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Alignment 101 - Now With Pictures

ExplorerDMB

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A wheel alignment has many benefits for our vehicles. A wheel alignment will keep our vehicle straight, good gas mileage, good tire wear, allows us to change for performance (better cornering), and keep us aware of any suspension, steering, or other vehicle damage.

When a alignment on a vehicle is off, it concerns the customer and it also can cause other problems including premature tie wear, bad gas mileage, and hard steering.

Today, computerized alignment systems are used to align the cars to their specs. Todays vehicles consist of non-adjustable and adjustable angles. Adjustable angles for the Explorer are front tires Toe, Caster, and Camber. Non-adjustable angles include the rear axles Toe, Caster, and Camber. This simply means that to adjust the front angles on the Explorer, there are actual things to change that will effect our angles. On the rear, we do not have anything to change our angles. If a tire/wheel is showing out of spec on the rear, look for axle/frame damage and any other suspension damage.

There are three major adjustments that are critical to a vehicles alignment: Toe, Caster, and Camber. Here is a great illustration:

alignment.jpg


Toe - refers to the in-ward or out-ward tilt of the tires in comparison to the other side. Toe-in refers to the tires being tilted toward one another while Toe-out refers to the tires being tilted outward of one another. Toe issues usually cause "feathering" of the tires.

Camber - Is the tilt of the wheel in and out on a vertical basis, viewed from the front. Negative (more) Camber is when the wheel is tilted in-ward, while Positive (less) Camber is tilted outward. Here is an illustration:

Camber.jpg


Camber_Explanation_sm.jpg


Caster - Is the relationship between a verticle line from the bottom of the wheel to the top in relation to the balljoints. Caster being off will give you "bump steer" - which is when you hit a bump your steering "searchs" the road. See the illustration below:

Positive:
PositiveCaster.jpg


Negative:
NegativeCaster.jpg



The other angle that plays an effect in an alignment is the Thrust Angle. This is basically the relationship between all four wheels. See the picture above!


Hunter, Inc. makes GREAT alignment machines. We have one at work, and I have used two other Hunter alignment machines - and they are all simple to use. Here is a picture of the computer and the alignment head (which go on all four wheels)

hunter.jpg



-Drew


Problems and Why

Below is a chart I found, but I am going to add a little to it:

1 Problem: Incorrect Camber Setting
1 Effect: Tire Wear Issues (usually inner or outter), Ball Joint/Wheel Bearing Wear

2 Problem: Too Much Positive Caster
2 Effect: Hard Steering, Excessive Road Shock, Wheel Shimmy

3 Problem: Too Much Negative Caster
3 Effect: Wander (i.e. bump steer), Weave, Instability at high speeds (death wobble)

4 Problem: Unequal Caster
4 Effect: Pull To Side Most negative/least positive caster

5 Problem: Incorrect Toe Setting
5 Effect: Tire Wear (feathering, inner and outter wear issues)

Hopefully that'll help also! :thumbsup:



MORE INFORMATION ON PAGE TWO!!!
 


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Gatorblazer

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Great post. Does this make it 35 useful threads?
 




spindlecone

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Drew
thx for for the above, will be a great thread, maybe answere alot of commom questions about lifts,drops, TT adjusments etc, and the effects on suspension geometry.
 




ExplorerDMB

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I haven't updated My Useful Threads in awhile - it's probably close to 40 now.

However, Spindle, I will be adding some more probably soon! :thumbsup:

-Drew
 




unclemeat

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How about alinment 102, how to adjust for each condition, with more illistration and some pictures.
 




ExplorerDMB

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unclemeat said:
How about alinment 102, how to adjust for each condition, with more illistration and some pictures.

be my guess meat ;)

-Drew
 




UtahX

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Nice write-up. Was the first thing I did when I got my new tires.
 




rizzjc

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Now if you can tell us where to find the "home alignment kit" you'd be a saint. I need an alignment on my X about every 6 months. Next Ford I buy I'll be looking high and low for a lifetime alignment deal.
 




ExplorerDMB

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A lot of tire places have lifetime alignments and tire balances :thumbsup:

-Drew

EDIT: I don't, personally, think the "home-alignment kit" is a good set up. Theres no real way to align a vehicle properly without a wheel head.
 




unclemeat

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Drew I have no resources, experience or qualification. I was hoping that you would expand the thread to explain how each alinment parameter is adjusted.
 




mel's97explorer

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I bought 4 new tires and was to get an alignment, the tire place told me that they couldn't do a complete alignment because of the ball joints...I have a friend that said they were fine...it's my driveshaft that's bad! Any comments about what I should do about the alignment? Thanks
 




ExplorerDMB

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Take it to another shop and see if they will align it. If they say the ball joints are bad, then more than likely they are. A driveshaft problem shouldn't keep you from getting an alignment.

-Drew
 




BrooklynBay

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I was wondering about one thing. Since now a days alignments are basically computerized with all of the specs programmed for a specific car. Why do some shops still make so many mistakes, and have to redo it a few times until they finally get it right? Another question I have is if the tires are improperly balanced, would that cause the alignment to get thrown off faster? Maybe a bad alignment is what causes improperly balanced tires?
 




ExplorerDMB

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If tires aren't balanced correctly, there will be more lateral and thrust vibrations which will cause components maybe to wear faster. Which will throw off your alignment. Think about it, when your tires are out of balance, you get a vibration in your steering wheel -- so if the vibration is there in your wheel it has to be at the tie rod ends and else where.

-Drew

EDIT: To my knowledge, the shop that I work at has never had a come-back for alignment issues. The reason why people at alignment/tire shops are having so much trouble is because the number they do are greater, and the people that work there aren't but so familiar with what they are doing. I'm not bashing tire shops; but when you are a "tire" shop...stick with that. Also, if you look at the age group of alignment/tire shops, they are high school kids or at the latest 20 year olds. I go to school with a few people that work at a local tire shop (merchants), and I know just from meeting them that they aren't the sharpest knife in the drawer. :rolleyes:
 




mel's97explorer

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Thanks! What about the ball joints? Would that hinder with the alignment? What do they mean by a partial alignment?
 




ExplorerDMB

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If the ball joints are worn there is no point in an alignment. The play in the ball joint will throw the specs out which will cause all type of problems tirewear/alignment wise. It's basically pointless to do an alignment.

-Drew

Partial Alignment is probably just when they adjust toe.
 




BrooklynBay

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I don't know if it is a myth, but I remember hearing that impact guns could throw off an alignment. There is so much vibration from driving (or just the pot holes in NY), that I think it would throw it off faster than the impacts from an impact gun. I once hit a nasty pot hole that the city tried to cover with a metal plate, and my tire blew out. My alignment was so bad, that my wheel was rubbing against the wheelbase. The alignment shop had a really hard time trying to align it, but managed after a pretty long time. The question is: if all of the parts are locked in place after an alignment, how could they go out of spec if the connecting parts (tie rods, ball joints, etc.) are still good?
 




ExplorerDMB

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The actually ball and socket joints that are used end up getting play. The thing about alignments is if a ball joint or tie rod end has even the sligtest movement it can throw the alignment off in a few degrees. I will hopefully be able to go more in depth with this later - but I am extremely busy these days with things, but I will get to it soon enough.

-Drew

EDIT: impact guns will not cause issuses unless there are some already there :thumbsup:
 




ExplorerDMB

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Added "Problems and Why" to the list :thumbsup:

-Drew
 


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ExplorerDMB

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I know this thread has fallen to the waste-side a little, but I may be doing an alignment sometime in the near future - so hopefully I can do a little tutorial :thumbsup:

-Drew
 




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