Can I do it myself and cheaper?

Discussion in 'Gen 1 & 2 - Suspension, Brake Systems, & Body' started by CAR93ATX, Sep 9, 2004.

  1. CAR93ATX

    CAR93ATX New Member

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    Got this result from local company for alignment specs:

    front cross camber -1.0 left , -1.4 right
    front cross caster 4.0 left, 4.8 right

    rear camber -2.0 left, -1.8 right

    Quote me parts for adjusting parts for rear camber and drill for right front, total around $400.

    Can I do it by subframe alighment for the front right and leave front left alone? How to do it? what is the most economic way to fix the rear camber, leave it alone and just rotate tire every 5,000/6,000 miles? Or get parts and try to fix myself?
     
  2. PAracer

    PAracer Active Member

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    clear the podium...

    Yes, you can do your own allignment.


    Camber:

    You'll need: a level surface for the car, a digital level, and a special tool. The tool is made of 1/2" square tube that is welded together in the shape of a 'T'. At each end, a nut is welded in place to accept adjusting screws. Using the digital level and a level, flat surface, adjust the screws so that the 'T' tool is as perfectly flat as you can get it. With the car on a level surface, you place the tool on the wheel, line it up vertically, and take a measurement. That is how I measure camber on my car.


    Caster:

    I come from the school of thought that says that you can never have too much caster. ;) Thinking about it now, I wish I had a good way to ensure equal caster on both front wheels.


    Toe:

    You didn't mention toe, but it is as important as camber. I used toe plates, tape measures, and a string.
    First, I set the string along the centerline of the chassis. This allows me to check each side of the car individually.
    Then, with my plate placed flush against the tire, I measure from the string to the plate.
    Toe can be measured from one tire to its opposite side, but you will have to keep guessing untill you have your desired numbers and a straight steering wheel.



    With proper tools and a helper, I can do an alignment in about 2 hours. Accuracy is down to a tenth on a degree for camber, and 1/32" total toe.


    Shifting the subframe will effect both sides. The best you could do there would be -1.2 degrees. You will need to drill out the spotwelds on the strut tower to get and meaningful amount of adjustment from the front end. Out back, you could either use GM arms, or a double set of adjusting cams.

    If all that seems a little too involved, just have an allignment done at a shop. Nobody would think anything less of you. Some of the things I do to cars are a bit nutty.
     
  3. Camarok

    Camarok Awesome SHO Member!!

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    this should be a sticky :)

    and if someone wants to be creative take pics too and put it up somewhere heheh i'm volunteering someone hehehe
     
  4. shojuan

    shojuan New Member

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    I was thinking the same thing before I read what you said.

    PAracer wrote a very succinct synopsis of what's involved to DIY align. Much in contrast to my wordy style, lol! :eek:

    There are a few people here that do our own alignments. Tools can be homemade or can be purchased for the price of a quality alignment. Or even more money can be spent for even higher quality tools. Better tools = more time saved or more flexibilty on less than ideal surfaces or just an easy time.

    I'll make this a sticky to see if it sparks interest. There are a lot of people here that I know would appreciate the satisfaction of aligning their own cars but don't realize it and many of them have this roadblock set up thinking that they just can't because it takes specialized equipment. Hogwash. It takes tools, either homemade or purchased and modest tools are fine. It takes a little bit of knowledge. It really takes a lot less than it does to do something like a 60K or a strut replacement. That said there is nothing wrong with paying a professional to do an alignment on your car IF they do a good job. Sometimes those guys are hard to find. Sometimes they cost a lot extra.

    But I find that many people are hesitant to align their cars today knowing they will have to do it again in 3 months when they plan on making changes to their suspension. Being able to do it yourself means you don't have the roadblock of money dictating if and when you align your car. If you're able to set aside time for DIY work on your suspension you are able to set aside time to do your alignment yourself too. You end up paying for the labor with your time. And if your free time is more valuable you pay somebody else to do it.
     
  5. n8rsk8r

    n8rsk8r Hey Where's my post?

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    I will do that section tonight when I get back from picking my son up from daycare, if anyone has their site and wants to post this for us that would be great!, I can send it to you illistrated and with instructions and torque specs. It is for the Gen I & II, just got my site, they said I can't get in till tomorrow, and it can't be viewed for a couple days, but I at least can give it to someone so they can post it, give me a couple hours. Let me know if you want it or not. :thumb:

    Nathan
     
  6. Shoaz

    Shoaz Studly dood

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    A couple of points:

    First, other than the fact that your alignment isn't as well balanced from side-to-side as I personally like, those settings shouldn't be too bad and ought to help the handling a bit. Unless you're getting weird tire wear I wouldn't bother with trying to fix it if it's used as a street car.

