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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
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    184

    Portable Wheel Alignment Tools

    Anyone know of a good at home wheel alignment tool kit?



  2. #2
    dennis68 Guest
    You mean besides strings and magnetic base camber gauges?

    How much money is a "good" tool kit worth? Longacre has some nice stuff, I use strings and levels to get close and check with a Hunter P6 series.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
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    31
    Four jack stands, a ball of string, castor/chamber guage, and a tape measure. Good to 1/32". This will allow you to do all the basics: Toe, chamber, castor, and ride height. Add some turning plates, a bump steer guage, plumb bob and you've got all the tools to do a full alignment. All the other fancy tools just make the job faster. My guess is 75%+ of everyday racers align their car by stringing it.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
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    Orlando, FL
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    How important is a level floor? Mine is mostly level, but my car only ever really uses 3 jackstands.

    jp
    John Parsons



    II Much Fabrication's Blog -- New products, Fabrication sequences, etc.

    II Much Fabrication's Current Build -- LS9-powered 69 Camaro

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    St. Charles, Mo
    Posts
    424

    Alignment equipment

    No matter how well you think you can align a car with strings and levels, you can't do as well as you can with a computerized alignment machine. I'm a mechanical engineer for Hunter Engineering were we make the alignment equipment. A computer alignment machine has a resolution of .01 degrees for all alignment angles and an accuracy under .05 degrees. The alingment machines also take into account the rear axle thrust line, the run out in each of the wheels, etc.

    I know that Indy car teams still string align the cars as well as NASCAR but they don't want to lug a full alignment machine with them and they usually don't want to pay for their equipment and wee won't give it away. The Indy car guys measure the toe within a few .001" with calipers. They have a much more sophisticated set up than I think any of us would build for our home alignment needs.

    Anyway, the level floor is important. It is a reference for the buble type camber and caster gages. They assume a level floor. In place of turn plates, you can put sand on the floor and place a 1/4" piece of plywood 12"x12" on that then roll the front tires on the plywood. This will reduce friction enough to do the string method.

    To measure camber, you could use a framing square and a level then measure from the bottom of the rim and top of the rim to the verticle of the square. Use the difference along with the rim diameter to calculate the camber.

    In order to use a buble caster gage, you need to measure the turning angle because the caster gage is measuring the change in camber at a 10 or 20 degree steer angle.

    Get it close then bring it to an alignment shop. They can set it up to what ever specs you want as long as their is enough adjustment.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Posts
    31
    I don't disagree that a computer alignment is far more accurate then stringing a car. But come on. You don't need 0.01 degrees accuracy for a street car. Getting the car within 1/16" on toe and 1/4 degree on camber and castor is sufficient.
    I think this is a great do it yourself and save money project. Take your time and you can acheive the results you need.

  7. #7
    dennis68 Guest
    You would be suprised how many "it's with a 1/16" toe" I've had on a rack that were way off. There is no way for you positively know what your alignment is without an alignment machine.

    BTW it's caster not castor.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Posts
    184
    Thanks for all the posts. That is pretty creative to use the plywood and sand trick.

    Anyhow, I was looking for tools and or instructions. I'm all for the poor man's methods if they are decent, but is there a site out there detailing exactly how to do it. I havent done trigonometry in years...

    So, which do you adjust first? It seems you need to do toe last, since the other measurements would affect that. So is caster first? camber second?


    I found this online which looks kinda slick for the price. I'm just asking if there exists a quality tool that will do the job for a a couple hundred bucks...

    http://www.advancedracing.com/produc...artcambergauge

    What do you guys think?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    Muskegon, MI
    Posts
    4,494
    I have also adjusted my older cars and trucks with the string or measuring tape method. (Still need to do the 69 Camaro) Heck even my 1979 Chevy truck has been adjusted that way and has never had a problem and it used to be my daily driver.
    Obviously the computer way is the best but if you need a reliable fix then the string or measuring tape will easily get you by for several years. Now if your pushing over 100mph all the time then the computer is the way to go.
    Adam_______Offical Car Name "ILLUSION"
    383 Stroker, Stock cast heads, T-56 tranny, 4.11 gears, 2002 T/A dash, 4th gen interior including seatbelts, power lumbar seats, 18" Budnik Wheels, Hydraboost, QA1 shocks, DC Controller, Power steering conversion, fuel cell, unique exhaust set up........
    ILLUSION Website-----------Old Website--------------My Car on Lateral-g.net----------- Need something designed?-AdFabDesign

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Posts
    31
    Denny-I think your missing my point. Sure a high dollar alignment tool is the way to go. But done correctly a car that is aligned by the string method will work. Without a rigid frame and rubber bushings the suspension is moving around so much that 0.01 degree accuracy is overkill. Let's quite highjacking Joe's thread and give him some info he can use.

