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    Thread: Tired of paying $s to align your bucket? Alignment DIY Inside!

    1. Banned WCHLVR's Avatar
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      02-02-2010 05:43 AM #1
      I have been using this technique for well over 20 years and I thought I would share it with everyone. I just happen to need to do a little adjustment to my Cab so snapped some pics. Here are the details on how to do an alignment at home for FREE.

      The list of tools you will need-

      Flashlight
      Duct Tape (or something equally as strong)
      Square
      Angle Finder ($5 from Harbor Freight)
      2- Tape Measurers
      22mm Wrench
      17mm Wrench
      13mm Wrench
      17mm Socket/ Ratchet
      Level
      Your favorite music to jam to



      Before you get started it is important to note- The alignment must be performed in this order. They can be skipped if your not planning to set that adjustment, but Toe must always be set last.

      1. Set the ride height (ride height effects camber and toe)
      2. Set the Camber setting (camber effects toe)
      3. Set the Toe setting


      How to set Camber

      I didn't set mine this time around so I will rough some pics together to give you an idea.

      First, make sure the car is as close to level as possible.



      Take your square and the angle finder and place it flat on the wheel perpendicular to the ground. You may need a piece of metal long enough to span across the entire wheel if the wheel isn't flat. This measurement is your actual camber. I am sitting at around 1 degree.




      Calculate what you need to add or subtract to hit your goal. Jack up the car. Set it on jack stands. Remove the wheels. Slap the angle finder on the wheel mounting face of the rotor. Make note of what the finder reads at this point. Remember that with the wheels off the ground this will not be your true camber. You just need to add or subtract to the number you have when the wheels are off the ground. Loosen the strut bolts adjust to perfection.

      How to set Toe

      First you need to jack up each side, spin the tire and draw a line around the it. Pen, pencil, chalk.. doesn't matter. And it doesn't matter where, just somewhere close to the center. Make it as straight as possible. My tires are new enough, I could still see the mold lines to use as a guild. I also take this time to wipe off all the loose dirt off the tread.




      To properly set toe the car must sit on the ground. For you folks that have your cars stance "on the ground" this will be a pain but it can still be done. I have found that if you set it on a piece of wood it makes it a lot easier to turn the steering wheel back and forth. You will be doing that quite bit until you get the hang of it.



      Run two tapes on the car until they come out the other side. About 6ft will do. One in front and one in back of the front tire.




      Place a decent size piece of tape on the end of the measuring tape. I like to put it on the 5 or 6 inch mark that way the tape "tongue" doesnt interfere with the tire. Align the tape with the marks you made on the tire. Also make sure that when the tape measurer is stretched tight it doesn't interfere with anything under the car. This will affect your measurements.

      IMPORTANT NOTE TO REMEMBER- It is not the actual number we are after here. We are looking to compare the front to the rear measurement.




      Measure what you got. I had almost a 1/4" of toe out. This is what I get for playing with my ride height.




      Take you 22mm wrench and loosen the tie rod jam nut. The hexed area just to the right is what you will use to adjust your toe. If you are way off you will want to do a little adjusting from both sides. Do note that the tie rods are not reverse tread. They are both lefty loosy/righty tighty.



      As you are adjusting, make sure the rack boots dont get all twisted.



      Before you turn the wheels back and forth, make sure you kick the tapes out of the way so they dont end up under the wood and get ruined.



      I usually like to give mine a little toe in. The reason is when the car lowers down under load, the car will naturally want to toe out. Here is what I ended up with this time.




      Can this little bit make a difference? Yep and a big one at that. Now my Cab doesn't want to dart around when it rides over ruts or cracks in the road.

      Setting the Steering Wheel Straight.

      Through a combination of tie rode adjustments and wheel relocation you can get your wheel to be dead on.

      Note that the more you practice at this, the easier it is to replicate next time.

      Please feel free to hit me up if you have questions or you feel I missed something.
      Last edited by WCHLVR; 05-13-2010 at 12:00 AM.

