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Old 10-08-2004, 10:13 PM   #1
evorev
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Question alignment how-to?

hey guys,

I seriously dont want to fork over 60-100 bucks for an alignment on my L, but it definitely needs one. I dont need it to be perfect, but I'd like it to be sorta close. I looked all over the forums for an alignment how-to, but couldn't find one.

Does anyone want to tell me how an alignment is done? If I can figure out how it's done, I could probably rig up some device to dial in my own....

I dont have ANY suspension mods, so just a basic alignment how-to would help me out alot [and probably help out alot of other folks as well]

any alignment pros out there want to profess some wisdom??

thanks,

-brett
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Old 10-08-2004, 10:22 PM   #2
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GravelRash gives a good writeup in this thread.
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Old 10-08-2004, 11:00 PM   #3
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hmm, helpful for sure! what about caster and such?
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Old 10-08-2004, 11:48 PM   #4
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Caster isn't adjustable on a stock impreza. Set the camber, then the toe. If it doesn't pull to one side, caster is ok.
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Old 10-09-2004, 12:17 AM   #5
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You'll never properly align your car in your driveway. The only adjustment you would be able to measure is toe. To do that you would use a tape measure which is nowhere near as accurate a computerized alignment machine, (I've confirmed this, differances of 1/8" to 7/16"), not to mention that you'll have no way of measuring camber or caster. Your only option and best bet is to dish out $60 and have it done right.

Last edited by zomba_830; 10-09-2004 at 12:39 AM.
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Old 10-09-2004, 12:58 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zomba_830
You'll never properly align your car in your driveway. The only adjustment you would be able to measure is toe. To do that you would use a tape measure which is nowhere near as accurate a computerized alignment machine, (I've confirmed this, differances of 1/8" to 7/16"), not to mention that you'll have no way of measuring camber or caster. Your only option and best bet is to dish out $60 and have it done right.
We are all impressed that you know so much about what other people will never do. Thanks for sharing. I've done very accurate alignments in my driveway. The only thing you said that is correct is that a tape measure isn't as accurate as an alignment machine. Kindly note that just because you aren't on an alignment rack, does not mean you only have a tape measure.

You might also note that the OP will learn something by doing this, and that he has expressed the desire to try.
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Old 10-09-2004, 01:43 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zomba_830
You'll never properly align your car in your driveway.
That sounds like the kind of rubbish a person who doesn't know how to do it properly would say. It's not black magic. It's just a few simple measurements and if you have some basic tools, it's easy. If you're only using a tape measure, you won't be able to get it close. If you have a couple boards and a tape measure, you can get the toe to within 1/16" which is better than most alignments shops ever bother to get it.

A digital (or bubble) camber gauge allows you to get the camber to within a tenth of a degree....
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Old 10-09-2004, 02:25 AM   #8
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okay, so camber then toe... got it.

right now my car pulls slightly to the right even on perfectly level ground. would this be adjusted by changing the toe?

i understand how to measure the toe but how do i adjust it?

and the camber.... those are just bolts on the hub knuckles right?

...thanks for the help. and as far as getting it as good as a shop---i'd rather save myself 60 bucks and get it close. my tires are basically trash as it is, i'd be better off spending that 60 bucks on some new wheels.

or even better, having some extra money to pay for a few more autocrosses/rallyXes this season~

lemme know your thoughts~

-brett
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Old 10-09-2004, 02:54 AM   #9
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Pulling to one side can be caused by something that's bent in the suspension, but it can also be caused by the tires, especially if they are beat up. Other possible but less likely causes: One brake is dragging, or one bearing is worn, one spring has collapsed, there are probably more I'm not thinking about. You may need to check out a lot of possible causes to find out why it pulls. Note that the worst toe settings won't cause the car to pull to one side.

How to tell if its the tires:

Switch the two front tires from side to side: LF > RF and RF > LF. Check the air pressure in both, and adjust it to be exactly the same. Drive the car. If it now pulls in the other direction, the tires are the problem. If it pulls the same way, something is probably bent so that one wheel is farther forward than the other. Don't forget about the other possible causes. Measure the distance between the front and back wheels on each side of the car and compare. Should be the same. If you can see the difference with a tape measure, that's a problem.

Toe is adjusted by turning the tie rods to make them longer or shorter. Toe settings also affect whether your steering wheel is straight when the wheels are pointed straight ahead. Set the toe as close to zero as you can.

