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DIY Car Alignment

Shocks, Springs, Brakes, Frame, Body Work, etc

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HS Nova
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DIY Car Alignment

Post by HS Nova »

So, I went to get my 56 chevy aligned after a few suspension mods and I come to find out when I get to the alignment shop that the old timer that owned the shop has retired and sold the shop. Some young guys are now running it. I wasn't too happy about this as I trusted the old timer because he was a legend aligning old cars. The wait was too long so I went home and called some other local shops and believe it or not, they wont touch old cars!!!!
So, I am going to try to tackle at home alignments now.

Anyone do them at home that have any advice?

On the old cars do u set Toe, Camber, and then Caster in that order?


Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks, HS Nova
emsvitil
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Re: DIY Car Alignment

Post by emsvitil »

Toe is last.

Depending on the suspension, camber and caster affect one another. Do the one that's farthest off first.

You'll start to see the interaction between camber and caster and will eventually figure it out.

Give yourself lots and lots of time.
Ed
HS Nova
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Re: DIY Car Alignment

Post by HS Nova »

Camber, caster, toe. Thank you sir.
dannobee
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Re: DIY Car Alignment

Post by dannobee »

Usually caster, camber, then toe, depending on suspension type. Often caster and camber get adjusted in one fell swoop if it has cams or shims.

If you're doing it at home, find the flattest part of your driveway. Get a caster/camber gauge and have at it. You'll need something to reduce the friction when turning the wheels. We use turn plates, but cardboard and waxed paper works. And something to depress the brake pedal. For toe you'll need a toe gauge/bar/plates, but a tape measure will get you close if you're careful.

https://www.speedwaymotors.com/Longacre ... 83068.html
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Re: DIY Car Alignment

Post by rebelrouser »

I am one of the old timers that can align old cars, I started as mechanic in a Chevy dealership in 1976, working on a Hunter Hunter Lite-A-Line machine. I taught alignment at a technical college for 26 years before retiring. I piddle in my home shop now working on muscle cars and building engines. I don't know why a shop would not align an old car on a modern machine, I am familiar with Hunter equipment, and the computer database provided by Hunter with their machines goes way back. I think the main issue with a lot of new guys doing alignments is that the computer based equipment screen turns colors as you work, red is out of spec, and green is in spec. The problem is that when the screen turns green it does not mean you are finished, it means that it is in range. Old rear wheel drive cars can be in the green spec, and still pull as well as wear tires, you have to know how to align a car. Plus the new guys seem to want to set the toe and go, they have little aptitude for freeing up rusted adjusters and doing it right. New computer based equipment id super accurate and great to use. I used to set the fourlink on my 64 dodge race car at school, it would calculate the wheelbase and center line of the suspension to one hundredth of a degree, a lot faster and more accurate than dropping plum bobs to the floor and measuring the marks with a tape measure like I learned many years ago.
If you want to do a decent home job on an old car, you set the camber and caster first then the toe. On ebay you can buy a simple magnetic camber caster gauge for cheap.
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Magnetic-Gauge ... %3A2334524
I then bought these to clamp to the wheel
https://www.ebay.com/itm/3D-DSP-Wheel-A ... 5014!US!-1
Then a toe bar, or if you are really cheap you can just use a tape measure.
https://www.ebay.com/itm/WHEEL-A-MATIC- ... SwYpxdkET1

So for less than $400.00 I can align cars. And you need some kind of turn table so the suspension does not bind and affect your readings, two pieces of flat steel with grease between them will work, I had an old set of turntables I bought at an auction 30 years ago.
HS Nova
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Re: DIY Car Alignment

Post by HS Nova »

Great information Gentlemen, I really appreciate all the tips. I just ordered these two pieces

for caster and camber

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4LUimkQl7I

and to set toe

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000 ... UTF8&psc=1

I was not aware of a toe bar when I ordered the parts.
emsvitil
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Re: DIY Car Alignment

Post by emsvitil »

Another problem is that being in 'spec' is too broad.

I do the alignments for my parents Ford Focuses (Foci?) and on the Focus forums there's always complaints about tire wear even though the alignment is in 'spec'


So I got the alignment specs from the forum that work for the best tire life. (not necessarily dead center).

Also added cam bolts and shims to the rear for alignment.
Ed
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Re: DIY Car Alignment

Post by HS Nova »

I was told the problem was "specs" not in the new machines for old cars. Add aftermarket coilovers , control arms, dropped spindles... the monkey behind the machine will start throwing pooh.
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BigBlockMopar
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Re: DIY Car Alignment

Post by BigBlockMopar »

Another issue is, you really don't want an old car spec'd alignment on your car when you're driving with modern radial tires.
The old specs (50/60/70s) were designed for diagonal tires.
Radial tires want a different alignment for better handling.

So if some tire-shop kid does happen to want to look up the old specs of your car, the final alignment will not be what you (really) want.
BirdMan
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Re: DIY Car Alignment

Post by BirdMan »

I measured the ball joint bolt diameter divided by 2. Then took a 1" piece of cold rolled steel long enough to about reach each nut top/bottom. Then if upper bolt is .500 machined .25 flat on one end, if lower bolt is .750 then machined .375 flat. This cold roll will then fit/press against both ball joint bolts and attach a Craftsman Degree Finder and Now an electronic angle finder from Jerry Bickel years ago. Now with the front end jacked up an 1" or 2" for drag car I ck the Caster directly placing the angle finder against the CR pressed against the bolts. I set out 64/65 Falcons 5* to 7*+ or top back. Then take a straight edge ( 2x4, square, or whatever straight that is available) and press against rim bead flanges or belly of tire (away from ground poofed belly) and set Camber to 0* and then toe in to 1/8". Cars handle great accelerating or braking. I also have limited travel to between 3"/4" and upper arm inner bolt holes down 1-1/2" on sons car which helps the front tires pretty perpendicular and not scrubbing like when stock suspension.
Dale C.
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Re: DIY Car Alignment

Post by RCJ »

Try to lock the steering wheel straight. You don’t want it moving while doing alginments.Roll the car forward or kick the back of the tire to load the suspension as if the car is traveling down the road. Stand back and look at the tires, if the r/f is toed in 1/16 and the l/f is toed in 1/4 if you look close enough you can tell which to adjust
clshore
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Re: DIY Car Alignment

Post by clshore »

To isolate tire friction from the floor when aligning or doing cornerweighting I do the following:
Large Ziplock bag, Gallon size works well.
'Personal Lubricant' inside the bag, not too much, add just enough to make a thin wet layer inside when the bag is flat.
If the floor is not flat and smooth, a square of plywood to sit on, 1/4" is enough, otherwise the bag can tear on sharp stones.
Open the slider slightly, and press out all the air, then seal it up.

Cheap, lightweight, easily stored and transported.
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Re: DIY Car Alignment

Post by SupStk »

In the order of adjustment; those that have adjustment on upper control arms, castor and camber is done together. When doing those with strut bars and lower arm eccentrics, set camber first, adjust struts for castor and then recheck camber.

Toe adjustment is done last.
Monty Frerichs
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Re: DIY Car Alignment

Post by shoe »

I've been using smart strings and a digital angle gauge for years now.
The main advantage is I can roll the car back and forth to settle things without losing my datum.
The alignment like most things is only as good as the initial set-up.

Then I use toe plates at the track for quick adjustment.
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