Any Front End/Alignment Gurus?

Discussion in 'General Chit Chat' started by shoon, Nov 9, 2017.

  1. shoon

    shoon cliTaurus

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    Just spent a lot of time and money getting the front of my 99 F150 4x4 rebuilt, pitman arm, lower ball joints, both upper control arms, inner and outer tie rods..

    Took it to the alignment shop at the dealership and asked for 4 wheel alignment. They dinged me an extra $50 (without asking first) because they said they had difficulty adjusting camber/caster on upper control arms because there are no cam bolts, bringing my total to $236. I had no problem paying the extra amount because I had thought they took the extra time to make it decent. Additionally, it appears they never checked the back wheels as the report doesnt indicate rear camber, toe, or more importantly thrust angle. Upon inspecting the truck it looks like they only made adjustments on the driver side control arm (I left marks when I removed the old arms and reinstalled the new control arms bang on where the old ones were)

    So the toe and camber appear decent enough to me, but the difference in caster between the two sides seems high to me. The 'allowable' cross caster as per their software is -1.4 but I was of the understanding -.50 is ideally the max difference between the two you'd want to go.

    Final Report Values is as follows:

    Toe 0.04 L / 0.05 R
    Camber 0.1 L / -0.1 R
    Caster 3.9 L / 4.8 R

    Total Toe 0.09
    Cross Camber 0.2
    Cross Caster -0.9

    SAI 12.5 L / 13.0 R
    Included Angle: 12.5 L / 12.8 R

    So I'm a little irked that the thrust angle isn't on the report (since my last alignment my thrust was 0.17 - I believe the front toe was compensated to correct this) and my caster difference is so high. The truck seems to track left a bit at highway speed. I'm thinking of ordering the cam bolt kits and asking them to fix it properly...

    Is it reasonable of me to ask them to improve the caster angle?
    TBH I would have preferred they called me and told me they were having issues prior to me spending extra in labor only to end up with a sub-par alignment.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2017
  2. rubydist

    rubydist Moderator Staff Member

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    Before you get too worked up about how it drifts, make sure the tire pressures are identical in both front tires, and then test it on a number of roads. Those trucks are fairly susceptible to drift a little if the road is not flat (ruts worn from traffic, or slope) or if the tire pressure is a little different from side to side. But, I won't be surprised that it does drift a little left since vehicles tend to pull toward the least caster and the most positive camber.

    My preference with those vehicles (since they are a little vague at center) is to have them want to drift a little - that makes for slightly less steering input required to keep it going straight down the road - you are tending to correct against the drift one way most of the time. But that is personal preference and not a "right" thing. (I have my Mazda set up to want to drift slightly to the right - that makes for just a little leftward pressure on the wheel most of the time, and since I like to drive with my left hand on the wheel and elbow on the door, that makes for slightly less effort to hold my hand up.)

    At the end of the day, if the tires wear correctly, and if its not extra tiring to drive it, I'd leave it alone. But again, that's just me.
     
  3. shoon

    shoon cliTaurus

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    Thanks Ruby!

    It is an older truck, I've put a lot of work into it. Maybe I just have high expectations.
    I threw my winters on and set all 4x tire pressures when I was doing the front end, so I've ruled that and brake drag out of the equation.
    Prior to performing all the work it was incredibly tiring to drive long distances. Between the looseness in the steering and the constant effort required to keep the truck from pulling right I was hoping to replace everything and put the issue to bed once and for all. The steering gear backlash was incredibly loose as well, I pulled the gear box off and got a almost 2 turns of the sector shaft to remove the slop and get the rotating resistance within spec.

    I'll take your advice and drive it for a few weeks on different roads and see how it goes.

    Cheers
     
  4. pjtoledo

    pjtoledo 'ol man in the SHO

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    since you mentioned snow tires I'll tell you how to easily check the thrust angle, and for free.

    pick a time and location when there is a small amount of fresh snow on a good smooth parking lot, preferable a big one.

    drive in as straight of a line as possible at a slow speed, then get out and look at the tracks. some vehicles have different widths between front & rear, others its the same. either way you should be able to figure out how the rears are following the fronts.
     
    SHOVNST likes this.
  5. TimboSHO

    TimboSHO Novice

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    Seems like a big difference in caster, but sometimes you set those just perfect and then they pull. Then you just have to adjust the caster accordingly in order to get it to drive right.

    And, since you mention snow tires, they are more likely to make the truck drive differently as well. Just as rubydist says, the type of road will cause it to drive differently, especially with snow tires.

    I think $236 is a ridiculous amount. It really doesn't matter if it has cam bolts or not, as those don't have any problems of slipping. My shop would charge $75 for the same alignment. Either my shop should raise it's rates, or the dealership sees an old vehicle and has a young guy working on it that doesn't know what he's doing and wants to get paid accordingly.
     
  6. shoon

    shoon cliTaurus

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    Thanks for the advice and experience pjtoledo & TimboSHO.

    I am thinking of disputing the invoice. in 2013 it cost me $139 at KalTire (keeping in mind Canadian currency and living in a remote community), and they have the exact same alignment machine.

    They never touched the passenger side control arm, only made adjustments on the drivers side and were too lazy to throw the sensors on the rear wheels. They threw in a "repair order shop supplies fees" at 5% of labor to boot. There were absolutely no supplies or materials needed to do the alignment.

    I suspect maybe they ate a bunch of time on the vehicle before mine and tried to make up for it; was scheduled for 7:30AM and I couldn't get it back until after 4PM.
     
  7. TimboSHO

    TimboSHO Novice

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    Oh yeah, forgot you were in Canada. $139 sounds much more reasonable. I would bring it to the other shop and have them check it to verify your findings, then go back to the dealer and raise a stink.
     

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