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    Thread: How to do your own suspension alignment, and what I have learned so far

    1. Member
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      2017 Golf R
      08-19-2019 12:35 AM #1
      I have been in the process of modifying the suspension to my liking and have been doing it in stages, I also planned to experiment with alignment settings. So the idea of having to go to an alignment shop every time I made a change seemed like it would be expensive and very inconvenient. So I investigated the idea of doing my own alignment, at least well enough that I did not have to get several alignments while I was trying to dial in the car. So there are a bunch of tutorials online about using the string method, so I gave that a try.

      It works however holding up a ruler or tape measure against the wheel is tiresome and prone to error. So I got the idea to make my own jigs that would attach to the wheels and allow me to quickly and easily check measurements at a glance with a fair degree of accuracy using low cost items from the hardware store. So this is what I came up with and have found it works extremely well! Initially I figured I could use it to get close and then go to a shop with a fancy Hunter laser rig to get a "real alignment", however that seems to be unnecessary now.

      I have a local shop with a Hunter rack that will throw it on there and give me a print out for $30 and I have been doing that to evaluate the accuracy of my adjustments. Turns out I have been able to achieve a level of accuracy that there is no need to have it aligned by a shop. Most shops charge at least $120 for an alignment, but if you want custom settings, the ones that will even do that usually want $200 or more. So this is what I came up with:

      [IMG]20190721_201508 by Eric Michel, on Flickr[/IMG]

      [IMG]20190721_201552 by Eric Michel, on Flickr[/IMG]

      I started out like this:
      [IMG]20190406_162802 by Eric Michel, on Flickr[/IMG]

      It works but it is difficult to get accuracy and easy to make mistakes. Oh and you can reach all the alignment adjustments with the car on the ground (even with it lowered), but it is not fun to do. I found those stands used for $150 and it was well worth it. I also splurged on one of these for checking/setting camber they run about $200 new.
      [IMG]Camber check by Eric Michel, on Flickr[/IMG]

      So for about $50 in parts from the hardware store, $200 for the camber gauge, and some optional (but recommended) stands and you can do your own alignments and get results that are well within specification and probably better than what many shops will adjust to. So after finishing my recent suspension modifications I adjusted the suspension to what I currently think is ideal for street/track with my setup. Front: 1/8 toe out (1/16 per side), camber/caster are fixed with dead set (so check only), Rear I was going for 1/16 toe out (1/32 per side) and -2 degrees camber. So after aiming for these settings in my garage I went to my local shop to see what their fancy Hunter rig says:

      [IMG]2019-08-18 19_46_35-20190818_155723 by Eric Michel, on Flickr[/IMG]

      It looks like a got a little sloppy towards the end as the right rear is a bit more than I intended but still less than a 1/32 and well with tolerances. I have done several alignments and if I take my time I can get within .03 degrees or better to what the Hunter rig shows. The whole process takes 2-3 hours.

      What I have found so far:

      Front:

      I have been running toe out up front for the last 4000-5000 miles and highly recommend it even for street use. After ruining a set of old worn tires, I have been carefully monitoring tire wear of the new sets, measuring inner, outer and middle, of each tire documenting it every 1000-1500 miles. What I found is that you can do up to and slightly over 1/8 of toe out (about .2 degrees per side) up front (even with 2.5 degrees of camber) and the tire wear seems to be just fine. So far it has been very even inside to out and even comparing front to back. This is with some limited track time, spirited driving, and a lot of highway miles.
      I have found that toe out is what you want for this car up front for better turn in response and front end grip, the more the better! However, if you go much more than 1/8 toe out (total) the tire wear starts to increase at what seems like an exponential rate. So for a track only car I would possibly go 1/4 toe out maybe even a little more, but for a street car unless you have money for tires don't do it, 1/8 seems to be the sweet spot (YMMV). So the setting shown above seem to be working great for me up front.

      Rear:

      Initially I had just added a stiffer rear sway bar and that does help to some degree but the rear of this car is very mushy (for lack of a better term) because the rear bushings and even the rear sub frame mounts are very soft. So the rear just doesn't respond well to subtle inputs, you really have to flick into a corner and or lift abruptly at high load to get it to come around and then it can be rather abrupt and take a lot of correction to catch. I tried adding toe out in the rear with the rubber mounts and at low speeds (>60-70 MPH) it did help get the rear to come around but it also made it feel really unstable at high speed (>100 MPH) so much so that I went back to some toe in for the rear.

