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Old 05-19-2009, 02:31 PM   #1
mav1c
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Default To those that do their own alignments, what tools do you use? Tips? Tricks? Sources?

I'm trying to piece together the parts and tools need to do alignments in my garage. I don't want to spend $Texas. I understand all the principles, so now I just need to decide on how to apply them. For toe I'll probably stick with the old string method, unless I can find an accurate, easy-to-use, inexpensive tool. Camber is a different story. There are lots of options out there. Ideally I'd like to find something that works well to compensate for a non-flat surface. I have read this so that's a good start. I'm looking for first hand experience and insight. What exact tools do you use? Found a good ruler or measuring tape with super fine settings? What type of string do you use? What do you use for turning plates? Where'd you get it your stuff? Any good sources for used stuff? Etc. Etc. I'd also like to find a good set of used scales. Mods, if you think this is reduntant to the stickied thread, feel free to delete.
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Last edited by mav1c; 05-19-2009 at 02:36 PM.
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Old 05-19-2009, 03:30 PM   #2
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copied this from Sm.com
1) String setup is for toe. (Iron Canyon is popular if you don't want to go the jack stand method)

2) Caster/Camber gauge is self explanatory (you only need 1 gauge--a lot of guys use the Smart Camber Gauge).

3) Scales are for corner weighting. (Intercomp and Longacre are the popular ones)

So to do a complete setup and corner weighting, you'll need all 3 items.


Scales are going to be expensive. Figure 1000 plus if you can find them used. String works fine for toe, thats what I used at the track. For a camber guage, a lot of people get digital levelers ala http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_00948292000P
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Old 05-19-2009, 05:36 PM   #3
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I guess I'm really looking more for "I have this. This is how I use it. This what I did" type answers. Really, it'd be great to get work with someone that's done it before. I know this is something I can do, I just want to minimize the first timer mistakes.
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Old 05-19-2009, 06:23 PM   #4
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I used the water and bucket technique in this video to level the ground.


hope that helps.
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Old 05-19-2009, 07:21 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mav1c View Post
I guess I'm really looking more for "I have this. This is how I use it. This what I did" type answers. Really, it'd be great to get work with someone that's done it before. I know this is something I can do, I just want to minimize the first timer mistakes.
I use a standard digital level of a piece of aluminum to check camber. Any of the sears type digital levels will zero on a surface. You just have to subtract from 90 when you check it. I spent less than 40 dollars on the entire setup.

For toe I use longacre toe plates or a tire scribe. I like using the tire scribe. I would only use strings if you were worried about trust angle. Once you have the rear toe set to zero you can do small adjustments with the scribe or plates as long as you turn the adjustment on each side the same amount. This will save you lots of time.

My friend Vern, who does a lot of work on my car, I think uses a Snap on Camber/Caster gauge. It works well.

-Duncan
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Old 05-19-2009, 07:28 PM   #6
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Old 05-20-2009, 02:58 AM   #7
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1) I "rented" one of those jobbies that projects a level horizontal laser line from Harbor Freight and measured the garage floor to figure out how much I needed to shim each tire contact patch to make the car set level. Then I used 1' squares of 1/8" Luan to shim the car up to level.

2) I bought a Longacre 78295 Digital Camber/Caster Gauge w/ Wheel Adapter. I've made several homemade gauges, I've used the digital level from Craftsman, I've owned and used a FasTrax Camber/Caster Gauge. The Longacre product just kicks all their asses. It is so much easier to use that it's just crazy. Anyway, I check camber on both sides, adjusting as needed.

3) I check front and rear total toe using toe plates and a metric tape measure (easier than working in fractions for this).

4) I check thrust angle by putting a Craftsman Laser Level against the toe plate (right over the center of the hub) and shine the laser towards the other end of the car. My assistant (hi honey! ) measures how far away from the hub the laser beam is on the other end of the car. The difference in distances between sides is your thrust angle.

5) I then make adjustments to try to correct toe and thrust angle for both ends at the same time.

6) I remeasure the car and go back to step 3 if the measurements are not correct



Remember to drive the car out of and back into the garage after each time you make an adjustment to settle the suspension before re-measuring.
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Old 05-20-2009, 08:35 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by williaty View Post
1) I "rented" one of those jobbies that projects a level horizontal laser line from Harbor Freight and measured the garage floor to figure out how much I needed to shim each tire contact patch to make the car set level. Then I used 1' squares of 1/8" Luan to shim the car up to level.

2) I bought a Longacre 78295 Digital Camber/Caster Gauge w/ Wheel Adapter. I've made several homemade gauges, I've used the digital level from Craftsman, I've owned and used a FasTrax Camber/Caster Gauge. The Longacre product just kicks all their asses. It is so much easier to use that it's just crazy. Anyway, I check camber on both sides, adjusting as needed.

3) I check front and rear total toe using toe plates and a metric tape measure (easier than working in fractions for this).

