Anybody do their own alignments?

K4fxd

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I feel like someone that doesnt know how to do an oil change could mess up and put a different oil in their car
No engine has blown up from having motor oil in it

 
OP
OP

brokenblinker

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I think we maybe deviated from topic a bit.

To those that provided some tips on performing your own alignment, thank you! I will read into it. There are tons of threads for desired alignment setpoints here, so I'll visit those to get desired numbers.
 

K4fxd

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Gearz nailed the answer.
 

galaxy

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If you have an alignment issue take it to a qualified professional... Its absurd to consider making adjustments using backyard mechanic tricks.
If you think the string setup when done properly is back yard shade tree mechanics, you need to do a little more homework on the topic.
 

jmn444

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I do. Method:

I set the front camber first, if I'm changing it - usually either just check it or change it between street and track/autox. During autox season I'll just leave it maxed out negative camber<1>. I use a Longacre camber gauge although you can now get pretty decent camber readings using a straight edge on the rim lip and a level app on the phone.
Next I'll check the rear toe using the same toe plates. I'll also check the thrust angle using a laser pointer on the straight edge on the rim lip, shooting to the front where I put a steel ruler against the center of the hub of the front wheel. If the reading is different from one side to the other, the thrust angle is off. Adjust the toe until they match and the toe in is where you want it. Finally, check the camber in the rear using the same method as the front. It gets VERY tricky because changing the camber will change the toe and vice-versa. It's complicated by the fact that the upper link is where you set the camber and it's difficult to get to the bolt, and the hole is just slotted instead of using an eccentric/cam like the toe link has. Having an extended 18mm ratcheting end wrench with a flex head is really the only way to get to that bolt.
Because the rear camber link is such a pain to set if it's out I'll usually mess around with it for several hours, then decide to take it to a local shop and let them set it. Not an option if I'm doing it at the event.
The front end is really the only thing I tweak and it's pretty painless. I'll check the rear just to make sure nothing has moved.

<1> No, running max negative camber on the street/road will not destroy your tires. Running even a little bit of toe-out will. However, if you hit a rut/pothole/rough track crossing hard the risk of bending a wheel is higher than if you're at normal camber and yes, that happened to me.

Longacre camber gauge
Toe plates
18mm long wrench that makes the rear camber adjustment possible

DUDE!! I never even considered how simple thrust could be! I've just been extremely careful to adjust both sides equally and was getting close to taking it in just to have my work checked in the near future as I didn't trust the thrust part at all.... this is awesome! This is my first IRS car so previously never had to deal with rear settings haha.

As far as needing a pro to do it... I'm sure there are a LOT of people that have no desire to learn and buy tools to do this stuff, but I started doing my own when I started autocrossing back 10+ years ago... it's not rocket science once you understand the concepts and 100% certain you will end up with a faster car with better tire wear if you take the time to do learn this. Proper alignment can do wonders for a car and it's usually not the specs that the fancy lazer machines will tell the tech to set it to. Most people don't care about that last little edge of performance either though, which is why fancy lazer machines exist....
 

jmn444

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I'd also suggest getting a camber lock out kit and bmr or other camber arms for the rear if you intend to play with rear camber settings, it's WAY easier once installed than the slot is.
 

Gearz

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DUDE!! I never even considered how simple thrust could be! I've just been extremely careful to adjust both sides equally and was getting close to taking it in just to have my work checked in the near future as I didn't trust the thrust part at all.... this is awesome! This is my first IRS car so previously never had to deal with rear settings haha.

As far as needing a pro to do it... I'm sure there are a LOT of people that have no desire to learn and buy tools to do this stuff, but I started doing my own when I started autocrossing back 10+ years ago... it's not rocket science once you understand the concepts and 100% certain you will end up with a faster car with better tire wear if you take the time to do learn this. Proper alignment can do wonders for a car and it's usually not the specs that the fancy lazer machines will tell the tech to set it to. Most people don't care about that last little edge of performance either though, which is why fancy lazer machines exist....
Thanks, and I agree. A friend and I figured out the laser pointer method many years ago. I have a 24" level that has one built into it that works great for this. It's much easier with two people, one to position and hold the laser/level and the other to take the readings on the scale on the front. You can also use the same process in reverse to center the steering wheel for the front wheels.

It's amazing how much small changes to the toe angle will affect the response and balance of these cars. The Camaros are also very sensitive to it and require a LOT of toe-in in the rear to get them as stable.

One thing that helps a lot is knowing how much each turn of the tie rod adjusts toe. A full turn on each front tie rod will move the toe from 1/4" out to 1/4" in. You'll still want to check it after adjusting but it helps to know how much each flat will get you. I also mark the tie rods with a paint pen in the direction to turn it to add toe in or out.
 

Dana Pants

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I do my own alignment using tenhulzen plates and string. It works.

I explain toe here:

The big thing with camber is to do actual math rather than endlessly trying things.
 

Norm Peterson

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How about castor
Caster can be determined by making camber measurements with the wheels steered some fixed amount to the left and again with the wheels steered the same amount to the right. Most of the commercially available DIY caster-camber gauges will have you use 20° steering (at the wheels), but that's not the only angle if you understand the math behind it.


and camber?
full.jpg


for toe, measuring at the "front" (shown) and at the "rear" of where the wheel flange is at the height of your string. From there, the math involves basic trig functions.
full.jpg



rear wheel/four wheel alignment? All this with a string? Or are we going to bring in a 2x4 and protractor lol.
Better if you start by hunting down your thinking cap before you even touch a wrench.