    2. Member deepgrooves74's Avatar
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      02-02-2010 07:05 AM #2
      Wow! I have been thinking of making my own alignment tool... This was very useful! Thank you very much for posting this!!!
      Someday I will drive this... Always something else to fix or upgrade!

      http://forums.vwvortex.com/showthrea...t-TD-SVO-Build

    3. Member Big CADDY's Avatar
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      02-02-2010 07:07 AM #3
      great write up.
      if i may add a little for what I do about the steering wheel
      I peal back each boot on the rack and center the rack then I pull off the steering wheel and put it on centered. then you shouldn't ever have a problem with more rotations of the wheel to one side than the other.
      If you don't have that degreed angle finder...... which I didn't even know was soooo cheap at HF. I get a jack under both ball joints so the hubs are at normal (level) height then I put a level on the hub surface and change the camber adjusting the camber bolts. I will be getting a degreed angle finder for sure.. not having the wheels on makes it very easy to adjust the bolts though but if you have the measurements to add or subtract that is just as simple. probably more simple
      [IMG]http://*****************.com/smile/emthup.gif[/IMG] to wheelchairlover : [IMG]http://*****************.com/smile/emgift.gif[/IMG]



      Modified by Big CADDY at 7:10 AM 2-2-2010

    4. Member deepgrooves74's Avatar
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      02-02-2010 07:53 AM #4
      Quote, originally posted by Big CADDY »
      great write up.
      if i may add a little for what I do about the steering wheel
      I peal back each boot on the rack and center the rack then I pull off the steering wheel and put it on centered. then you shouldn't ever have a problem with more rotations of the wheel to one side than the other.
      If you don't have that degreed angle finder...... which I didn't even know was soooo cheap at HF. I get a jack under both ball joints so the hubs are at normal (level) height then I put a level on the hub surface and change the camber adjusting the camber bolts. I will be getting a degreed angle finder for sure.. not having the wheels on makes it very easy to adjust the bolts though but if you have the measurements to add or subtract that is just as simple. probably more simple
      [IMG]http://*****************.com/smile/emthup.gif[/IMG] to wheelchairlover : [IMG]http://*****************.com/smile/emgift.gif[/IMG]
      Modified by Big CADDY at 7:10 AM 2-2-2010

      With the jack under the hubs I assume you put the car at the actual ride height? Don't you get some flex from the tires when you have them on the floor/ground? I guess if the tires you have flex the same I suppose it wouldn't matter... What do you think?
      Someday I will drive this... Always something else to fix or upgrade!

      http://forums.vwvortex.com/showthrea...t-TD-SVO-Build

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      02-02-2010 07:56 AM #5
      Very nice [IMG]http://*****************.com/smile/emthup.gif[/IMG]
      I use a similar method, except instead of marking the tire I use Longacre toe plates.

      You could easily make a set from wood, I made a set a few years back but now I have the $60 Aluminum ones.

    6. Member white rabbit's Avatar
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      02-02-2010 07:59 AM #6
      I would do the camber first, then the toe, especially if you're assembling the suspension from scratch, or if your alignment is totally whacked. Making more negative camber will cause a little toe in, due to the suspension geometry. If you're only making a tiny camber adjustment, it probably won't change the toe much at all.

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      02-02-2010 08:32 AM #7
      I do the camber first as well.
      As an alternate method, if you have a well aligned car to start with (Mk1 preferred, but your wife's mom bomb might be fine), you can make a camber template:

      For the toe, place tape on the floor (my tape is permanent), and use a ruler to sight along the tape. You can see easily when it's parallel:

      Simple and effective, but I admit I've never confirmed how precise it is by taking a car to ashop afterwards.
      Work: it works, ibtches.

    8. Member Rabbitoncrack's Avatar
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      02-02-2010 08:53 AM #8
      Important note I didn't see in the post (might have just missed it). Always set camber before toe, changing camber will change toe. Other than that, great write up.