    Alignments aren't that hard to do, and the only real specialty tool required is a good caster/camber gauge. There are a lot of them on the market that are reasonably affordable (<$200), and you can get one from RacerPartsWholesale at http://www.racerpartswholesale.com/ Search for Fastrax or Camber Gauge. A number of people here use the Fastrax gauge. It isn't the best, but it's good bang for the buck and it works fine.

    Toe is easier and can be done with two pieces of conduit and some string like this:

    [​IMG]

    GenIIs are made for this, as the conduit sits nicely in the lip of the front valence and between the rear bumper and the exhaust tips.

    When setting toe I put a couple of 12"x12" pieces of white board under both tires with gear lube in between them. This takes any tension out of the alignment so that you're setting the geometry and not fighting any twisting moments from the tires on the pavement.

    The only tools you'll need for setting toe this way are shown. Once you've carefully centered the conduits on the car centerline you can measure from the ends and place the strings so that they're parallel to the car sides. The combination square lets you measure perpendicular to the strings the distance from the string to the edge of the rim. Setting zero toe this way is cake. Setting a little toe-in on the rear is also pretty easy if you have adjustable control arms like the GM or BMR arms.

    Total investment in the toe-setting equipment here is probably around $35 including the combination square, conduit, string, and pliers. The Fastrax gauge is $140 as of right now (9/15/04), and a floor jack and some typical metric sockets to tighten down the front struts are about all else that is needed. Doesn't hurt to have a mallet around and the usual other blunt instruments for fine tuning.

    So for around $200 or so you can do your own alignments. I've done two or three alignments on my SHO this way and have gotten nearly perfect tire wear ever since, and much better balance than I ever got from taking it somewhere else. Other than my time investment, which probably isn't too much different than hassling with making an appointment, dropping off the car, etc., etc., I think it's paid for itself quite well already.
     
  7. PAracer

    PAracer Active Member

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    [​IMG]

    This guage works much like the one That I have described. The only real differance is that the digital level is parallel to the rim for mine. I got my level from Sears for under $100. I use it all the time, not just for car stuff.

    A garage floor will work for diy work once you get the floor level. I have a stack of tiles and aluminum plates for this. I use a pair of tape measures and a length of water filled, clear hose to check the floor's levelness (You might be surprised a how many shims you'll use).

    The string toe alignment is an old racer's trick that works well. The common way to do that is to tie the string onto jackstands.
    [​IMG]
    This is what I use for setting toe. I have a pair of holes drill on the center line frame of my car from which plumb-bobs are hung A string stretched along the plumbbobs markes the centerline of the chassis. I try to get somewhere between 1/32 and zero toe in on each side. At the end, I check total toe to make sure that I haven't screwed anything up.

    The only problem with using these simple diy tools is that you have to continuously check and recheck you numbers since one change will affect the rest of the numbers.

    Alignments are not at all hard to do. It just takes a while to get right.
    I'm just glad that There are people just as crazy as me :p
     
  8. shojuan

    shojuan New Member

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    Here my camber gauge: http://www.toyheadauto.com/CasterCamberGauge.html

    Also on ebay right now from the same guy: http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&rd=1&item=2489441333&category=43998

    And a pic stolen from his website: [​IMG]

    It's not as nice as the gauge that Shoaz has, it's just cheaper (about half the price). You have to setup a level surface to use it. Other than that it's fine. At the time I bought it I didn't know about the Fastrax gauge (http://www.racerpartswholesale.com/polpos.htm) that Eric and others here have. The only gauges I knew about that could be zero'd out on non-level surfaces cost 2-3 times as much as the fastrax gauge. That's a nice feature to have. My gauge gets the job done just fine and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to somebody on an absolute tightwad budget. Somebody with a little bit more cashflow should probably consider spending the extra bucks for the fastrax. Be cheap out of necessity, not out of a desire to pinch pennies where useful tools are concerned.