Like Gearz, I've been doing my own alignments for quite a long time (about 40 years). The measuring apparatus has varied a bit over the years, but the theory and the math is still the same.


Norm
 
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dem00n

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I also do my own string alignments for track work on the GT350 and my other cars. Most shops (even performance shops) don't know how to do a proper alignment or have the care/patience to finely align every aspect of the car properly. I finally caved in after a shop set the rear camber of Miata to -3.2 when I wanted -2.4.

The worst part of the GT350 is the rear camber adjustment, it's extremely vague. SPC has an upgrade for that...I'll buy it one day. Toe alignment in the rear is okay...

High Performance Academy has a course on wheel alignments that's a great starting point. It goes step by step on what to do. Yeah it costs money, but I'll have it forever and it's a great resource.
 

sigintel

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Try it!

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=string+alignment

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=toe+plate+alignment

String alignments are basic geometry, but seem intimidating at first. Lol, I passed calc 2 in high school, but recently was asked to help a 14 yr old w geometry homework and was like damn this is hard...

We used nice laser alignment rack at the proving grounds, but string, set of bob weights, set of measuring tapes, or toe plates and a camber guage, etc are all surprisingly accurate and waaaayyy cheaper and lighter weight than lugging around alignment rack for track days.

If you have a car you track on a regular basis, the first time you teach yourself string or toe plate alignment you will likely spend all day playing. By the second year of tracking and fixing issues caused by dropping tires off the track or needing to change a strut mid day at the track, you will be way faster at set up and getting close to dialed in.

You will also learn exactly how many turns of the adjustment wrench yields how many degrees change. Eventually, you will be able to get extremely close on setting camber, which you will then clean up by spraying white paint across tire and then loading that corner only once in the target turn and driving light back to paddock to check. You adjust from there if needed. Modern angle gauges are so freakn good and cheap.

Toe is easier to set as you go 0.1 toe in front and rear. Then put wratchet straps on front pulling straight back 200# (check deflection under braking) and split any difference. If you are beginner to intermediate, you will add some rear toe in (quarter degree) for highspeed stability depending on your tire sidewall. Basically, add rear toe in until high speed stability is where you want. After getting comfortable, you can add small amounts of front toe out to increase turn in without increasing driver workload for maintaining balance (oversteer).
Stiffer sidewalls up front and increased grip in setups intended for smooth deeper trail brake turn in might need neutral or even toe in up front.

I use orange fly fishing line for my string box, helps to see the damn thing at my age, lol...

Hub stands on scales if you have the coin..
Yes, they still used string...
 
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JAJ

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... Oil changes are a little less complicated, and Im not sure where you adjust an oil change.

Have you seen what alignment equipment looks like these days? I find it hard to believe anybody could think they could come close with a string compared to the technology a properly equipped shop has (assuming they know what they're doing, if not find a shop that does).

How about castor and camber? rear wheel/four wheel alignment? All this with a string? Or are we going to bring in a 2x4 and protractor lol.
I've used string for years. A string setup gives you toe and thrust angle, and a bob-weight gives you camber. The car has to be level when you start, but you get exactly what you want if you know what you're doing.

If you've got doubts, then walk the paddock at an IMSA race and look at the multi-million dollar prototype cars in the air with string racks on them. Pro's use string because string is the most accurate and reliable alignment system, period. Lasers can be knocked out of calibration but string never lies.
 

The Rooster

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I stand corrected.
However... looking at that video and reading gears post confirms that theres a little more to it than simply stretching a string down the side of the car. I guess if you are regularly planning on changing your settings it would be worth buying all the equipment and learning the process. Certainly doesn't apply to me
 

kz

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I stand corrected.
However... looking at that video and reading gears post confirms that theres a little more to it than simply stretching a string down the side of the car. I guess if you are regularly planning on changing your settings it would be worth buying all the equipment and learning the process. Certainly doesn't apply to me
Also - I think you have unfortunately little distorted view of "professionals" how you called them - vast majority of shop will just get the readings within spec, not really trying that hard to get camber/toe on both sides (relatively) equal. If you have any aftermarket part (camber plates, toe links, camber arm), most will decline doing anything (since they pull up manual and look up what manufacturer specifies as adjustments), also how calibrated their rack is...

You can do it more accurately at home that probably 70-80% shops out there.
 

1MeanZ

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I got tired of the song and dance from "professionals" saying it was "as close as they could get it" or the more they talked the more I realized they didn't understand the math behind what they were doing.

I've been doing alignments on a variety of vehicles including my Mustang for 15 years now. I started with string, and still like that for solid rear axle cars. For IRS cars I cheat and use this setup linked below that I bought a couple years ago and it works great. One bay of my shop where the 2 post lift is has no floor drains and is pretty darn level so I do my alignments there. Nothing else to add, the others posting know what's up.

https://quicktrickalignment.com/

I have the 4th gen series equipment along with the turn plates (which are great) and the steering wheel holder (which I rarely use).
 

 
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