DIY: front end alignment...toe-in... - Fuelly Forums

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Old 06-16-2006, 03:25 AM   #1
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DIY: front end alignment...toe-in...

Here is a method I worked out to do the front toe-in and it is accurate...takes about 15 mins if you are just checking and the toe-in is within specs.

If done right...it beats using angles and tape measures...etc...hands down.

Probably as accurate as at an alignment shop.


Wheel alignment 101:

http://www.familycar.com/alignment.htm


* Before starting: You need to be sure that your wheels do not have side to side runout...or your attempts to set the toe-in will likely be off. You can check this by rotating the front wheels and watching for any side to side movement...or you could use a dial indicator.

* If you have oversized tires...you will need to compensate for this as far as the diameter of the tire vs the OEM size...which are what the specs are for.

* If your toe specs are given in degrees...you will have to translate this into inches at the tread.


What you need:

* a small laser level....around $10-$12.

http://www.harborfreight.com/ or ???

* a square aluminum or steel tube...must be straight.

* 2 home-made bungee straps...made using innertube rubber & coat hanger wire....the length depending on the style of wheel...you will need to hook the ends in the spokes or holes in the wheel.

* 10' tape measure

* a 6'... 2" X 4"...not warped.

* 2 jack stands or similar STURDY supports

* pencil or pen

* chalk


How to do it:

* Find a reasonably LEVEL paved area...this can be more difficult than you might think due to the fact that most paved surfaces are sloped for drainage...but perfectly level isn't needed...a decently FLAT surface is.

* Drive your car forward STRAIGHT slowly with the steering wheel held steady and stop it gradually using the hand brake. Shut it off.

* Using vinyl tape, tape the laser tightly (without tripod) centered on the square alum tube. I use a wrap of tape at both ends.

Or use a lightweight steel tube and use the magnets in the base of the level.

> This tube must be very straight and uniform; and has to be cut at the right length to fit on the most reliably accurate surfaces on the face of your wheels....so that it sits parallel to the wheels surface.<

* Using the 2 bungee straps...strap the tube onto the first wheel at AXLE LEVEL using the vent holes in the wheel and in a close to horizontal position with the laser beam pointed to the front. Keep the tube centered vertically and horizontally; and check that is is sitting flat on the wheels surface on both ends.

* Place the 2 jack stands (or whatever?) 2' or so in front of the car at a right angle to the front/back centerline of the car. On these and AT AXLE HEIGHT, place the 2" X 4".

Check to be sure that the distance from the axle centers to the 2" X 4" is the same on both ends. Mark the position of the 2" X 4" from the car on both ends using chalk on the paved surface you are working on.

* Align the laser beam so that it hits the 2" X 4" (it should be reasonably close to level...use the bubble) and use a pen to mark the exact CENTER of the light spot on the wood. I use arrows & numbers (1) and (2) to start.

* Then, without touching or moving the 2" X 4" or the car, move the laser to the opposite wheel, being sure to place it in the same way, and do the SAME thing. You now have 2 marks at opposite ends of the wood.

* Now, measure the tread to tread width or the DIAMETER of the tire and multiply this by 4.

Set the jack stands and 2" X 4" up out this distance from the first position...using the first chalk marks to measure out 4Xs the tire diameter at each end.

* Assuming that you haven't moved the laser or the car, adjust the SECOND arrow and the number (2) so that the laser beam hits EXACTLY on this mark.

* Then, without touching the car or the 2" x 4", move the laser to the original wheel again. Mark the place where the laser hits with an arrow and label it (3).

* Now....using a caliper or tape measure, carefully measure the distance between marks (1) and (3). Then divide this by 4.

This will equal your CURRENT toe setting in inches....(+) or (-).


Adjusting the toe:

* It's best to have hit BOTH tie rod adjusting threads with penetrant BEFORE starting this whole process.

* IF your steering wheel is off to one side when drivng straight down a road, then you would want to try and correct for this when you adjust the toe.


Centering the steering wheel:

The steering wheel needs to be reasonably close to center in order for your turn signals to be able to cancel correctly.
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Old 06-16-2006, 02:37 PM   #2
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Very cool!

I wish I would have known how to do this a few months ago when I paid $65 for an alignment.

I will definately have to give this a shot sometime in the near future. Thanks for the write up!
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Old 06-16-2006, 02:40 PM   #3
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I was going to write this up one day, but I've been too lazy to even do it, so thanks!