You should go onto eBay and spend 10 bucks on a CDROM version of your service manual. I did, and I use it every time I do something on this car for the first time.
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Old 10-09-2004, 02:44 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nhluhr
That sounds like the kind of rubbish a person who doesn't know how to do it properly would say
So what your saying is that even though he obviously has no experience with ailgnments and is most likely not willing to shell out the cash for camber guages (which he will most likely need to check/solve any tire wear or driveability issues) and is unaware of all the "little things" that need to be done to assure accuracy when not using a rack and or machine, he stands a chance of getting it anywhere near spec? THAT sounds like rubbish.

Eventually he'll be paying to have it done right.
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Old 10-09-2004, 04:52 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by evorev
okay, so camber then toe... got it.

right now my car pulls slightly to the right even on perfectly level ground. would this be adjusted by changing the toe?
If it's pulling slightly to the right, first verify that it's doing this on perfectly flat ground as well - most roads have a crown which will cause a perfectly aligned car to gently drift to the right.

If it's not the problems that 2Stroke mentioned, then it is most likely a difference in camber or caster. Generally, you will have slightly more positive caster on the right front wheel (to keep the car going straight on a crowned road) and the camber will be equal. You won't be able to adjust camber and caster very accurately without somewhat specialized tools but they are usually fairly affordable if you get modest ones.

Toe is easy to measure and easy to adjust. There are two very simple home-brew ways to measure it accurately. The first is a home-built trammel bar (Click Here) and the second is just a simple pair of flat 25" plywood squares and a tape measure:


Both of these techniques are very inexpensive and totally accurate. If you want to get a nicer tool prebuilt, you can spend about $90 on the Longacre Racing Toe Gauge from www.pegasusautoracing.com.

An inexpensive Camber gauge can be purchased (Click Here), but you can also use one of those 25" squares from your toe measurement to get a good camber measurement. All you need now is a ruler that has small divisions on it (1/16 or smaller would be nice) and a string and plumb-bob on it. Drape the string over the top edge of the board and let the plumbbob hit the ground at the base of the board... the distance between the center of the bob and the inside edge of the board can be used to calculate your camber angle with a little simple trigonometry:



If you want to buy a single tool to measure camber and caster, pegasusautoracing and summitracing sell a bubble-level based caster/camber gauge that magnets onto your lugnuts and is pretty easy to use.

Beyond simple camber and toe adjustments, you will also find another important adjustment in the rear thrust angle. If you can imagine that both rear wheels are turned 2 degrees to the right, the toe measurement will come out 0 (since it's the difference between front and rear distance on both wheels) but the wheels are pointing right, which will cause the rear end of your car to go to the right while driving.... the result is you will be going down the road sideways (with your wheel turned slightly to the right to compensate). This wears tires and is fairly easy to diagnose and adjust from the symptoms. If you camber, caster, and toe are all correct then it's probably thrust angle.

Also, you should be aware that toe is what causes MOST tire wear. Camber has a relatively small effect on tire wear especially on street-driven camber settings. Having toe is like dragging your tire sideways down the road as you drive which you can imagine is very high-wearing. Always adjust toe last because it changes significantly with just about every other adjustment you make. Also, if you measure pos or neg toe, make sure you adjust both wheels equally to prevent accumulating a thrust angle or off-center steering wheel.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.


zomba_830: why are you even here? You clearly don't have any technical advice for the guy. He's asking for technique, willing to learn, and can probably be taught to do it right. Are you saying he's too dumb to learn how to do it correctly? If you don't want to post useful information then leave and never come back.
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Old 10-09-2004, 07:37 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nhluhr
zomba_830: why are you even here? You clearly don't have any technical advice for the guy. He's asking for technique, willing to learn, and can probably be taught to do it right. Are you saying he's too dumb to learn how to do it correctly? If you don't want to post useful information then leave and never come back.
Typical
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Old 10-09-2004, 09:05 PM   #13
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nhluhr - Awesome post. Sticky material in my mind.

zomba_830 - Posts like nhluhr's (above) is how to get respect on this board.
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Old 10-09-2004, 09:57 PM   #14
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Oh by the way, if you construct a plumb string, you need to make absolutely sure that the tip of the plumb hangs perfectly in line with the string. A good home-brew thing to use is a large lead fishing weight - the type that looks like a bullet and has a hole through the middle. Just thread your string through, tie a small knot, then pull it back through so the knot gets jammed in the hole.
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Old 10-09-2004, 10:24 PM   #15
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I have seen 'driveway' alignments done with some of Nick's techniques that were, later, rack measured and were SPOT ON....within tolerance of the rack.

