Even with 2 steering components being bad, it was aligned so well that it drove staright home and did not wear out the tires.

The steering components that were damaged was the steering idler arm and the steering knuckle (Still damaged). The alignment shop that I took the truck to was very suprised taht even with a damaged ilder to center link arm and steering knuckle that it was almost 100% aligned. They replaced the idler to center link arm, but did not replace the knuckle because the part alone was $250. I ahve been driving the truck around with the bent steerin knucle for 4 years now and it still drives striaght and true.

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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-04-2009, 05:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jfsram View Post
Bouncing the car doesn't really settle the suspension. Let's take the rear of the LH's as an example. It's track width is 62". If you raise the car and hang the tires. The track width narrow's by about an inch. Say 61". Drop it down and tires will touch the ground 61" apart and the rims try to extend out to 62" apart. Bounce it around and you may get it to 61. something but not quite 62. I prefer to roll it back and forth. It will then truely go back to 62".
Picking up the car to full droop is completely opposite of gently bouncing the car. That said, rolling the car gently back and forth WILL also help.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jfsram View Post
For the toe. You can also draw a line on the tread while spinning the tires. Now measure with a solid ruler or use a flat ruler and 2 squares to reach up half way onto the tire.
I've tried using this method, but found it was too difficult, too much hassle and too inaccurate to:
1) Lift the car so I can mark the tire.
2) Mark a narrow and straight line.
3) Read the line I created.
4) Measure very accurately without hitting the suspension
5) Or having too many inaccuracies introduced by the angles, or squares or what ever required to avoid the suspension.

I read to 1/32 inch (or better) using the rims. I also make sure I don't measure against a bent portion or weights! or even a random piece of trash on the rim.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jfsram View Post
If you do decide to adjust your toe on an LH. Make sure you leave the outer tie rod end clocked to the center or better said, level. Since these cars have a bushing as in inner the outer must be indexed correctly since bushings only rotate in one plane.
Quite right and true for any car. I didn't mention it, but this IS also important. My driver's side inner tie rod bushing was more messed up in part because the last alignment tech didn't position the outer tie rod end on that side roughly in the middle of the of its rotational travel. He left it slammed fully CW (or CCW) which, when tightened, forced the inner tie rod bushing to provide the compliance during a full range of travel.
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