Questions for the DIY alignment gurus

Discussion in 'How To Forum' started by Nvrfinished, Jan 10, 2018.

  1. Nvrfinished

    Nvrfinished TMO Intermediate

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    I have an S550 with RideTech II coilovers. The one thing I did not like about the RideTech's was that the only way to adjust camber was with the eccentric bolt head on the strut. I've decided to install a set of Vorshlag caster camber plates since I recently discovered that they make a set specifically for the RideTech setup. I think this will make camber adjustment much easier.

    The plan is to be able to switch back and forth from street settings to track settings with me making adjustments at home. After I finish my current front suspension mods I will be getting a 4 wheel alignment with bump steer adjustment. My plan is to purchase a set of toe plates and a magnetic camber gauge that I can stick through my wheels and attach to the rotor.

    My goal is to lift the car and set it on individual wood platforms that are just high enough for me to get under the car to make toe adjustments. Providing I can get these platforms relatively level to one another, if I make some homemade turn plates should I be able to make these front adjustments without having to worry about suspension bind? This seems like an easier way to make adjustments without going through the hassle of rolling the car back and forth and readjusting until you get what you want.

    Is there an easier way or a better way? Any input is appreciated and thanks in advance!
     
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  2. RodS197

    RodS197 TMO Intermediate

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    I do the same thing you are attempting. My car is an S197, but I think the concept should be the same.

    When I set my camber for the street (-1 Deg), I set my toe at about 3/16 toe in on the outer notch in the toe plate. When I set the track camber (-2.6), it introduces toe out, which measures at 1/8 out. I leave the tie rods alone and only adjust the camber between street and track.

    These toe in and out numbers may be a bit excessive for some, but my street tires are BFG Comp 2 (treadwear 320) and my track tires are BFG R1, and neither set complains as loudly as my wife when I buy “another set of tires?” for the track!

    I check it about every other track day just to be safe and make sure it isn’t out of whack. If I have to adjust it I put a double sheet of visqueen under the tire (roll the car on it) so it doesn’t bind. Your wood platform idea would work well too since the wood should slip on the garage floor.
     
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  3. Nvrfinished

    Nvrfinished TMO Intermediate

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    Thanks for the feedback. Ideally I want to run 0 toe for the street and 0 to maybe +1/8 for the track. That is why I would need to adjust toe as well. The wood platform was just so I could get under the car to adjust toe. I'm not sure if they would move or not on the floor. I was going to make homemade turn plates out of two 1/8" steel plates with grease between them to slide.
     
  4. Big Black

    Big Black Good, fast<del>, and cheap</del>

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  5. barspen

    barspen TMO Advanced

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    Running a little negative camber on the street is not a bad thing and you are well within Ford specs. -1.0* is pretty mild...I run -1.7* and only makes a small difference in tire wear. Some negative camber certainly makes turns on the street more fun (especially twisty mountain roads).

    Found this video on making a camber gauge a few years back. Works like a champ and cost a lot less then many of the "fancy" ones out there.
     
  6. JAJ

    JAJ TMO Race

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    Here's how I do it, after 10 years of figuring out what works:

    I establish a level working area in my garage with a laser level by measuring up from the ground with a tape and putting stacks of 12x12 floor tiles in the right place to get the wheels to the same height side-to-side. Front-to-back doesn't really matter but both the front wheels and the rear wheels have to be level across the car. Check tire pressures too - must be equal across the car. It's surprising how much difference this fine tuning makes to your readings, regardless of what instruments you're using. Once I have the right level of floor tiles, I run the car up on them and get on with measuring. Your steering has to be perfect at straight-ahead, and you have to have it this way as you drive the car onto the working area so you don't put residual tension in the suspension bushings by turning the steering after you've stopped.

    Then I get out my strings and start by measuring camber and toe. Camber is with a plumb bob (cheap, reliable and very accurate). Toe is measured by putting exactly parallel strings down the outside of the car ("stringing the car") and measuring in to the wheels. It's basically a horizontal version of the plumb bob method. Again, very accurate and amazingly quick and easy once you get the hang of it.

    Once I know what settings I have, and whether they've drifted from the last time I set them (they don't), I can start making changes. I put masking tape with index marks on the fenders and measure in from the index to the top of the strut above the top nut. It turns out that on my car, 1.1cm of movement is exactly one degree of camber. You can see where I'm going, right? If you look under my car, you'll find index marks on the steering tie rods. I measured them and calculated the number of flats of rotation you need in order to go from the toe you have to the toe you want.