4) I check thrust angle by putting a Craftsman Laser Level against the toe plate (right over the center of the hub) and shine the laser towards the other end of the car. My assistant (hi honey! ) measures how far away from the hub the laser beam is on the other end of the car. The difference in distances between sides is your thrust angle.

5) I then make adjustments to try to correct toe and thrust angle for both ends at the same time.

6) I remeasure the car and go back to step 3 if the measurements are not correct



Remember to drive the car out of and back into the garage after each time you make an adjustment to settle the suspension before re-measuring.
Great info. Thanks. Quick question. Does the Longacre Digital Camber/Caster Gauge come with a zeroing feature for non-level surfaces? This would be very convenient for quick camber checks at the track.
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Old 05-20-2009, 09:44 AM   #9
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Another great reason to combine the autox and track subforums. This is useful stuff for autocross too. The "do you own alignment supersticky" is getting a little long and cumbersome.

Here is a decent thread showing inexpensive homemade camber gauges:
http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/show....php?t=1691534

I use longacre toe plates for toe. They are pretty simple and could be homemade with either plywood or aluminum

Another tip: I have found that stacking about 4 plastic bags (like from the supermarket or trashbags) let the tires slip pretty well and take up practically no thickness.
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Old 05-20-2009, 09:46 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mla163 View Post
Another great reason to combine the autox and track subforums. This is useful stuff for autocross too. The "do you own alignment supersticky" is getting a little long and cumbersome.

Here is a decent thread showing inexpensive homemade camber gauges:
http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/show....php?t=1691534

I use longacre toe plates for toe. They are pretty simple and could be homemade with either plywood or aluminum

Another tip: I have found that stacking about 4 plastic bags (like from the supermarket or trashbags) let the tires slip pretty well and take up practically no thickness.
Yeah...that alignment sticky has good info, but it's painful to read though all the other jibber jabber. Good tip about the plastic bags.
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Old 05-20-2009, 10:56 AM   #11
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What dowroa posted about the camber gauge. That one works great.

As far as toe, I don't bother with plates. I'd rather string the whole car up with jackstands, that way I square it out rather then possibly setting rear toe out on one and in on the other.

-Tom
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Old 05-20-2009, 10:57 AM   #12
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Yeah, I can see the toe plates being used at the track for a quick check/setting, but the string seems like a better way to get a baseline. Just takes some more work.
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Old 05-20-2009, 11:10 AM   #13
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Even at the track I string. Yea, it takes a few mins longer, but all the tracks I go to have alignment areas where I can get a perfectly flat surface and in 30 mins do an alignment with any needed changes including toe and camber.

Then again, I'm using lots of *I*'s in these statements. In my race car, I can use real suspension adjustments, so I run 1/8" toe out front to help with bite, and never touch that, and then 0 rear toe. I want to MAKE SURE its 0 in the rear, not 1/8" in and 1.8" out, so thats why I string.

-Tom
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Old 05-20-2009, 11:11 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mav1c View Post
Great info. Thanks. Quick question. Does the Longacre Digital Camber/Caster Gauge come with a zeroing feature for non-level surfaces? This would be very convenient for quick camber checks at the track.
Yes45
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Old 05-20-2009, 11:14 AM   #15
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Nice. Thanks. OK. I think that will be my first purchase. Trip to OG Racing soon.
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Old 05-20-2009, 11:16 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by williaty View Post
1
2) I bought a Longacre 78295 Digital Camber/Caster Gauge w/ Wheel Adapter. I've made several homemade gauges, I've used the digital level from Craftsman, I've owned and used a FasTrax Camber/Caster Gauge. The Longacre product just kicks all their asses. It is so much easier to use that it's just crazy. Anyway, I check camber on both sides, adjusting as needed.
Whats SO great about this Longacre gauge that you can't accomplish and get the exact same result in the exact same amount of time as this??

http://www.tomhoppe.com/index.php/20...-camber-gauge/

-Tom
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Old 05-20-2009, 11:25 AM   #17
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Whats SO great about this Longacre gauge that you can't accomplish and get the exact same result in the exact same amount of time as this??

http://www.tomhoppe.com/index.php/20...-camber-gauge/

-Tom
That was the first gauge setup I made. It works just fine if you only have one style of wheels and if all the wheels you have of that style have exactly the same radius of lip. Even if you just look at only the 3 sets of OEM 16" doubled-5 spoke wheels we have, they span enough years that I had to have 3 different adapters to fit them to all the wheels because the lip style has changed VERY SLIGHTLY over time. Then toss in our one set of Saab wheels. Plus people showing up with god knows what wheels for their STi, etc.

Having a homemade gauge just got too clunky once we had wheels that didn't exactly match each other.


So we bought the FasTrax gauge since it was adjustable. It sucked. It was flexy, it was hard to illuminate the bubble. It was hard to read it EXACTLY the same way every time. Because of the aforementioned, it was almost impossible to use on the Saabaru wheels because they have no lip. We returned it.