      Then I replaced all the rear bushing (and I do mean all) with Super pro bushings, spherical adjustable toe links, and 034 inserts with Tyrol dead set for the rear sub frame. I was concerned that this might cause a huge increase in NVH but surprisingly the increase was negligible, but the handling response was great! It sharpened up the rear a lot, but with toe in it was very difficult to get the rear to come around now so I increased rear tire pressure (4 PSI more than the front) and started dialing out the rear toe. Now with the rear stiffened up I find I can run a bit of toe out in the rear and it feels perfect. Now I can pitch it into a corner and depending on steering angle and throttle position I can induce mild under steer or over steer, and get a nice four wheel drift. It responds much better to corrections and the transitions are far more predictable and progressive now. Under the right conditions I can even get a little bit of tail out under power and feel the rear end pushing just before it straightens out and pulls through the corner, and I don't even have a haldex tune or anything. I am still fine tuning some settings which is partly why I was a little sloppy with the rear settings trying to see how much rear toe out I can get away with, but for the most part I am pretty happy with how this car handles now and it is light years beyond where it was stock.

      Anyway this is what I have found so far with this car, perhaps this will be helpful to some and I would love to hear what others have found. I know there are several conversations out there about suspension but they are all over the place and most just seem to run close to stock toe settings (other than lowering and camber). Handling was my least favorite aspect of this car when I first got it, it was capable but boring, now it is lively, responsive, and just a lot of fun.
      2017 Golf R DSG, JB4, IE DP, Magic IC, K&N, BMS pedal tuner, GC coil overs 475/550, Modified O34 dynamic mount, white line LCA, Eurocode front/rear sway bars w adjustable links, Tyrol dead set, Eurocode front strut bar, Super pro rear bushings with spherical adjustable toe link, Konig Rennform 18x9 w 255/35 MP4S

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    3. Member
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      08-19-2019 12:48 AM #2
      The pics aren’t working for me but I’m excited to see your rig. I’ve been doing home alignments on Jeeps for years but I’d like more accuracy.

      I’ve installed poly bushings in the past but have yet to work on my Golf R. How big of a job was the rear bushing install?


      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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      08-19-2019 09:59 AM #3
      Quote Originally Posted by CRD99 View Post
      The pics aren’t working for me but I’m excited to see your rig. I’ve been doing home alignments on Jeeps for years but I’d like more accuracy.

      I’ve installed poly bushings in the past but have yet to work on my Golf R. How big of a job was the rear bushing install?


      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
      This is not the first time people have reported not being able to see my pictures on a new post, I am not sure why but it seems to only affect some. I am using Flickr to share, here is a link directly to my photo stream where you can see all my trails and tribulations with this car: https://www.flickr.com/photos/145264...h/48571501661/

      As for the bushings, well removing/installing the suspension parts is not bad at all but if you don't have access to a hydraulic press with a very large variety of adapters, pressing out and in some of the bushings can be a PIA. I have a compressor and impact gun and just rented a ball joint removal tool from the auto part store. It took a lot of improvising and a few trips to the hardware store to find the right size pieces to press some of the bushings, the trailing arm was the biggest and most difficult. It ended up taking most of my weekend to get it done and that did include a wheel alignment.

      Let me put it this way, I bought the bushings on sale and spent a little over $200 for all of them. Afterwards I saw that ECS sells a kit with all new suspension parts with poly bushings already installed for like $500-$600. So if I had to do it again I would just buy that kit and save myself a lot of time and effort. Are the ECS bushings as nice as the Super pro? Not sure but probably, I have bought a few ECS items and they seem to make good quality parts overall.
      2017 Golf R DSG, JB4, IE DP, Magic IC, K&N, BMS pedal tuner, GC coil overs 475/550, Modified O34 dynamic mount, white line LCA, Eurocode front/rear sway bars w adjustable links, Tyrol dead set, Eurocode front strut bar, Super pro rear bushings with spherical adjustable toe link, Konig Rennform 18x9 w 255/35 MP4S

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    6. Member
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      08-19-2019 05:34 PM #4
      Nice post with good info on how you did it! If you plan to adapt to your liking with this for the track then your solution looks real good. Thanks for posting.

    7. 08-24-2019 09:09 PM #5
      Awesome work man!


      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

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      2016 Golf R, E36M3 S54 Track Toy, F25 X3
      08-24-2019 09:24 PM #6
      Very similar to my setup. What are you using for slip plates on top of the wheel stands?