    9. 02-02-2010 09:34 AM #9
      Another note to take into consideration would be the crown of the roads in your area. I have been an Alignment tech for 16+ years where i am from, and this is a very big part of it. The crown allows for drainage on the roads, and plays a big part in tire-wear. Here the crown is about 16 degrees, which dictates a 1/16-1/8 of an inch of toe-in after the desired camber/caster is achieved. Most customers get a 1/4+ camber where as the more spirited drivers, they usually are easy to spot, get the 1 degree to 1-1/2 negative camber. The more negative the camber, the more toe will be needed. The more positive the camber, the less toe will be needed.

    10. Member WackyWabbitRacer's Avatar
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      02-02-2010 12:02 PM #10
      If you do a DIY alignment, perform the following steps in sequence:
      1. Set the ride height
      2. Set the Camber setting
      3. Set the Toe setting
      Cheers, WWR.
      WWR
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    11. Member eurotrashrabbit's Avatar
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      02-02-2010 12:14 PM #11
      Quote, originally posted by WackyWabbitRacer »
      If you do a DIY alignment, perform the following steps in sequence:
      1. Set the ride height
      2. Set the Camber setting
      3. Set the Toe setting
      Cheers, WWR.

      Exactly as ride height affects camber and camber affects toe
      I use a smart camber gauge and toe plates

    12. 02-02-2010 02:17 PM #12
      Quote, originally posted by chickenfriend »
      I am not ready to trust that a home alignment could get me within VW specs.

      When you do a driveway alignment and then take it to the shop for a "real" alignment and they dont change anything yet still charge you, you will change your mind.

      Instead of the wobbly needle angle gauge I use one of these magnetic table saw blade angle finders.
      Less than $30 and it is far easier to read than a bouncing needle. Plus you can zero it out and then adjust to your set point

      Build a longacre style jig for it and you can set caster as well

      Dont forget to approximate your weight some how



    13. Banned WCHLVR's Avatar
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      02-02-2010 02:45 PM #13
      Thanks for the props and the clarification everyone.
      Yes you do need to do the alignment in this order-
      1. Set the ride height (ride height effects toe)
      2. Set the Camber setting (camber effects toe)
      3. Set the Toe setting
      Since I didn't actually do my Camber I complete forgot to post it in the correct order. I will correct the OG post.
      As for those that doubting home alignment vs shop. You will be very surprised at how accurate you can get it on your own. With enough practice, you will find the perfect "sweet spot" for your driving style and your car.
      As someone said, going to the shop every time you change something on your car is ridiculous/expensive.
      ditchdigger- Great advise. Now I have justification to get one of the digital finders!

    14. Member bmxguy's Avatar
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      02-02-2010 03:46 PM #14
      great write up. iv done home alignments since day 1 in my mk1. i dont have any of these fancy tools but i can take my hands off the wheel and drive straight all day long. although i will be making a trip to HF.... [IMG]http://*****************.com/smile/emthup.gif[/IMG]
      Quote Originally Posted by vdubspeed View Post

      This is the mk1 forum bro...we fix ****.

    15. Member brad131a4's Avatar
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      02-02-2010 03:50 PM #15
      Nice Berlina you have there Ditchdigger. Are you going to bring it up to the all Italian show at XXX in Issaquah April 25th? They get a nice turnout of Fiat 124's but not to many other models. Yours would be a nice addition to the show. My spider might be some what put back together by then not to sure just yet.

    16. Member VIP VR6 Rabbit's Avatar
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      02-02-2010 03:56 PM #16
      Great write up [IMG]http://*****************.com/smile/emthup.gif[/IMG]
      I used to do it a similar way at home instead of bringing it to a alignment shop, until my bro bought one of these. His came as a set, it doesn't show in the picture but there's a arm attachment for measuring toe.

