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  #1  
Old 01-21-2000, 09:28 PM
Tim_K Tim_K is offline
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Ok, here's how I figured out how to do a decent front end alignment all on my own.
Disclaimer: This will not get you to a tenth of a degree precision. More of a general 'close enough' type job. It depends on how good and precise you can be. The demands are high for this job.
First, the tools necessary: A tape measure (to measure) and a 3/4" box wrench and ratchet/socket (for adjustments)
The main alignment tool is made this way: Get a piece of 2 by 4, about 6 to 8 inches long. Cut a curve in the middle on one side to better conform to the shape of the tire. The 2 by 4 will lay flat on top of the tire, not on its' edge. Get 2 nails, 1 or 2 inches long. pound each one in halfway, one in the middle near the side, and the other about 2 inches away. Get about 2 feet of fishing line. Tie one end to a lead fishing weight. (I don't fish, but my dad had this stuff at his place). Get a red plastic tube, like off a can of WD-40. Make sure it is straight and not messed up. Slide it down the fishing line so it sits next to lead weight. Tie other end to the nail that is off to one side, not the one on center.
Your alignment tools are ready! Gravity and precision are your instruments.
Naturally, the car must be on a flat, level surface, tires and ride height properly set.
To get an idea of how the tool works, put it on top of one of the front tires, and let the tube/weight hang down over the side. Make sure the line touches the tire sidewall, for a consistent measuring reference point. Wrap the fishing line around the 2 nails until the red tube is at the hub. Finish with the line going around the centered/to one side nail. There's why you need the 2 nails - to adjust for different size tires! You could do it with one nail if you tied the line to it in the right spot.
Take off the hubcap and dustcap if you have them. You'll need to measure to a flat, consistent surface, like the machined outer flat part of the hub.
Camber adjustments are mostly done 'by eye'. Go stand about 50 feet in front of the car, and see how the wheels look. Adjust to your satisfaction. Toe measurements are done using only the tape measure, Caster uses both the 'tool' and tape measure. Since caster is most of the job, we'll talk about that first. With your measuring point figured out, and the wheels pointing straight ahead, measure from the red tube (hanging freely) to your chosen consistent surface, hereforth referred to as the hub. Write down the measurement. Let's say it is 1 inch away. Now turn wheel (assuming you're on the left front wheel) all the way to the left. Re-center tool on top of tire so the line hangs right beside hub again. If you have positive caster, the measurement should be more than 1 inch. Neutral caster, 1 inch, negative caster, less than 1 inch. Write it down. Let's say it was 1-1/2 inches. Now turn wheels all the way to the right. Re-center tool on tire so line hangs beside hub again. Your measurement should be closer than 1 inch for positive caster, 1 inch for neutral, and more than 1 inch for negative caster. Lets say you have 1/2 inch.
Ok, now there's a difference of 1 inch in the wheels' range of movement. There are no degrees used here, just inches. Someone could figure out the number in degrees, but I didn't bother to.
For adjusting caster, if you turn the front adjusting cam out the same amount you turn the rear cam in, you increase the amount of positive caster while keeping camber the same. They are a compromise. You may not be able to get all the caster you want and still keep the camber in a good range.
For toe measurements. pick a groove on the tires to measure from, let's say the 3rd groove in from the outside. Note the shape of the tread, and make sure you're using the same points for all measurements. Measure across the front (under K-frame, but as far up the tires as possible) and across the back, under oil pan. Make sure tape measure is not bent around something, and is level side-to-side. You should have 2 friends to help out for all measurements. Have someone sit in driver's seat who is about your weight for camber measurements. Have each person push on one tire, and hold other end of tape measure, while setting toe-in (or toe-out for front wheel drive cars). For rear wheel drive, have them try to spread tires apart in front, or to compress the tie rods together. Same thing. This simulates how the steering linkage is loaded while driving.
Personal stuff: I've had cars aligned many times, and those alignment people are some of the most incompetent people I've ever seen. They can't seem to understand how RWD Mopars are aligned, although the system is downright simple to me. How could they not be able to figure it out? Who knows.
This article may be confusing. I know I had a hard time writing it. I've got the proceedure totally tuned and refined in my head, but to put it in writing is another story. I'm sure there will be questions, so put then down here. I'll answer them as best I can.
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Old 01-22-2000, 12:35 AM
jpiva jpiva is offline
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After 3 reads I think I`m getting it but how is your tire wear with this method, or do you use the wear to aid in adjustments?
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  #3  
Old 01-22-2000, 02:28 AM
ted
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too much work to save 40 bucks
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Old 01-22-2000, 02:58 AM
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timty2 timty2 is offline
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I don't know about you guys, but there is more going on here than saving 40 bucks...