    9. 08-25-2019 06:45 AM #7
      Very interesting!! Nice Post!!
      2'q's
      1. what if someone's garage doesn't have a totally even level surface, then there is no way you could make this type of setup work. right?
      2. if you have a dead-set kit on front you cannot adjust camber (or so i have heard), is that true?
      Last edited by newvwdude777; 08-25-2019 at 06:48 AM.

    10. Member
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      08-25-2019 05:16 PM #8
      emiladam
      Nice post with good info on how you did it! If you plan to adapt to your liking with this for the track then your solution looks real good. Thanks for posting.
      Thanks, actually I like it a lot better even for the street! It is firmer but not nearly as much as you might think and is a lot more fun even when you aren't anywhere near the limits. I found the stock suspension to be a poor compromise because unless you really push it feels just like a regular Golf, and then when you do push it was to soft, under steers, and with the short suspension travel and soft springs would bottom out and crash frequently, especially if you hit a bump mid corner at any sort of speed. Now it has very responsive turn in, feels tight yet still rides really well, and rarely bottoms out over bumpy roads. So for me this is better for track and the street.

      KsR_808
      Awesome work man!
      Thanks!

      m3bs
      Very similar to my setup. What are you using for slip plates on top of the wheel stands?

      Just heavy duty garbage bags folded up, works great and the bags are still usable afterwards. Since I cannot adjust caster I didn't see the point in getting fancy turn plates

      newvwdude777
      Very interesting!! Nice Post!!
      2'q's
      1. what if someone's garage doesn't have a totally even level surface, then there is no way you could make this type of setup work. right?
      2. if you have a dead-set kit on front you cannot adjust camber (or so i have heard), is that true?
      1. It depends how uneven are we talking about? For camber that can be an issue but for toe (which is the primary and most critical adjustment), as long as it is reasonably level it should be fine.
      2. That is correct for the front, the rear camber is adjustable stock, but he front is not with dead set unless you have adjustable camber plates. I have the O34 dynamic plates that are fixed and seem to give the maximum amount of camber you can get from the upper strut mount without additional modifications. I tried a set of adjustable camber plates and found when set to their maximum negative camber they did not provide any more camber than the O34 mount. So for me the added NVH from the adjustable mounts did not seem worth it especially when I would just set them to their max and leave them there so...
      The rear does allow a fairly wide camber adjustment.

      Camber and caster is not nearly as critical as the toe adjustment. You can be off by as much as .3 to .4 degrees of camber or caster and it will not make a noticeable difference in handling, ride, or tire wear. However, that much toe difference is huge and will have a noticeable impact on handling and tire wear. For toe you want to get them as close as possible and at least well below .1 degree.
      2017 Golf R DSG, JB4, IE DP, Magic IC, K&N, BMS pedal tuner, GC coil overs 475/550, Modified O34 dynamic mount, white line LCA, Eurocode front/rear sway bars w adjustable links, Tyrol dead set, Eurocode front strut bar, Super pro rear bushings with spherical adjustable toe link, Konig Rennform 18x9 w 255/35 MP4S

    11. Member
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      08-25-2019 06:15 PM #9
      Quote Originally Posted by emichel6888 View Post
      Just heavy duty garbage bags folded up, works great and the bags are still usable afterwards. Since I cannot adjust caster I didn't see the point in getting fancy turn plates
      Same as I'm using.

      As for the floor being level, I measured mine using a tube of water to determine true level, then borrowed a laser level to confirm my readings. I use thin floor tiles to level the four corners. Mine was off about 0.2 degree side to side. so one side would be 0.2 less than target, the other side 0.2 over.

    12. Member Nickshu's Avatar
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      08-25-2019 09:48 PM #10
      I own the Tenhulzen kit and have used it a couple times. It's fun to do as a learning experience but it's so time consuming I just take my cars to a local speedshop for alignment now.
      2019 Golf R Indium Grey 6MT / 2019 Ford Raptor / 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Polestar / 2004 Porsche 911 GT3 - Track only
      Prior Cars of Note - 1983 VW Rabbit GTI, 2013 Volvo C70, 2004 Volvo V40, 2005 Lotus Elise S/C, 2003 Porsche 911 C2, 1982 Porsche 911SC, 1995 Range Rover County LWB, A Bunch of Saabs

    13. Member
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      08-26-2019 12:59 PM #11
      As for the floor being level, I measured mine using a tube of water to determine true level, then borrowed a laser level to confirm my readings. I use thin floor tiles to level the four corners. Mine was off about 0.2 degree side to side. so one side would be 0.2 less than target, the other side 0.2 over.
      I have not found the need for that degree of level, especially if your primary concern is toe adjustment.


