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DIY alignments?

Old 05-01-03, 03:32 PM
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DIY alignments?

I have been looking into buying my own caster/camber and toe gauges for a while now. What I would like to hear is some first hand experience or tips from anyone as I keep finding info only for dirt cars. Not that they are bad, but I was hoping for something more specific for independent suspensions.

And a bubble gauge would still need the car on a perfectly level surface for setup, no?

Thanks.
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Old 05-01-03, 04:44 PM
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The equipment and procedures are the same regardless. You'll need more than caster/camber and toe gauges though. You'll need some kind of string system to square the car. This can be as simple as some kite string and jackstands or laser planes. A VERY smooth, level surface is just as important.

Chris
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Old 05-01-03, 07:28 PM
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Check out the maple one guage (about the middle of the page) I have used this and I really like it. Its not fancy or really expensive and it does camber and toe. No caster but you can use this device and a tape measure to get caster.

Ikeya Formula
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Old 05-01-03, 11:40 PM
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That's not smart, this is Smart . Yes, Smart Racing Products has some good stuff for setting your alignment by yourself. If you go to them for Porsche gear then you are one rich ****. I just got their new catalog and it does one thing - tell me I'm poor.

Longacre Racing also has some good equipment. It just depends on what you're looking for as far as features and price.
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Old 05-02-03, 07:33 AM
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Thanks guys, I have seen most of these products but what I really want to here is about using them firsthand. How tedious is it really when you have no setup plates or a raised rack?
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Old 05-02-03, 07:50 AM
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I use my stuff to double check the alignment not set it. You'll still get the best results from a good rack. Any time I make huge adjustments it's off to the rack. Once we make the adjustment I'll come home and check and record everything with my equipment for comparison between events. The good news is that once you find what works for the car you'll leave it pretty much the same and not have to travel to the rack that much. You can buy alot of rack time for what it'll cost you to buy your own equipment and do you own. Caster is the one that really buggers you. Turn plates are expensive.

Chris
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Old 05-02-03, 08:22 AM
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I have the Smart camber/caster gauge(about $300), two Stanley tape measures, and two 10"x24" aluminum plates(3/16" thick). I have never used an alignment rack(most non race shops are not calibrated well enough for racing and operators never follow instructions) for any of my race cars. the smart gauge lets you check camber without a level floor and with the two tapes, the aluminum plates and a helper you can check the toe. caster is not a setting I worry about much. I do set my camber/caster plates(front) the same side to side but I am not worried about what the caster number is as long as it is similair side to side. the bubble gauge, a set of turn plates, and a level floor would give you the caster number, but again I find it is not needed. If you are running circle tracks or ovals then caster is important because you can change it from side to side to make the car turn left better, but most road racers make sure it is the same side to side.
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Old 05-04-03, 03:31 AM
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I have a 'Fastrax' Camber/Caster (and toe!) gauge

http://www.racerpartswholesale.com/polpos.htm

Determining a flat surface can be hard.. But really, the only thing that matters is that the four wheels are on the same plane. So, a flat surface could even be a gravel paddock in the right conditions.. Nothing has to be glass-smooth.

Maybe restating the obvious, but, the only reason to have the car level is so the bubble level is oriented to 'gravity' the same way it is at each of the wheels.

When at some point the car comes across a level plane (at an alignment shop), be sure to have on hand a circular bubble level, and find some surface of the car (inside or outside) where the level is.. level. Or, if you have a G-sensor of some sort (GTech, Geez cube, Apexi RSM), calibrate on the level surface (as should have already been done, when installing it in the first place..!). If it has a high enough sensitivity, it could be a good indicator of the car being level, too.

The Fastrax alignment thingymabob is nice because it orients itself off the wheel, not the tire. This allows for a change that is made to have immediate feed back. No rolling the car back and forth to get the tires unloaded after each change.

The 'toe-arms' (easily fabricated for less than whats charged..) are helpful.. If you're fabbing them, having the arms longer would add to your ability to set toe with greater precision.
In setting toe, what would make things even easier, would be to use another thingymabober on the opposite wheel (so toe is oriented off the wheel, not the tire). Setting toe in the rear can be more complicated. I actually haven't changed rear toe, since I got the tool.. I suppose it could be done based off the front wheels, but if wheel offsets don't match up, it wouldn't be so easy.

..There are other tools out there, which are curiously inexpensive: http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/cta...emnumber=42496
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Old 05-05-03, 06:43 PM
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Having done my own alignments for longer than there have been RX7's I will tell you that the expensive tools are nice, but you have to understand how to use them. Just understand the fact that you can build error into anything.

I wrote this article about 15 years ago, and it is still fairly valid:

DIY Alignments

I wrote it when I couldn't justify the expense of the alignment tools, but I was tired of dealing with shop monkeys that didn't want to do anything but factory specs, and they didn't really understand what they were doing, much less how changes affected the car.

I should probably update the article with more modern tools, but you really don't need them to do your car properly. String, level, straightedge, and a machinists ruler are all that is necessary.
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Old 05-05-03, 06:59 PM
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Good stuff Calvin. Excellent write up.
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