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Want to do my own alignment

Old 11-28-06, 02:42 PM
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Want to do my own alignment

I can't find a shop that will do anything other than a stock spec alignment. I wanted to try adding some negative camber for next season, and I want to be able to increase or decrease it as desired. Would this kit available from solo performance be a good investment?
http://www.soloperformance.com/Shopp...0/Default.aspx
Or how about this one that's just for camber?
http://www.soloperformance.com/Shopp...Free%20Adapter
I don't care about tire wear. I only use the FD for auto-x and the occasional date (got to impress the ladies and the 94 Corolla just doesn't do it).
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Old 11-28-06, 03:14 PM
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You don't need plates to do toe. Just set up some strings on either side of the car, parallel to the car and measure to the rim. If you really want a nice setup, figure out a way to hang a pole on either end of the car, across the car, parallel to the ground, so that you can run strings between them. That way when you move the car you won't have to reset the strings.

With that and a camber gauge a good alignment can be had at home. A completely flat level surface helps, but if need be, you can use shims made out of wood or something like that.
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Old 11-28-06, 04:37 PM
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Do you know the difference in your track width front and rear? If your tires stick out enough at wheel centerline hieght you can run a string all the way around your car on the tires and add a spacer on each wheel to make up the track difference(thicker spacer on narrow end of car). You might need spacers on all four corners to get the string to clear the body. I keep a spool of cheap fishing line handy for this in the shop and I use hardwood for the spacers.

So lets say you have a spacer on each wheel. On the front end put the spacers on the front side of the rim edge. On the rear put the spacers on the rear side of the rim. This will give you your strings to measure from. On the front if the distance to the string from the rim is more than your spacer thickness in the front, you have toe out. You will also be able center the steering by making sure you have the same measurement on both sides. In the rear, a larger distance to the string means toe in.

This is easiest if you rims are the same width all the way around. It will just take a little more math with different rims front and rear.

I use a Smart Level for camber.
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Old 11-28-06, 06:03 PM
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To properly string a car you should not use the wheel as a reference. You need to find the centerline of the car and use that as the reference. Once you have the centerline measure an equal distance from the centerline to the side of the car. Can be any arbitrary distance that clears the wheels by around 6" or so. Adjust the string on each side so that they are equidistant from the centerline reference and parallel. The strings should be at the height of the wheel centerline. Once you have the side strings in place kill anyone who trips over them! Now you can easily measure from the string to the wheel lips to record toe. You can also see, by using the centerline instead of the wheels as a reference, if the car is square and the track is true side to side.

There are good books on the subject. I recommend picking at least one up. You will not only learn how to do the alignment but will certainly pick up pointers on what to adjust and why.

Lastly I've done my own alignments with string and a Smart Level. They've turned out well. However, it's not worth the time IMO when I can take it to a shop and have it done for around $100. In Louisville there are at least 3 places I can think of that will line the car up hoever you want. Two that do a lot of track and autocross cars. Certainly there is someone in your area that does performance alignments. Peoria isn't that small is it?
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Old 11-28-06, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Larz
I can't find a shop that will do anything other than a stock spec alignment. I wanted to try adding some negative camber for next season, and I want to be able to increase or decrease it as desired. Would this kit available from solo performance be a good investment?
http://www.soloperformance.com/Shopp...0/Default.aspx
Or how about this one that's just for camber?
http://www.soloperformance.com/Shopp...Free%20Adapter
I don't care about tire wear. I only use the FD for auto-x and the occasional date (got to impress the ladies and the 94 Corolla just doesn't do it).

I've had the same problem finding some one local to do a custom alignment. So I do it myself. Made my own tools and did a bunch of research.

Camber, caster and toe gauge:



Turn plate:

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Old 11-28-06, 07:30 PM
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The last alignment I paid for on a Hunter machine the guy hung four things on the wheels. If their machine thinks its OK its good enough for me.

String on the wheels will work just as good but it is best to find out if your rear end thrust line is straight and centered with another method first as C. Ludwig points out. Its easiest on a solid rear axle because you really have no adjustment. If you have some kind of IRS just be careful, write down what you do, and make sure you do the same to both sides to get your numbers.

Another issue with string on the wheels is to make sure the tires aren't touching the string. Its not an easy job the first time doing any alignment yourself, take your time get set up how ever you choose and double check your base lines. In the long run you can save a lot of money if you are going to switch back and forth from street to comp settings.