    So, once I have the starting point measured, I put my car up in the air (I have a lift, but a couple of stands are fine) and move the strut tops by the right amount, and if I have to change toe, I slide underneath and move both tie rods by the correct number of flats, equal on both sides.

    Then I put the car back on the ground, run it off the pads a few feet and back on, then re-measure camber and toe. With a little practice, you can get it dead-on every time.

    A couple of editorial comments on why I do it this way. First, as was explained to me by an IMSA crew chief, the string never lies. It never needs calibration and it won't get knocked out adjustment if you accidentally drop it on a concrete floor.

    The second comment is that you have to go stepwise the first time through - measure camber and toe, change camber, measure again, fine-set camber, measure again, change toe by the calculated number of flats, measure again, fine tune the number of flats, measure again, and when it's where you want it, write it all down so you can go to new settings with the single step procedure I outlined above.

    The last point is to always make sure at the end that your steering wheel is straight and level when you're finished. The car's electronics and stability systems are relying on it.
     
  7. Grant 302

    Grant 302 OPM Spent: $509,979 Moderator

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    I don't think you *have to* change your toe at the track, but if you have everything pre-set and know the exact adjustments to make, I think it would be easier.

    One way is to have your desired track camber and toe out settings. Mark the strut tower or camber plate for that location. Then simply reduce negative camber until the toe is exactly 0º, and use/mark that for your street position. If you want even less camber than that for the street, adjust the camber again and record exactly how many 'flats'/ (1/6 turns) it took to zero the toe for that camber setting.

    I always feel I have enough to do on track day, I'd tend to keep it as simple as possible.

    --------------

    This is a post I did on DIY alignment a while back:
    https://trackmustangsonline.com/threads/who-else-does-their-own-alignment.3384/#post-54258

    DIY Toe Measurement

    Tools required:
    Laser pointer
    Tape measure
    Level
    2x4 material, one piece should be around 2'
    Blue tape (or marker)

    Center steering wheel and roll car forward at least two feet to pre-load the front suspension. (I didn't really center the wheel when I pulled in today)

    Measure front track width - outer tire edge at 5" or 7" high at front and rear.

    Choosing 5" or 7" depends on the sidewall height and aspect ratio. You might need to choose a taller height if you are doing a truck. These heights are arbitrary and I use them because they fit the 2x4 nominal dimensions. For 5" high I use one 2x4 laid flat on the ground and the other on the short edge (1.5" + 3.5"). For 7" I stack the two on top of each other on the narrow edge (3.5" + 3.5"). Mark or tape above the top of the board edge where it touches the sidewall. Leave these marks in place, and make the same marks on the other side of the car.

    Marking for 5" high measurements:
    [​IMG]

    Measure the distance between the front and rear sets of marks. I use a level to set the 0 end of the tape and then read the other side with the level.

    Setting the 0 end of the tape:
    [​IMG]

    Taking the front axle outer track measurement:
    [​IMG]

    I got 72 3/4" rear and 72 11/16" front, so I would expect my total toe to end up between 0" and 1/8" in. (1/16" over 15" marks would be less than 1/8" for the 27.2" tire)

    This tape measurement isn't very precise and doesn't need to be, but the difference should give a rough idea of your total toe. Try to make these measurements good to 1/16", and your results should be better than +/- 1/64". Average the two and use it as your front axle outer track width. For this example, that's 72 23/32"

    Measure rear outer track width - outer tire edge at 5" or 7" high (use the same height as you did for the front axle). Again, I use a level to set the 0 end of the tape and then read the other side with the level.

    Setting the 0 end of the tape:
    [​IMG]

    Taking the rear axle outer track measurement:
    [​IMG]

    I got 73 5/8"

    Take the difference between the front and rear track width and divide by 2. This is the offset of the 0 toe laser target.

    (73 5/8" - 72 23/32")/2 = 29/64"

    If your front track is narrower, then set the laser target in front of the tire and put the 0 mark inboard of the outer tire edge by this offset. Do the opposite if your outer front track is wider than the rear.