The Longacre wheel adapter is beefy. I mean like kill a moose beefy. It's still light though. The measuring device is also dead easy to read. I can adjust it to the wheel (even the Saab ones), hold it against the wheel, and read it without any trouble. It'll hold readings, compare them, all kinds of fancy **** that I don't use It just works easier and works better.
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Old 05-20-2009, 11:32 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by williaty View Post
That was the first gauge setup I made. It works just fine if you only have one style of wheels and if all the wheels you have of that style have exactly the same radius of lip. Even if you just look at only the 3 sets of OEM 16" doubled-5 spoke wheels we have, they span enough years that I had to have 3 different adapters to fit them to all the wheels because the lip style has changed VERY SLIGHTLY over time.
Got it. That makes sense. As long as you're not paying the $$ for the gauge itself but the badass adapter, I completely agree.

I ended up making 3 holes in my adapter so it works with the 15" wheels on my acura, mazda, jeep and the 17" on the 4 Runner. I guess I got lucky that the lip styles lined up

-Tom
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Old 05-20-2009, 11:37 AM   #19
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Got it. That makes sense. As long as you're not paying the $$ for the gauge itself but the badass adapter, I completely agree.

I ended up making 3 holes in my adapter so it works with the 15" wheels on my acura, mazda, jeep and the 17" on the 4 Runner. I guess I got lucky that the lip styles lined up

-Tom
Yeah, while the measuring device itself is pretty cool in a tool geeky way, it's the adapter that drove the purchase.
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Old 05-20-2009, 01:14 PM   #20
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Hmm, my approach is a tad bit different than most folks here; so I'm definitely interested in feedback if I've got it all wrong. :-)

I've got adjustable camber plates, so I generally slam them in towards negative camber when I'm at the track and then zero them out again when I return to daily driver setup. I generally have not cared too much what the actual camber is because I just measure the tire temps when I come off track and use that as a gauge to determine if I'm over enough or not (using the indicator marks on the camber plate itself). From measuring tire temps (and looking at general wear on the tires) I've found that NT01 tires like a lot of negative camber but regular street tires (RE960AS when wet out) really prefer a more modest camber.

My biggest issue is that the toe changes when you go move camber; so I bought some cheap-ish toe plates to measure out the toe and I adjust it at the track to get close to zero toe (I still need to determine optimal setup; but I'll get there).

So I guess the things that are different for me are 1) I don't care what camber is as long as I can set it repeatably and 2) I use toe plates to set toe for DD vs HPDE.
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Old 05-20-2009, 01:27 PM   #21
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The testing with tire temps, is what anyone that is serious does anyways, its just easier sometimes to throw a number at it, rather then "2nd line". There is nothing at all wrong with the "2nd line" approach at all though. Who cares what the number is if you just care about tire wear at an HPDE

For me, the reason I care about numbers, is that a mix of different things can affect camber on my double wishbone car. What if I get new replacement bushings? What if I crash and put a new upright in? I want to make sure to get back to an actual number repeatably, as I know for that number, my car has the most front grip, and thus a faster lap time.

-Tom
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Old 05-21-2009, 09:46 AM   #22
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Good posts, good info.

One question for you folks, especially those using home-made camber gauges:

How do you insure that your gauge is perfectly vertical, ensuring repeatable readings on both sides? Or do you figure that getting it off a few degrees doesn't really effect it that much?

-Matt
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Old 05-21-2009, 10:00 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by mateospeed View Post
Good posts, good info.

One question for you folks, especially those using home-made camber gauges:

How do you insure that your gauge is perfectly vertical, ensuring repeatable readings on both sides? Or do you figure that getting it off a few degrees doesn't really effect it that much?

-Matt
For me, I compared it against both a longacre gauge and a framing level. Then flipped it 180 and did the same thing. It was off by 0.1 degrees, alignment shops can't even get it that close, so good enough for me.

These should be checked every now and then to make sure they haven't gone out of whack. Same with any measuring device.
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Old 05-21-2009, 10:06 AM   #24
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Alignment shops absolutely get to 0.1 degrees. If they didn't, they would be a waste of time.

Use a digital gauge that has 0.1 accuracy and level it/zero it against the ground where you are doing the alignment.

-Tom
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Old 06-29-2009, 11:25 PM   #25
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Bump. Improvement to my method via a Ryobi self leveling laser
Amazon.com: Factory-Reconditioned Ryobi ZRELL0006 AIRgrip ProCross Self-Leveling Laser: Home ImprovementAmazon.com: Factory-Reconditioned Ryobi ZRELL0006 AIRgrip ProCross Self-Leveling Laser: Home Improvement


Put that baby in the middle of where the car will be, and use Home Depot $0.59 vinyl floor tiles to get the work area absolutely level before you use the camber gauge. With that projecting a horizontal level laser and a ruler at the corners to setup the tiles, you won’t ever have to zero it against the ground anymore (every time you power it off, it goes back to default). I’m within 1/16″ at all 4 corners, with the highest corner getting 0 tiles, and the lowest corner getting 9.

-Tom
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