    Here's my toe gauge: http://www.toyheadauto.com/Alighment_Toe_Guage.html
    [​IMG]
    I've seen the same thing in the past on the harbor freight website for about half the price. It's a fairly low quality tool but quicker to setup than string. I like the convenience. There's nothing wrong with string though. I personally like the idea of taking measurements from the centerline like PARacer does to get the individual toe for each wheel rather than just measuring total toe. He's right. When measuring total toe you do need to fiddle more to get things even. You can have zero total toe but the wheels are parallel pointing to one side. That results in a steering wheel that's off center. When that happens you have to turn the tie rods and equal amount to move both wheels in the same direction back towards the center. And take more measurements. For example if the steering wheel is turned to the left when going straight down the road and you've already set it for zero total toe then you need to turn the tie rods an equal amount in the direction that moves them both to the left (shorten drivers side x turns and lengthen passenger's side x turns. I use the facets on the tightening nut as a reference lined. So I tend to adjust in x-facets)
     
  9. shojuan

    shojuan New Member

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    That's the SmartCamber gauge. It's one of the more expensive ones.
    You are right, you need to check and recheck numbers. But with a few tools that's easy. Yes there are crazy people like you. ;) Yup, it takes me a while to get things just right too. I'm not a pro! I can't work as fast as one. But I CAN take my time without regard to being on a work schedule and do a pretty good job. Not as good a job as an ace aligner at a fancy $200 place like Custom Alignment in Mountain View http://www.customalignment.com/, but a better job than your average pro who's work mandate is to crank through as many customers as possible or who just doesn't care about getting things even. It just takes me longer (than the good pro OR the bad pro) that's all.
     
  10. Shoaz

    Shoaz Studly dood

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    Actually, that's one of the reasons I use the string method: You automatically get the thrust angle right, and if you're careful to keep the steering wheel centered you can set toe at all four wheels with everything centered in one setup. Other ways are possible, of course, but to me the strings seem efficient. Plus it costs almost nothing and stores easily. ;)

    For road course use getting thrust angle centered and the steering wheel straight makes a big difference for hard straight-line braking. You can really tell when you get it wrong.
     
  11. nkb93

    nkb93 SLO 4 SHO

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    First I gotta say, those wheels are sweet!! what type are they? (and do you have any more pics of them?)

    I like your conduit/string idea using the bumper lips and exhaust tips... Just wondering, when you say "carefully center the conduits on the car centerline" how exactly do you do that? my car doesn't have a precise center mark on the bumpers, at least not last time I checked.. :) I figure you're measuring from some specific points on the car to center it up, just wondering what those are.


    Thanks,
    Nathan
     
  12. PAracer

    PAracer Active Member

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    Look like the ROH snyper to me. Really goog looking rim if you ask me.
     
  13. Shoaz

    Shoaz Studly dood

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    16x8 ROH Snypers. Very nice wheels.

    [​IMG]

    On a GenII it's pretty easy. The rear bumper cover has some reinforcing ribs underneath, one of which is exactly on the centerline of the car. I marked a line on the center of the conduit, and just stick my head under the rear bumper and line it up with the center reinforcing rib. It's easy to take a Sharpie and mark the bottom of the bumper cover where the conduit sits, too, but I've since figure out that that really isn't needed. The next time you're underneath your car look at the inside of the rear bumper and you'll see what I mean.

    On the front in the lip area where the conduit can fit there are also some reinforcing ribs that are easily visible from in front of the car. Pick the center two and just measure halfway in between them. I put a small mark on the valence with the conduit in place (using a sharpie pen) and line that up with the center mark on the conduit.
     
  14. SolidState

    SolidState No Mo SHO

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    this is a neat topic.

    having avsolutely no experience in front end work, adjusting toe in and centering the wheel involves you spinning the outter tie rods, camber is set via the plates on the strut towers, and caster isn't adjustable from the factory, correct?

    for adjustments in the rear, you must have adjustable control arms for toe in and camber, correct? how is caster adjusted?
     
  15. christiansho

    christiansho Member

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    caster is possible!

    you can buy adjustable caster bars for the front from many different SHO specialists that give you 2 degres of adjustment! i have them on my car! :)
     
  16. biganm

    biganm New Member

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    I am thinking about putting station wagon struts in the back of my sho so I can put bigger tiers in the back. what dos everybody els think?
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2006
  17. Mr Anonymous

    Mr Anonymous Tire Wall

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    Uhh, sure... go for it! :thumb:

    Just make sure you take a good long look under the rear end of a wagon first!
     

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