    Measure and record the distance between the target and the center of the front axle. I got 101" Divide this by your tire diameter. On our mustangs, this should be about 4. I got 3.71. This is the multiplier for your target readings. So 1/16" toe will read as a bit under 1/4" from '0' on your target.

    I'm using a tape as my target, using 3" as my 0 mark, offset 29/64" inboard of the tire face aligned by the red level behind the tape:
    [​IMG]

    Tape your laser pointer to the edge of a 2x4 and stack it at the height of your tire measurements. Turn it on and point it toward the target and adjust/slide it left to right until the beam is touching the front tire's front and rear marks and hitting the target at the rear tire.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Reading 11/16" outboard... divided by 3.71 is 0.185"...or about 3/16" toe in for the passenger side:
    [​IMG]

    Record and repeat for the other side of the car.

    Reading 9/16" inboard ... divided by 3.71 is 0.151" ... or just less than 5/32" toe out for the driver side:
    [​IMG]

    Total toe measurement 3/16" + -5/32" = 1/32" toe in.

    I wanted to confirm that the steering wheel was just cocked. Also wanted to time what a remeasure would take.

    Rolled the car back and forth 2 feet and centered the steering.

    Set everything up again and without needing to take track width measurements again:
    [​IMG]

    Passenger side reading +1/8" on the tape or about 1/64" toe in:
    [​IMG]

    Driver side reading +3/32" on the tape or <1/64" toe in:
    [​IMG]

    This confirms the previous measurement of 1/32" total toe with a total of about 3/128". Now I wouldn't start saying that I can get results down to 1/128"...but someone with a better/tighter laser pointer could probably do it. Total remeasure time was about 8 minutes including rolling the car back and forth. I'm never going back to the strings...or paying for another alignment again.




    Making Toe Adjustments

    Tools required:
    7/8" open end or crescent
    13mm open end or crescent
    channel locks or pliers

    I've found that I can do this with the car on the ground, but lift the front end if you aren't familiar with these parts.

    Remove the clamp from the steering rack boot and slide it off the rubber and leave it over the tie rod.

    Loosen the 7/8" lock nut. The ball joint will rotate a little before the nut loosens. If you are shortening the tie rod length, the ball joint will rotate again before the tie rod moves. Only the rotation relative to the ball joint matters. 1 flat (1/6 turn) makes about 1/16" toe adjustment. I've made adjustments as small as 1/2 a flat. Tighten the lock nut and replace the clamp on the rubber boot.

    Based on the second set of measurements above, if I wanted total toe to be zero I would bump the passenger side tie rod 1/2 flat (or 1/12 turn) out. I would bump the driver side just under a half flat. Less than 1/32" total toe is close enough for me and I'm just going to leave it.

    After your adjustments are made, drive the car around and repeat the measurement.
     
  8. Fabman

    Fabman Project: "Frankenstang"

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    I have a lift, toe plates, turn plates and a digital cube level that I stick on the rotor for camber. Setting toe and camber is quick and easy.
     
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  9. 302BOB

    302BOB TMO Addict

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    You guys got this down to a science... one way or another.............
     
  10. Nvrfinished

    Nvrfinished TMO Intermediate

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    Thanks JAJ. I've been reading up on the string method and it helped to fill some holes and answer some questions. It's something I want to work up to. I may do a dry run with the string method right after the car is aligned to see what numbers I come up with and make sure I get the procedure correct. Right now, however, I'm just looking for a quick way to set camber and toe on the front before I go to the track and then set it back again to my street setting.

    I saw your original post, Grant 302, when I was researching this. It's good information. My goal is to make the changes before I go to the track. I agree that there is enough to do already once you get there.

    Thanks Fabman. I think this is more or less what I'm asking about. I was hoping that after I have a 4 wheel alignment to my street settings, I could just set the front of the car on some homemade turn plates and make the adjustments without having to set the car down and roll it back and forth for things to settle.

    The rear of the S550 doesn't seem to need as much camber as the front. I have it set to my track setting and wears fairly even on the street. After some more testing I'm hoping this will be the case. That way I can just adjust the front back and forth and then maybe double check the entire car a couple time a year with the string method.
     
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  11. Fabman

    Fabman Project: "Frankenstang"

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    Back in the day I used to put several sheets of waxed paper between 2 pieces of sheet metal and on the floor for turn plates.
     