Did anybody mention this should all be done on a perfectly level surface? I can tell you how to find that with about 10' of clear hose, a yard stick and a big gatorade bottle if you are serious about this.
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Old 11-28-06, 08:20 PM
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I mentionned it. At the last race meet I was at crewing for my dad's freind we did some paddock alignments and used some shims (1'x1'x1/8" white painted fiber board) to level the surface.
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Old 11-29-06, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by C. Ludwig
Lastly I've done my own alignments with string and a Smart Level. They've turned out well. However, it's not worth the time IMO when I can take it to a shop and have it done for around $100.
This is the same conclusion I've reached. I can and do align my car but I tend to only do it when I'm experimenting with setups and changing alignment often. To walk into the garage and setup, level and measure everything takes me over half an hour; that's before I've even touched the car itself. If I'm tweaking all four corners I'll spend about another hour adjusting, measuring, adjusting, measuring etc. And that's now that I've done it quite a few times. Expect a few hours easy if you've never done it before. I've been accurate but it takes time.

Now that I have one setup that I run I take the car to a shop, tell them what I want and let them do it.


Originally Posted by jgrewe
The last alignment I paid for on a Hunter machine the guy hung four things on the wheels. If their machine thinks its OK its good enough for me.
That machine references the chassis as well. The machine is told what kind of car is being measured so it knows ahead of time things like what the wheelbase and track dimensions are. With that in mind it can then reference the four wheels and by relative comparison know their relation to the chassis as well.

We don't really care how the wheels are positioned in respect to eachother, we care how they are positioned in respect to the chassis. This is the only way to be sure the chassis and the wheels are headed in the same direction when traveling straight down the road. If you don't reference the chassis you can quite easily align a car to travel straight and yet have the chassis pointed to the side of the road.
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Old 11-29-06, 10:25 AM
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So those links I posted will work, but some bubble gauges and string are essentially the same thing is the moral of the story. I'm primarily concerned with adjusting camber at the moment. One thing at a time.
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Old 11-29-06, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Larz
I'm primarily concerned with adjusting camber at the moment. One thing at a time.
As soon as you change the camber your toe just changed. Depending on the suspension your caster may change as well.

As soon as you change the camber you have to go back and reset the toe.
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Old 11-29-06, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by DamonB
As soon as you change the camber your toe just changed. Depending on the suspension your caster may change as well.

As soon as you change the camber you have to go back and reset the toe.
So how do you go back to the "street" settings? Asuming you auto X your DD FD, do you take the car to a shop everytime you auto X?
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Old 11-29-06, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by KNONFS
So how do you go back to the "street" settings?
I don't. My car stays setup for autox which means on the street I eat up tires more than twice as fast. I've only been averaging about 12K miles per set of street tires and that's without driving them hard. The insides go down to the wear bars and the outsides look nearly new On the other hand the race tires wear really nicely
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Old 11-29-06, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by C. Ludwig
Once you have the side strings in place kill anyone who trips over them!
Haha, that sounds like a quote from Puhn's book.

Unfortunately, I'm usually the one who trips over the lines
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Old 11-29-06, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by sctty
Haha, that sounds like a quote from Puhn's book.

Unfortunately, I'm usually the one who trips over the lines

I was trying to remeber where I heard it. I thought a racer had come up with it. But you're right.
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Old 11-29-06, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by DamonB
The insides go down to the wear bars and the outsides look nearly new
It sounds like you don't have enough turns on your route to work and back.
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Old 11-29-06, 09:57 PM
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Originally Posted by DamonB
I don't. My car stays setup for autox which means on the street I eat up tires more than twice as fast. I've only been averaging about 12K miles per set of street tires and that's without driving them hard. The insides go down to the wear bars and the outsides look nearly new On the other hand the race tires wear really nicely
How many degrees?
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Old 11-30-06, 07:34 AM
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Depending on how heavy the springs are in the car and your weight, you might want to have a buddy sit in the car wile you string it to compensate for deflection due to driver weight. Problem with the big alignment machines is the shops don't keep up on the calibration of the equipment. I worked as fly in crew for a Porsche GT3 team and the guys at the shop would set the car up before it left for the track. At the track we would take it off the truck and after the first couple of laps the driver would tell me that the car was undrivable. Get it in the garage and a quick check of the toe and sure enough 1/4 toe out in the rear! I'd adjust it correct and be on our way. Once the car got back to the shop they numbnut there would put it back on the stupid rack and put the toe right back in because the machine said it was in 5/16" We went through this cycle a couple of times before I went to the shop and showed the guys the error of thier ways. Moral of the story is that the tape never lies and is always calibrated.
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Old 11-30-06, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by jgrewe
It sounds like you don't have enough turns on your route to work and back.
I just have to take them much slower than I'd like

Originally Posted by Larz
How many degrees?
Negative 2 front and rear. That's compounded by the 1/8" toe out in front and 1/8" toe in at the rear. When traveling straight the camber means a smaller footprint of the tire is on the road and at the same time the toe is constantly grinding them against the pavement. Yum yum. My car loves street tires
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