Tim_K's setup gives you a way to check it at home after a big front end rebuild/bushing job (or double checking it after a botched 40 buck alignment.) Thanks Tim!

Now all we have to do is figure out how to mount a couple of those $6 lasers to this setup!

[This message has been edited by timty2 (edited January 21, 2000).]
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  #5  
Old 01-22-2000, 03:06 AM
Mopar400hp360 Mopar400hp360 is offline
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So basically you are using a plum to do the alignment, pretty cool!
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  #6  
Old 01-25-2000, 02:00 AM
Tim_K Tim_K is offline
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Ok, just got back to a computer. Thanks for the responses, I'm glad it came out at least semi-coherent. I'll address each response now.
jpiva: I just developed this method in the last couple months, haven't had much chance for tire wear to happen, but it does seem better than before.
Ted: It isn't only a way to save $40, it gives me a way to do it myself and be independent of the alignment technician who doesn't know what he's doing, or was only trained on front wheel drive cars.
timty2: Thanks, and you're right. Laser pens to assist in the alignment? Hmmm..... I think I might see a part 2 coming! I hadn't thought of that!
Mopar400HP360: Thanks, and right again!

If nothing else, when you do a front end job at home, this will get you at least reasonably close until you drive to the alignment shop.


[This message has been edited by Tim_K (edited January 24, 2000).]
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  #7  
Old 01-25-2000, 02:30 AM
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Christopher Christopher is offline
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Good info.This type of alignment will get you in the ballpark.Also as a side note,not all of us alignment techs are "fat slobs".There are techs that take pride in their work,me included.
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  #8  
Old 01-25-2000, 06:35 PM
mopar34069 Joanne mopar34069 Joanne is offline
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Great info Tim!! I am copying it out now to keep with the mopar books. Like I said when you were thinking of doing this there are alot of my area shops that don't even have the calibration specs for these old cars it took me 6 tries to find some one who would do my 69 Dart.

Thank you for a good article.

As for the guy that said it was too much for the price of $40.00 I hope you have a reliable shop because I have been screwed enough that this will be a well used article for the upstart of any new project.

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  #9  
Old 01-26-2000, 02:01 AM
ted
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here in upstate ny getting a proper alignment
isnt a problem, my local dodge dealer still aligns the old mopars for 39.99 .
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  #10  
Old 01-26-2000, 02:53 AM
mopar34069 Joanne mopar34069 Joanne is offline
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Lucky you Ted. I have a guy who will do all our mopars now but like I said earlier it took 6 tries to find one. One shop that I had to leave the car it was to be done in the morning first thing I called at 3pm to see if it was done. When we got there they had just taken it for a test drive I got in to leave and 1/4 tank of gas was gone and it never got up to 190 before and it was at 195 driving home I was pissed. From then on I stay with my car and go for the test drive. No one gets a free drive in my car.