It isn't for everyone to try/do, but it is very possible and with a couple experienced people doing it....rather quick and painless...and accurate.
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Old 10-09-2004, 10:46 PM   #16
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nhluhr, 2stroke~ you are both freakin rad. thanks for the info.... that is pretty much everything i need to get myself moving i think.

I think this should definitely be a sticky, minus the unhelpful naysayers....

I honestly believe that I can do a job that is just as good, if not better, than an alignment shop. Paying 60 bucks doesn't mean you're going to get good quality service--it just means you're paying 60 bucks to have someone screw around with YOUR car. As with most things, simple understanding and a handful of common sense can do more for you than all the training and fancy equipment in the world. Of course they have this nice equipment, but that doesn't mean they're going to use it or even try their best. ....I'd rather do the job myself for free, spend 60 dollars on race entry fees and gas. Even if it's not set up perfectly, I'll be a better driver because I could afford more seat time. [60 dollars is alot to me, remember i drive an L...that's like 3 sets of rear brake shoes ].

Anyway, one last question.....

what are the adjustment bolts on the inside of the rear control arms for? they have little tick marks on them and are offset, so when you turn them, they sorta pull in the control arm a bit. [this, however, doesn't really change much... i cant notice a difference either way].

thanks a ZILLION~

-brett
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Old 10-09-2004, 11:01 PM   #17
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Quote:
what are the adjustment bolts on the inside of the rear control arms for? they have little tick marks on them and are offset, so when you turn them, they sorta pull in the control arm a bit. [this, however, doesn't really change much... i cant notice a difference either way].
that's the rear toe adjustement...beware what you do there....that will kill your tires quick if it is 'off' much.
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Old 10-09-2004, 11:23 PM   #18
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I just stumbled across a PDF from SPT/Subaru that answers your question about the rear control arm bolts on page 12. (They're for setting the toe at the rear). Beyond that, its a step by step "How to do an alignment on your Impreza when you have all the factory tools you could possibly want" document. Still very informative and worth a read-thru. Most if not all of this is in the Factory Service Manual, but this is small enough to download in a reasonable amount of time:

http://techinfo.subaru.com/html/down...g_t_link_f.pdf


Edit: Got distracted & missed Uncle's post. Redundancy wasn't my goal.
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Old 10-09-2004, 11:23 PM   #19
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Here is a quick chart to help convert your "X" from the camber measurement to camber in degrees. This is dependent on you using plywood squares that are exactly 25" tall:

Code:
X (in)  camber (degrees)
 1/32"	 0.07
 1/16"	 0.14
 3/32"	 0.21
 1/8" 	 0.29
 5/32"	 0.36
 3/16"	 0.43
 7/32"	 0.50
 1/4" 	 0.57
 9/32"	 0.64
 5/16"	 0.72
11/32"	 0.79
 3/8" 	 0.86
13/32"	 0.93
 7/16"	 1.00
15/32"	 1.07
 1/2" 	 1.15
17/32"	 1.22
 9/16"	 1.29
19/32"	 1.36
 5/8" 	 1.43
21/32"	 1.50
11/16"	 1.58
23/32"	 1.65
 3/4" 	 1.72
25/32"	 1.79
13/16"	 1.86
27/32"	 1.93
 7/8" 	 2.01
29/32"	 2.08
15/16"	 2.15
31/32"	 2.22
  1"     2.29

Last edited by nhluhr; 10-09-2004 at 11:31 PM.
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Old 10-09-2004, 11:27 PM   #20
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very cool, very cool indeed. ....i'm going to do a homemade alignment this week. [including rear toe, now that i know it's probably not correct because i changed my rear control arms]. i will let you know how it goes with some deg measurements

-brett
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Old 10-09-2004, 11:30 PM   #21
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I didn't have a calculator capable of doing that so I was forced to learn how to do it in Excel...

the function is:
=DEGREES(ASIN(x/25))

It's probably easier in MapleV.
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Old 10-10-2004, 12:19 AM   #22
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thanks, i'm gonna bust out some old trig skillz.... sin=opposite/hypotenuse anyone?

-brett
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Old 10-10-2004, 02:02 PM   #23
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yep.

sin(angle) = opp / hyp
cos(angle) = adj / hyp
tan(angle) = opp / adj

So to find the angle in the camber problem, we know the hypoteneuse (the 25" board) and we are measuring the opposite, since the angle between the string and the board will be the same as the angle between the wheel and the vertical)...

so you just take the arcsine of (opp / hyp) and that gives you (angle).
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Old 10-11-2004, 04:52 PM   #24
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Default Alignment Thread

....
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Old 10-11-2004, 04:56 PM   #25
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there are some good posts in this one
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