You did a rly good job of it, better explained then most other places.
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Old 06-17-2006, 03:35 AM   #4
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hm so if the car doesn't move when i release the hand brake and let me car in N, then I'm set!
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Old 08-27-2006, 06:46 AM   #5
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I've tried several methods...tape measure...the flimsy thingy that JCWhitney sells...but since you are dealing with very close measurements...nothing much works very well. You are talking 1/16" or so.

Was having my car aligned and the guy mentioned someone who used a laser to do his toe and he got it right on...thought about it and found a method.

Most vehicles have the frame of the car below the axle center...making using a tape pretty hard to do...tires treads are not that accurate...and even if you can manage it...you need help.

IMO...using a laser can give results comparable to an alignment machine...if you watch what you are doing.
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Old 11-03-2007, 07:09 PM   #6
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I really like this laser method, but I can't visualize it at all!

It's really aggravating for me since I'm a VERY visual learner when it comes to cars.

Could someone do a little "drawing" of this to help me out a bit?

It would be GREATLY appreciated since then I could tweak the alignment on my car for some better MPG, since I think that is what is keeping me from breaking into the 50s.
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Old 11-05-2007, 04:27 AM   #7
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Hi,

I enjoyed reading this and followed most of it, I think. The 2x4 should be placed in front running parallel to the bumper and extending beyond the cars width on each side. The laser is set to point toward it as it is strapped to the rear wheel and it and the pipe are perpendicular to the 2x4 which is positioned in the front on jack stands as aforementioned.

That's where things got a little vague for me, not so much as the technique, but as why I was doing what I was doing. The math part I understand, but why I'm doing this is not clear at all to me. What does the wheel diameter or the tread to tread width have to do with anything since they can't be the same measurement, and then you are multiplying each of these numbers, whichever you choose by four, and then moving the 2x4 forward, away from your original postion by this factor, then doing some more math to arrive at the current toe settings. I'm not saying it's not right, I just don't really understand what's happening, but it sounds like you know what your talking about. If you could please explain that purpose of the setup as to why, I would really appreciate it.
Thanks!
Eric
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Old 11-05-2007, 05:05 AM   #8
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My method is to use a 9' long piece of steel U channel and 8 1/4" bolts. On the flat garage floor I set the U channel along side the car, on top of a cinder block and a 2X4 to get the height the same as the axles. I drill holes in the U channel and put the bolts in heads out with nuts on both sides so I can adjust them in and out. The bolts touch the edges of the wheel just inside the outer lip. On my Swift the rear track is 1/2" narrower than the front so the bolts are adjusted in 1/4" more than the front. Then the bolts are adjusted for a slight toe in at the rear and 0 toe in on the front. At that point I just reach under the front and rear of the car and adjust the toe in until the wheel rims touch the bolt heads. Works great.

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Old 11-05-2007, 07:04 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QDM View Post
My method is to use a 9' long piece of steel U channel and 8 1/4" bolts. On the flat garage floor I set the U channel along side the car, on top of a cinder block and a 2X4 to get the height the same as the axles. I drill holes in the U channel and put the bolts in heads out with nuts on both sides so I can adjust them in and out. The bolts touch the edges of the wheel just inside the outer lip. On my Swift the rear track is 1/2" narrower than the front so the bolts are adjusted in 1/4" more than the front. Then the bolts are adjusted for a slight toe in at the rear and 0 toe in on the front. At that point I just reach under the front and rear of the car and adjust the toe in until the wheel rims touch the bolt heads. Works great.


Hugemoth
Seems like the method should work well, but how are you sure the "U" channel is parallel to the centerline of the car? I can see how this would work to get it close, but I'm not sure how this will work if your track of your front or rear wheel is off a little bit due to worn bushings. I could see it working if you had the 9 foot piece of metal on both sides, and measured to make sure you made a 90 degree rectangle where the "box" would be formed.

Thanks for the ideas.
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Old 11-15-2007, 08:45 PM   #10
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I use the Chitwood stunt driving technique. With the car travelling at 34 mph, I use a ramp to launch one side of the car up and proceed to drive on just two wheels. If I have to turn the wheel toward the ground, I have too much toe-in on that side. If I have to turn away from the ground, I have too much toe-out. After making adjustments and repeating the test to confirm accuracy, I use the ramp to launch the other side into the air and repeat.

When both sides have been adjusted this way, toe is perfect and the wheel is centered.

I dunno. Maybe QDM has the right idea.
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