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  #11  
Old 01-26-2000, 03:14 AM
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Christopher Christopher is offline
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While this is off of the scope of the topic,my advice to all is find a alignment shop that will take the time to do it right.A alignment on a Mopar,done correctly,should take about 2 hours.One that has had fresh parts installed will take a lot longer.I'd also advise that you talk to other people and take a copy (for the drag racers)of the Mopar chassis book and let the alignment tech read it before he/she does the work.I'm lucky that I have access to a alignment machine and do mine myself. And Tim,thanks for editing your post!!
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  #12  
Old 01-26-2000, 03:54 AM
360duster 360duster is offline
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Thanks Tim for sharing your method.I`m going to use your way of setting the caster, camber on my next alignment.I have a very accurate way to set the toe using 4 jack stands,some string,& a ruler.I`ll try to post it sometime when i have more time (i type very slow).It works even if you have a slightly warped wheel but the tire tread measurment method doesn`t.I say if you want it done right do it yourself. KB
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  #13  
Old 01-26-2000, 07:19 PM
Tim_K Tim_K is offline
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360Duster: I'd like to hear your way of doing the toe measurements. Do you put the car up on 4 jack stands? I'm concerned that this might not have the suspension at exactly the same height as when the car is on the ground, and any error in the steering centerlink being not exactly level would induce 'bump steer' error into the measurements. Still, write a message on it and let's see how it goes.
Joanne: I know what you mean about not trusting other people to work on your cars. I don't trust ANY mechanic, I always stay there and supervise everything, whether they like it or not. About the only things I've gone to them for in the past few years are inspection stickers, tire changes and balancing, and exhaust systems. I'm working on ways to eliminate almost all of those visits, too. I just don't trust anyone to do it right and with the level of precision I would. Although a good Mopar friend of mine knows what he's doing, I won't even let him use the torque wrench, it must be done by me! He gets to do lesser jobs, though.
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  #14  
Old 01-26-2000, 09:36 PM
360duster 360duster is offline
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OK Tim here goes,IT`S kind of hard to explain but i think you`ll understand it since you have experience in this deal.I got this method out of a magazine several years ago.I was going to get my son (he`s the computer wiz in the family)to scan & post the whole article but i can`t find the mag.No you don`t jack the car up.FIRST you`ll have to have a level concrete floor with room to roll the car forward about 10 feet.then get 4 jack stands or 18 inch concrete blocks(i use 2 of each since i only have 2 stands).Place 2 stands at the rear of the car one near each corner of the bumper about a foot back from it.next place the other 2 stands about 10 feet in front of the car,one at each corner.get a good 12 inch ruler.i use a metal one that is really a carpenters tool.It is marked in 1/16 increments on one side & 1/8 on the other.You`ll be using the 1/16 scale to get accurate measurments. Get some nylon string that is about the same size as the marks or lines on the ruler.I use white because it`s easy to see & we make it where i work so it`s free.Go around the 4 stands with the string so you have like a rectangle around the car.You`ll want to tie it to each stand too so it don`t slip once you get it set.set the string at the same height from the floor as the centerline of the axle & hubs.What you want is for the string to be about 2-2 1/2 inches from the tires all around.Pull the slack out of the strings from front to rear.Next the most important step in the setup.measure the distance between the string from side to side at the front stands with a tape measure (you might need someone to help measure this) .now go to the rear & measure side to side.slide the rear stands to get the the same distance side to side as the front stands.What you want is a string down each side of the car the same distance apart & level with the center of the hubs or axles.make sure there is no slack in the string front to rear.If this string is not right your readings will be bogus.Now you`re ready to check the toe.measure the distance from the string to the wheel lip (where the weights go)on drivers side at rear of wheel.i forgot to mention make sure the wheels are straight & use the ruler for this.make a chauk mark on the wheel exactly where you measured from.Lets suppose you got exactly 2 inches.now go to the other side of the car & measure it the same way at the rear outside edge of the wheel also.say you got 2 1/2 in. add this to what you got on the other side = 4 1/2. now roll the car forward by pulling on the front bumper to where the marks you made on the wheels line up at the front edge on the string.you`ll be rolling the car 1/2 a tire revolution.now measure the string to wheel at the chalk marks you made before.Do both sides as you did before but this time you`re at the front edge of the wheel.lets say you got 2 in. on left side & 2 1/4 on the right.this is 4 1/4 total.substract this from what you got at the rear measurments. you get 1/4 inch.this means that the car is towed out 1/4 inch.the difference you get from front to rear is your toe in or out.jack the car up enough to crawl under it & make an adjustment.don`t get the tire off of the ground & don`t disturb the jack stands.now roll the car back & start over to check it again/make sure car is at normal ride height.After you do it a few times you`ll get good at it.It usually takes me about 20 minutes to set up the stands & get my first measurment & the job is done in 30-45 minutes.I`ve done this on every one of my cars & some relatives for the last several years with no chewed up tires.If you`re precise with your measurements the results will be good.The next one i do i`m trying your caster camber method,sounds like it will work better than the level i`ve been using.any questions i`ll be back on tonight maybe.i`m sharing the computer with my son. KB
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Old 01-27-2000, 12:52 AM
dbdartman dbdartman is offline
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That's kinda' the way I've been doing race cars for many years now, except we used to use only 2 jack stands. My method: (Does not work for cars with front track wider than rear track! Use 360's method in that case.)

Of course, start on a hard, level, surface with all tires inflated to the proper amount. Set one jack stand by either end of the front bumper. Run your string from one jack stand, around the rear tires, & back up to the other jack stand. (This works better if you have very wide track rear tires. If not, keep the string as high as possible without hitting the body.) Now, starting with one side. Move the jack stands so that the string JUST contacts the side forward side wall of the rear tires. What you are doing is creating 2 parallel lines with the string, square to the rear. First thing to do is check to make sure the rear is ACTUALLY square with the frame. Measure from the string to frame rails, spindles, & the K-frame to check for square. If the rear is NOT square, any further alignment will be usless. If it IS square, note one of these measurments (the same location for both sides). Once the rear has been determined to be square, measure from your string to the front & rear of both front wheels. This will give you your toe pattern. Make any adjustments, roll the car backwards so the wheels make at least one complete revolution, the roll the car back where it was. Reset your string using the above noted measurement & re-check your toe pattern.