      He owns a shop and does a lot of suspension installs, so it's a justifiable purchase. I found if you bring your car to a alignment shop they'll use one of these alignment fixtures instead of putting it on the fancy laser alignment rack you think you're paying for.

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      02-02-2010 04:19 PM #17
      one thing i did not see in reading the inital post.. and it is a MUST after beign jacked up you gotta roll the car on the ground back and fourth a few times.. else the suspention is preloaded wrong and affects everything..
      thanks for the idea for the camber gauge.. thats the only item ive been "lacking" to do my own alignments..
      next the block idea on toe is dead on.. piece of wood works.. along with said shop straight edge or a piece of angle iron..... you could even use a straight edge and draw on the floor if you lack 2 of them.. toe goal is about 3mm of toe in.. yes toe in.. as you accelerate it goes the other directiion aka positive.. for some reason in the books its marked ot be towed out in this setting and toes out worse when you accel..

    18. Member eurotrashrabbit's Avatar
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      02-02-2010 04:29 PM #18
      Quote, originally posted by ditchdigger »
      When you do a driveway alignment and then take it to the shop for a "real" alignment and they dont change anything yet still charge you, you will change your mind.

      Instead of the wobbly needle angle gauge I use one of these magnetic table saw blade angle finders.
      Less than $30 and it is far easier to read than a bouncing needle. Plus you can zero it out and then adjust to your set point

      Build a longacre style jig for it and you can set caster as well

      Dont forget to approximate your weight some how


      I love that fiat

    19. Member Blu_Hare's Avatar
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      02-02-2010 04:46 PM #19
      thanks for the writeup

    20. Member WackyWabbitRacer's Avatar
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      02-02-2010 04:55 PM #20
      Virtually all VW road racers set the front Toe to 1/16 to 1/8 inch total Toe-Out to help with initial corner turn-in and straightline stability.
      Any amount of Toe-In with racing slicks makes straightline stability wonder around. Been there and done that.....
      Cheers, WWR.
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    21. Member CodeMan's Avatar
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      02-02-2010 05:02 PM #21
      Quote, originally posted by ditchdigger »
      When you do a driveway alignment and then take it to the shop for a "real" alignment and they dont change anything yet still charge you, you will change your mind.

      [IMG]http://*****************.com/smile/emthup.gif[/IMG] Just because a good rack can measure to the hundredth of a degree and the thousandth of an inch does not mean that the tech performing the alignment can adjust it that precisely.
      The blues ain't nothin' but a good man feelin' bad.

      Tsch Gilda, Hallo Birgit

    22. Member
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      02-02-2010 05:32 PM #22
      Quote, originally posted by CodeMan »
      [IMG]http://*****************.com/smile/emthup.gif[/IMG] Just because a good rack can measure to the hundredth of a degree and the thousandth of an inch does not mean that the tech performing the alignment can adjust it that precisely.

      It also seems pointless to pay for an alignment to the nearest hundredth or thousandth, only to discover that there is a range of appropriate (or preferred) settings that far exceeds those minute measurements.
      Work: it works, ibtches.

    23. Banned WCHLVR's Avatar
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      02-02-2010 05:49 PM #23
      Quote, originally posted by echassin »
      It also seems pointless to pay for an alignment to the nearest hundredth or thousandth, only to discover that there is a range of appropriate (or preferred) settings that far exceeds those minute measurements.

      Add that to the fact that our cars are NO WHERE NEAR that precise... even when they were new.

    24. Member
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      02-02-2010 05:51 PM #24
      Quote, originally posted by WCHLVR »
      Add that to the fact that our cars are NO WHERE NEAR that precise... even when they were new.

      WHA-- ??
      My Mk1 s-h-i-t-boxes, er, I mean FINE AUTOMOBILES is were built like a Swiss watch .
      Work: it works, ibtches.

    25. 02-02-2010 05:52 PM #25
      Quote, originally posted by WCHLVR »
      1. Set the ride height (ride height effects toe)

      ride height affects camber too, not just toe.
      -Fab

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