    BTW-It's bubble caster gauge. Not a buble caster gage. Worry about your own spell checking JA.

  11. #11
    dennis68 Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Spitfire44
    Denny-I think your missing my point. Sure a high dollar alignment tool is the way to go. But done correctly a car that is aligned by the string method will work. Without a rigid frame and rubber bushings the suspension is moving around so much that 0.01 degree accuracy is overkill. Let's quite highjacking Joe's thread and give him some info he can use.
    Actually, I do have a rigid frame and all solid bushings so in some cases it does matter. 0.01* may be overkill for the toe however caster and camber are usually the angles that get set wrong and I have never seen a homeshop toe set within 0.01*. They are usually lucky to get within 1/8" or so.
    BTW-It's bubble caster gauge. Not a buble caster gage. Worry about your own spell checking JA.
    Wrong guy jerky, I didn't write that quote. That was DLinson...

    Joe, the plywood trick works pretty good. I use a good amount of bearing grease sandwiched by a pair of sheetmetal plates.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
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    Please keep it civil, y'all.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Benicia, CA
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    Smart Level

    I got a digital Smart Level off of eBay to use along with my string, framing square, tape measure, common sense, and instructions from other websites. I am fairly certain that my perfectionism will get close enough for my uses, but I will occasionally take it to a shop to have it checked/adjusted. I might be able to get a 'lifetime' or 'warranteed' alignment and then take it back every few months, the guys at the local shop would love tweaking on my car anyway (as long as they don't cross-country the car if I am away from the shop).
    Jeff
    1971 RS Camaro: PAINKILLER

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Posts
    31
    Derek-I agree. It's too bad people can't just have a civilized disagreement and not make it personnel. Let's just stick to the facts and maybe we'll all learn something.
    Last edited by parsonsj; 05-05-2005 at 09:15 AM.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
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    Central CA USA
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    I agree the new machines are great if the operator is properly trained and wants to get the job done properly.
    FYI years ago before the computer machines, my uncle aligned his car at home then took it to an alignment shop, they didn't charge him because there was nothing out of alignment, it was right on the money. All he has was a bubble gage, tape measure and turntables. Harbor Frieght sells turntables, I think they are very important to relieve pressure on the suspension and let it settle properly.

    I'm sure there are plenty of bad alignments done at home though. You have to be up to speed on how it's done and pretty fussy about getting it right, even then you can't do what the pro machines do.

    The advantage is, you can change camber or whatever as often as you please at no charge.
    67 Camaro RS that will be faster than anything Mary owns.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    NJ
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    Alignment

    I have a hunter machine at work(good for me) you can't beat a computer. I used the bubble gauges years ago and they do work well if the car is level, make sure you lock the brakes so the car does not roll around. If the front is on plates then the rear should be at the same level.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
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    Los Angeles
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    I use the Intercomp digital camber/caster gauge. Is it perfect? No, but like David mentioned, I change the alignment 4-5 times a year so paying for each one would break the bank.

    The Intercomp has a +/- 0.1* accuracy for both measurements. Toe is set with plates and tape measures. The tapes are not perfect, but it for what I do with the car, it works.

    Setting the alignment takes about 1.5 hours.
    VaporWorx. We Give You Gas http://www.vaporworx.com

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Location
    Rockford Illinois
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    Alignment 22

    I can remember being told that because I wanted specs that were not factory for my car that they would not align it because their new machine didn't have someone trained to do it and they wouldn't be able to guarantee it.

    I think the point is to be able to handle better and not have excessive tire wear which is a catch 22 situation along with having to go back home because the places in your town are expensive and still don't understand.

    I remember also being told that those big tires will really mess up your car

    Jim Nilsen

  19. #19
    dennis68 Guest
    Yeah, there are more than a few idiots out there that not only do not understand alignment/suspension, but can't use the machine if it doesn't tell them exactly which bolts to turn to perform the alignment.

    Just have to look around and find a shop that knows what they are doing. Look for older shops with at least one guy old enough to have been a tech when they still put carburetors on cars.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
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    Central CA USA
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    A Smartlevel is pretty accurate for measuring camber, you can find charts to determine caster using one but you need to accurately turn the wheel in and out a given angle for each reading. Toe can be set using trammel bars or flat plates against the wheels and tape measures. String lines are great but take a lot more work to accurately set up.
    The prof road race teams use stringlines and dial calipers to measure.

    I use a bubble gage from Speedway, they have a good price on them. A digital gage is probably more accurate but they need batteries and need to be zero'd before use, plus they cost more.

    Verify any camber gage by clamping a carpenters level or piece of bar stock vertically in a vise, put the gage against one side, take a "camber" reading, then put it against the opposite side and read again, the true zero point is half way between the two readings.
    Last edited by David Pozzi; 05-15-2005 at 06:47 PM.
    67 Camaro RS that will be faster than anything Mary owns.

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