Hope that makes sense! Been doing suspension set-up like this for 4-link & ladder bar cars for years. For drag cars, I like to set the toe with the front end raised 1-2", depending on the suspension travel. I usually shoot for about 1/16" to 1/8" toe in. For a street car, you can go as far as 3/16" to 1/4" toe in (maybe a LITTLE more), especially for "rear steer" cars.

I'll be trying Tim's method for the caster on my Dart before I go to the alignment shop for the final "dial-in." Thanx, Tim!

<font color = 990033>DB</font>

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[This message has been edited by dbdartman (edited January 26, 2000).]
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Old 01-27-2000, 01:23 AM
340king 340king is offline
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I want to emphasize something that Tim stated, but may not be real clear. Set the caster first. Usually caster adjustments change the camber too. Then move both upper mounts in or out the same amount front and rear to change the camber to your liking. This will save you some time.

I do have some concern as to degree of turn front to rear being equal. Most shops use turn plates to ensure that the tire turns 20° each way when measuring. This should only matter when trying to transfer good settings(actual measurements) from one car to another. Good job Tim
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Old 01-27-2000, 02:45 AM
360duster 360duster is offline
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Yes 340 King is right you must set the caster first then the camber & last but the most important is the toe in.If you really know your stuff you can set the caster & camber in only one adjustment most of the time. DB`s method will work too if the wheels are true with no wobble but you would be suprised at how many wheels are out of true & you can`t tell it by driving the car.
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Old 10-20-2001, 12:48 PM
Tim_K Tim_K is offline
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I'm popping this up to the top of the lists because some people wanted to see it, and I wasn't about to retype the whole thing.

Since the article was originally written, I've gotten even better at it. Someone I know not only had his front end all out of alignment, but had to turn the steering wheel over on its side to go straight. Not only did I set that front end straight, but I centered the steering wheel also, using the toe adjustments.

Some additional points on setting camber - Hang the line/weight over the side of the tire (with the 2 by 4 sitting on top of the tire). But you can't just hang it over the middle of the tire. You have to put it over the side towards the front or rear of the tire, so when the line hangs down, it'll touch the sidewall at 2 points, one above and one below the centerline of the tire. Then you can see if the line touches at both points evenly, or touches the bottom first with the top still open (negative camber), or it touches the top first with the bottom still open (positive camber).
You can't just hang it over the center of the tire because the bottom of the tire (touching the ground) will squish out and screw up the measurement. Hope this helps. I know what's in my head, but writing it down clearly is much harder to do.
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Old 10-20-2001, 07:44 PM
dewme5 dewme5 is offline
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I do some construction, and just happen to have a digital level.. yeah, it's a little bit of money, but in something like trying to do a home alignment, you would be suprised how handy it can come in. I also realize that it shoots the cheap and easy out of what is going on, but for caster and camber. you can get it set in fractions of degrees, and also check the floor for level. I paid about $85 for it, it's easy to calibrate, and lets face it. if you are doing things like alignments, or sub frame connectors, pinion angles, or alot of stuff, a quality level is going to come in handy.
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Old 10-23-2001, 12:59 PM
BruceM BruceM is offline
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The best way to check or set toe is to scribe a line on the tire.

Run a wood screw through a block so the point is exposed and the head is flush (it's best if the screw is at some angle).

Jack the each wheel off the ground, hold the block so the the screw point is touching the tire (pick a rib that is continous or with minor grooves), and rotate the tire so that you "draw" a line around the tire circumference.

Then, just use a tape measure to measure the front and rear distances, as close to the centerline as possible.

Just remember to roll the vehicle back and forth a little each time you adjust so the suspension settles before you check the measurement.
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Old 10-23-2001, 05:22 PM
Tim_K Tim_K is offline
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When letting the front end down off the jack, to settle the front end I at least drive the car backwards and forwards 50 feet, turning the steering wheel lock to lock several times. And I also hit the brakes a few times. I think it's better if I drive around the block, over a bumpy road. Then, once you come back and have the wheels pointing straight, remember to push the wheels "in" towards the car on their back halves, so the tie rods are compressed like they are when driving down the road. This will spread the fronts of the tires apart a little, which will get them closer to their "operating" amount of toe.
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