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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.

    ADJUSTING CAMBER

    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.

    ADJUSTING TOE-IN

    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.
    [16:02] Ferrari166mm: so you&#39;re finally getting into real cars.<br />[16:02] adamkob32: I&#39;ve just had enough of racing a 100HP nutsack
    <br /><br />

  • #2
    Wow! You should write technical installation instructions for aftermarket companies. Great detail.

    It's funny. Most people forget to set $$$ aside to perform an alignment when they upgrade their suspension (springs, shocks, etc.). This is great! Thanks.
    [color=red]FOR SALE]
    <br />Email: <a href="mailto:[email protected]">[email protected] ing.com</a>

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    • #3
      Nice. You did a great job covering the details.

      I'm half tempted to do it... Of course, my driveway is old and rough, but I'd imagine that parking on top of some old plywood would work just as well. It would be the only way I could mark the floor.
      '02 Ford F150 5.4 4X4 XLT Supercab in Arizona Beige Metallic - Daily driver (plz send gas monies. Lulz!)

      '83 Ford Thunderbird Heritage w/stock 5.0/AOD - Hershey bar brown velour interior and a dashboard like an Atari threw up on it.

      6G75 swapped 2000 Chrysler Sebring Convertible JXi Limited - non-MIVEC to MIVEC swap under way.

      Turbo OM617/4-speed manual swapped 1977 Mercedes-Benz 300D - mothballed for paint and body.

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      • #4
        EXCELLENT write-up!!! I vote this thread get moved to the Technical Articles forum for posterity. :P ).

        I picked up this nifty gadget from Harbor Freight Tools. It's a toe gauge that accurately measures your toe setting down to 1/16" accuracy. It's much easier to use than the method described above (though it is described VERY accurately), and it's selling for a whopping $10 these days. The only downside is once you order from Harbor Freight you get a big catalog in the mail every week for the rest of your life. :lol: ). I believe there is a special factory tool that allows rear toe adjustment, but unfortunately it isn't available to mere mortals like us. Other Saturn models may be more easily adjustable, but I have no experience with them to know either way.

        Very few shops will give you an alignment to anything other than stock specs. Many will even refuse to give you an alignment if you've modified your suspension, or at least try to sell you camber bolts (which you don't need for an alignment to stock specs if you're not lowered more than an inch or two). Doing your own alignment is sometimes the only way you can get it set to the specs you want. Furthermore, if you understand how alignment settings affect your handling, you can tune the car to handle exactly the way you want. This is crucial for racers (like me), particularly on Saturns because the usual gadgets like adjustable struts and true coilovers just aren't available. (Hmm, maybe I should write an article describing how alignment settings affect your handling...)
        - Justin<br />91 Sentra SE-R, &quot;The Millenium Falcon&quot;<br />91 Miata, &quot;The Otter&quot;<br />ex 95 SC2 (Locutus), 96 SL2 (Silverstreak), 96 SL2 (Apollo), 94 SW2 (Ninja Wagon)

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        • #5
          damn nice... anyone ever get the lifetime alignment from firestone?
          99 Saturn Blackberry SL2
          <br />
          <br />7/17/2006

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Apollo96SL2
            Changing your camber setting affects that wheel's toe setting. Therefore you should ALWAYS set camber BEFORE toe. Changing toe does not affect camber, so once camber's set, it's set (until you hit a really big bump [img]{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_razz.gif[/img] ).