      Nickshu
      I own the Tenhulzen kit and have used it a couple times. It's fun to do as a learning experience but it's so time consuming I just take my cars to a local speedshop for alignment now.
      I believe that kit requires you to move it to do one wheel at a time, that would be tedious and time consuming, not to mention more prone to errors. With this home made kit I can see all four wheels at once which makes it much faster, easier, and provides better accuracy. Modifying cars is a hobby, for some of us tinkering in the garage trying to find the ideal setup is half the fun, plus it is cheaper and allows you to experiment in ways that would be prohibitive if you had to go to a speed shop every time you wanted to make an adjustment.

      A big part of my reason for this post was to share what I have found regarding alignment values and to perhaps see what if anything others have found. Alignment settings can drastically change how a car handles, so if you are going to modify the suspension to improve handling it seemed like a good idea to try and optimize wheel alignment as well. Trying to find the optimum settings for street and track is a bit of a project, but again hobby. I see lots of folks spending all sorts of time and money to modify their suspension but then more or less stick with stock alignment values.

      I am still tweaking and evaluating, but I have found settings that work better (for my setup) than stock for track and the street. So I figured I would share, see what others are doing, and maybe even get some helpful feedback.
      2017 Golf R DSG, JB4, IE DP, Magic IC, K&N, BMS pedal tuner, GC coil overs 475/550, Modified O34 dynamic mount, white line LCA, Eurocode front/rear sway bars w adjustable links, Tyrol dead set, Eurocode front strut bar, Super pro rear bushings with spherical adjustable toe link, Konig Rennform 18x9 w 255/35 MP4S

    14. 08-26-2019 06:46 PM #12
      Quote Originally Posted by emichel6888 View Post



      1. It depends how uneven are we talking about? For camber that can be an issue but for toe (which is the primary and most critical adjustment), as long as it is reasonably level it should be fine.
      2. That is correct for the front, the rear camber is adjustable stock, but he front is not with dead set unless you have adjustable camber plates. I have the O34 dynamic plates that are fixed and seem to give the maximum amount of camber you can get from the upper strut mount without additional modifications. I tried a set of adjustable camber plates and found when set to their maximum negative camber they did not provide any more camber than the O34 mount. So for me the added NVH from the adjustable mounts did not seem worth it especially when I would just set them to their max and leave them there so...
      The rear does allow a fairly wide camber adjustment.

      Camber and caster is not nearly as critical as the toe adjustment. You can be off by as much as .3 to .4 degrees of camber or caster and it will not make a noticeable difference in handling, ride, or tire wear. However, that much toe difference is huge and will have a noticeable impact on handling and tire wear. For toe you want to get them as close as possible and at least well below .1 degree.
      thanks for the info!!

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      09-14-2019 03:45 PM #13
      So as I mentioned I am closely monitoring tire wear because some claim that lots of negative camber and toe out can cause excessive and uneven tire wear. Well so far i have over 3000 miles with these suspension settings on a brand new set of tires and I absolutely love how the car handles and the tire wear looks to be just about perfect (see below), of course the fronts are wearing faster but that is perfectly normal and why you need to rotate your tires. I will rotate them in another 2000-3000 miles but should be able to get 20-25K miles out of this set (unless i do a bunch of track days, then of course all bets are off).

      Again I highly recommend toe out up front and in the rear but only if you stiffen up the rear bushings and sub frame. With the stock mushy rubber everything out back toe out makes the car feel really squirrelly at high speed, however with the stiffer bushings it is just perfect! The turn in front grip and steering feel is just perfect and the car is so neutral and predictable now. Anyway, this is the sort of information I love to see from others on here so figured I would share.

      [IMG]2019-09-13 17_09_18-Tire Wear record 2017 Golf R - Excel by Eric Michel, on Flickr[/IMG]
      2017 Golf R DSG, JB4, IE DP, Magic IC, K&N, BMS pedal tuner, GC coil overs 475/550, Modified O34 dynamic mount, white line LCA, Eurocode front/rear sway bars w adjustable links, Tyrol dead set, Eurocode front strut bar, Super pro rear bushings with spherical adjustable toe link, Konig Rennform 18x9 w 255/35 MP4S

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