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DIY Alignment

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  • DIY Alignment

    Please be aware that doing this will take a bit of time - usually about 2-4 hours, depending on how much adjusting is necessary and how adept you are at setting it up. Patience is a virtue.

    I don't have pics of doing the camber, but the illustration should show you what to do. It's not difficult.

    Bear in mind that you ABSOLUTELY MUST adjust your camber first because it will affect your toe (the toe doesn't affect the camber, which is why it comes after). Failure to do so will result in the loss of your new toe settings and you get to start all over again.


    This one's really easy: you need a carpenter's square, a very straight surface to park on (doesn't need to be particularly level, like most camber measuring methods that rely on spirit or machinist's levels), a pencil, and some good ole' fashioned trigonometry (calculators make it easier).

    Now, digging way back in your past you may recall from some distant math class that the tangent of some angle in a right triangle is equal to the opposite side from the angle divided by the adjacent side. Allow me to illustrate:

    When you set the square against the tire's surface, you don't want it to be at the wheel centerline because of the tire bulge at the bottom. So set it off to the side a little bit, and choose a location where you get a nice round distance (like 15 inches) between the bottom point of contact and where you'll do your measuring for d. This number will be h, as seen in the picture.

    Now that you know how to calculate the angle, you'll want to measure the camber on all wheels and write them down so you can decide whether or not it needs adjustment. For regular street driving, 0 to .5أƒئ’أ¢â‚¬إ،أƒâ€?أ‚آ؛ of negative camber (where the top points inward) is a good setup for all four wheels. If you drive in a more performance-oriented manner, more camber is advisable, but do your research to see what works best for your setup.

    To adjust camber, loosen the two bolts that attach the strut to the knuckle. Pull or push the top of the wheel, snug them down, and measure to see where you stand. Be patient and keep doing this until you get the camber where you want it.

    When you're done with that, you're ready to tackle the toe. Yey.


    You're going to need a different array of tools for this bit. Lesse, it would be good to have the following:

    -a nice flat surface, as for camber
    -bunch of plastic bags
    -good 'ole pencil
    -silver pencil or fine sharpie
    -tape measure
    -metal ruler or scale -- something accurate to about 1/32" with a good edge at the zero mark.
    -plumb bob
    -whole bunch of fishing line
    -four jackstands or washer fluid jugs, or something that can hold a taut line at about hub level

    You'll want to start by parking your car so that there are 2 or 3 plastic bags spread out under the front wheels, like so:

    This will allow the wheels to turn more easily when you make your adjustments. Doing that reduces the load you put on the suspension, which keeps you from messing up the other side or the steering wheel centering as badly.

    Now you'll want to find the car's centerline so that you have something to align to. You DON'T want to go off the body, because the body is almost never straight with the car's centerline. To find the centerline, you must find the suspension center for the front and rear and draw a line through the two points.

    To find your suspension center, you go under the car (you shouldn't need it to be jacked up for this unless you're pretty big) and measure the distance between two of the main suspension pivots, like where the lower control arms meet the engine cradle for instance. Then, you divide that measurement in half and mark that distance from one of them somewhere on the frame using your silver pencil. Do the same for the rear.

    Now you'll want to run a length of fishing line under the car so that it doesn't touch anything underneath like the exhaust or the frame. I used a pair of jacks to hold the ends of this line. With the line in place, take your plumb bob and hold it so that it hangs directly beneath the suspension centers you just marked, and move your centerline so that it just barely touches the string of the plumb bob.

    Do this for the front and the rear and then check to make sure it's as close to center as you can.

    Now that you know where the centerline is, it would be good to translate it to the ground so that you can use it. To do this, take your plumb bob and use it to mark the pavement (with a regular pencil this time, obviously) directly under the centerline out near the ends of the car.

    Now you'll want to measure about 36" from either side of the centerline marks you just made and mark them on the pavement. This is the refrence point that you'll use to set the string that you'll measure toe from. Do this for both the front and the rear. You should have made 4 more marks on the pavement.

    With that done, you setup a length of fishing line on each side of the car, at about hub level. Use your plumb bob to make sure that each line is directly above the marks you just made. These lines should be perfectly parallel to the car's centerline, and will provide a good reference point to measure your toe.

    Now to measure the toe of each wheel, you'll want to take your ruler and measure the distance between the rim and the fishing line on both the front and back edges of each wheel.

    WRITE DOWN EVERY MEASUREMENT! You'll want to measure everything first to see where the car stands and determine what adjustments you need to make. For toe in, the measurement on the front of the wheel should be LARGER than the measurement than the rear of the wheel. The difference between the measurements is what determines the toe for that wheel. If the front and the back of the wheel are the same distance from the string, you have zero toe. If the front is 1/16" farther from the string than the back, you have 1/16" of toe on that wheel. The total toe is the sum of the toe from both wheels.

    To adjust your toe, loosen the nut from the tie rod end by turning it clockwise with a 22mm wrench. It should be fairly tight, and you'll want to use a 7/8" wrench on the flat part of the rod end to keep it from turning to its limit and damaging it. To make the rear of the wheel move outward (toe in), turn the tie rod (using a 13mm wrench) clockwise. To make the rear of the wheel move inward (toe out), turn the tie rod counter clockwise. Only turn the tie rod a little bit at a time, and after each adjustment, make sure the steering wheel is centered (it will move on you - the plastic bags are used to help the wheels turn more easily so that this effect is minimized) and bounce the suspension a little to settle it. Keep re-measuring on both sides after each adjustment to make sure it's where you want it, and when it is, tighten the nut back against the tie rod end by turning it counterclockwise.

    Congratulations, you've just saved yourself $80, and did a better job than most alignment shops. Again, it takes time, but it's worth it to be sure that your alignment is precisely where you want, and it's especially good if you work on your suspension a lot and don't want to have to pay $80 every time.

    Most street setups work best with 1/8" total toe in on the front for stability.

    The rear toe should measure between 1/16" and 1/8" toe in, which is also good for stability. To my knowledge, we can't adjust our rear toe, so just check it to make sure nothing's bent or screwed up in your rear suspension.


  • #2
    Pics not working
    2002 sl2 auto


    • #3
      Link to Pics? anyone


      • #4
        Does anyone know where we can get this pics? The entire folder on that server is gone.
        Current: 2015 Fiesta ST - Full stage 3 bolt-ons and a 93 octane custom Stratified tune at 27 PSI.

        Former modded N/A 97 SL2, unmolested 96 SC2, and turbo 95 SL2.
        99' SL2 Turbo - Parted out, returned to stock years ago, still on the road but everything keeps breaking.
        00' SC2 DD - SOLD
        02' SL1 - On loan to someone


        • #5
          Originally posted by Natedogg View Post
          Does anyone know where we can get this pics? The entire folder on that server is gone.
          Someone should just recreate them.
          72 Charger: pissed me off, on jackstands.
          95 SW1m: Dohc swap. DD. I can haz boost?


          • #6
            Very good DIY, but someone really does need to re-add/recreate pics, as stated above (sorry for beating a dead horse).


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