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  12. Nvrfinished

    Nvrfinished TMO Intermediate

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    I'm thinking along those lines. I have access to some thin steel plate. I was thinking cutting some squares and running grease between them. Maybe wax paper would be less of a mess
     
  13. Fabman

    Fabman Project: "Frankenstang"

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    Grease works....


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  14. JAJ

    JAJ TMO Race

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    My string method "tools" are a 6" metric steel rule and two 6' long 1x2 preprimed boards that I picked up at Home Depot. I used a knife to make small sharp notches exactly the same distance apart (1" to 2" from each end) on both boards. The string I use is 30# fishing line that's taped to one of the boards and that has a 3 ounce fishing weight at the free end. I set the boards on top of two jack stands (set so the string passes the wheels at the center of the centercap) at each end of the car and adjust them side-to-side by measuring in to the centercap all four wheels. I just sit one of the boards across the engine bay when it's in "plumb bob" mode. For storage, I just roll the strings up on the board they're taped to and hang the two boards on hooks on my garage wall.
     
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  15. Fabman

    Fabman Project: "Frankenstang"

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    what if the track width is not the same at the front and rear...?
     
  16. JAJ

    JAJ TMO Race

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    You always get different measurements front and rear because the front and rear tracks are different. All that matters is that the strings are the same distance from the wheel centercap on both sides of the car at the front axle and again at the rear axle. The goal is to have the strings running parallel to each other (which is what the carefully located notches in the sticks are for) and to the centerline of the car (which is done by making sure the wheels are centered between the strings). A problem with this method on the S197 is that the rear axle isn't always centered, so you have to measure the offset (another job for the plumb bob) and allow for it.
     
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  17. Norm Peterson

    Norm Peterson Corner Barstool Sitter

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    There's a lot to like, but I can't get past referencing anything off the tire sidewall instead of the wheel flange and not expecting uncertainty errors nearly as big as the resolution in the measuring apparatus.

    It's very likely for embossed lettering to vary in 'depth' by at least as much as 0.040" (I just measured one random tire letter, not a particularly 'deep' or 'high' one), with no guarantee that all of the alignment angle references are going to hit embossed letters (let alone of the same depth) or all miss them entirely. I'm not even sure I'd take rub strips to be of uniform depth/thickness.

    I've thought about other methods of measuring toe using laser(s ??) mounted directly against the wheels and measuring beam divergence somehow, for when my eyes can no longer read scales graduated to 0.01"without significant difficulty.


    Norm
     
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  18. Grant 302

    Grant 302 OPM Spent: $509,979 Moderator

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    Agreed, Norm. Would be an issue on tires with significant variations. I was using the lip protector on the Pirellis in that post. I often have tires stretched which helps make this possible. For tires with raised/relief/lettering issues, I would use a spacer taped to the rim/lip at the same height/offset and go from there.

    My feeling is that this is what toe plates do, but have the issue with tire bulge on the bottom or needing an assistant or reading the tape to 64ths. If results are repeatable then it's good enough for me.
     
  19. JAJ

    JAJ TMO Race

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    Nobody has brought up hub stands yet - is it time? That's what the IMSA crew chief I mentioned earlier used. The team had an aluminum frame that could be raised to the same height as the deck in the transporter, and they leveled it first then rolled the race car out onto the frame, popped it up on its air jacks, took the wheels off and put on the hub stands, which in turn sat on turn-plates that could move in any direction. The frame had adjustments to center the car chassis, and then brackets for the string. They had various attachments for the hub stands to measure ride height, corner weight, camber, caster and toe. They could set the car up with laboratory-grade accuracy in a few minutes. Then they'd put the wheels back on, lower the frame to ground height and roll the car into the paddock. At the end of every session on the track, it went back onto the frame for a complete check and any adjustments the driver asked for.
     
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  20. racer47

    racer47 All I got left is fast

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    I don't have a lot to add but toe plates are easily worth $60. They are fast, easy and repeatable. I've used them forever with many tire / wheel combinations. Why make it harder than necessary? I only string it to get the rear end square.

    Also baby powder works well on smooth garage floors in place of turn plates for caster measurements.

    All of this became much easier and faster with digital levels. Bubble levels and plumb bobs can work but why bother.

    https://www.summitracing.com/parts/...MI1866-aff2AIVBbnACh2BwwhxEAQYASABEgJFovD_BwE
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2018
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