            I actually wrote that in the original version that was on the old TSN just before it went down, but for some reason I forgot to put it in here. I'll add it right away.
            [16:02] Ferrari166mm: so you&#39;re finally getting into real cars.<br />[16:02] adamkob32: I&#39;ve just had enough of racing a 100HP nutsack
            <br /><br />

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            • #7
              Originally posted by 99_SL2
              damn nice... anyone ever get the lifetime alignment from firestone?
              Don't do it. My mom works for firestone and I've had a lot of experience with their shops and I can honestly say I've yet to find a firestone garage with someone competent in doing vehicle alignments.
              [16:02] Ferrari166mm: so you&#39;re finally getting into real cars.<br />[16:02] adamkob32: I&#39;ve just had enough of racing a 100HP nutsack
              <br /><br />

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              • #8
                Originally posted by DasPirate

                Don't do it. My mom works for firestone and I've had a lot of experience with their shops and I can honestly say I've yet to find a firestone garage with someone competent in doing vehicle alignments.
                ive heard a couple people with bad things to say.. thanks
                99 Saturn Blackberry SL2
                <br />
                <br />7/17/2006

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                • #9
                  nice writeup... it is now added to the DIY/Tech Section!
                  [img width=600 height=150]http://www.sixthsphere.com/storage2/images/wejag665buljx09mu77e.jpg[/img]<br />99SL2 w/97SC2M Engine/Trans Swap, CAI, 2.25 Custom Exhaust

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                  • #10
                    I also scored S series stock alignment specs, which I posted in a separate article. [img]{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_twisted.gif[/img]
                    - Justin<br />91 Sentra SE-R, &quot;The Millenium Falcon&quot;<br />91 Miata, &quot;The Otter&quot;<br />ex 95 SC2 (Locutus), 96 SL2 (Silverstreak), 96 SL2 (Apollo), 94 SW2 (Ninja Wagon)

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                    • #11
                      Score on the specs. Although I'm of the opinion that changing the caster on an S series is a practice in futility because of the flimsy LCA setup we have.
                      [16:02] Ferrari166mm: so you&#39;re finally getting into real cars.<br />[16:02] adamkob32: I&#39;ve just had enough of racing a 100HP nutsack
                      <br /><br />

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                      • #12
                        I have some important info to add.

                        All of the following information is taken directly from the Alignment, Wheels, and Tires section of the FSM for 1991-1992 vehicles, and will apply to all S-series of all years.

                        If you're performing an alignment after installing or removing any suspension components, or you've had the suspension unloaded, (car lifted), prior to beginning alignment, the vehicle should be driven to allow the components to locate themselves properly. Optionally, the FSM states you can manually jounce the suspension. Joucing should be performed at least 20 times at each corner of the vehicle.

                        Order of Adjustment

                        The FSM is particular about what order things should be adjusted in.

                        1: Rear Camber
                        2: Rear Toe
                        3: Front Camber
                        4: Front Caster
                        5: Front Toe

                        Rear Toe Adjustment

                        Rear toe is adjustable. The inner lateral link fasteners seem to be cammed.To adjust rear toe, follow these paraphrased FSM instructions:

                        1: First loosen the rear lateral link to crossmember fastener for the wheel you are adjusting.

                        2: Move the lateral link to correct toe. (There is a special tool suggested, but grabbing the wheel at 9 and 3 clock position and /shove/tugging may do the trick.)

                        3: Torque the lateral link to crossmember fastener to 89 ft lbs.

                        4: Verify correct toe adjustment has been achieved

                        5: repeat the outlined steps on the other rear wheel.
                        '02 Ford F150 5.4 4X4 XLT Supercab in Arizona Beige Metallic - Daily driver (plz send gas monies. Lulz!)

                        '83 Ford Thunderbird Heritage w/stock 5.0/AOD - Hershey bar brown velour interior and a dashboard like an Atari threw up on it.

                        6G75 swapped 2000 Chrysler Sebring Convertible JXi Limited - non-MIVEC to MIVEC swap under way.

                        Turbo OM617/4-speed manual swapped 1977 Mercedes-Benz 300D - mothballed for paint and body.

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                        • #13
                          firestone did my alignment backwards
                          the roads are not flat for drainage and cars camber is set to compensate for this and my friend who rarely has time looked at it after the tires wore out and told me it was backwards and fixed it for free
                          sigpic-VOLVO 745T 175K MBC ...
                          - 9 BOLT Aluminum Intake 3rd gen sedan... Beige... 160K

                          You're so crazy! enough in a way that i'll probably say you destroyed me!
                          ~The Used

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