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Tire alignment question #4239044
11/01/16 02:39 PM
11/01/16 02:39 PM
Joined: Nov 2008
Posts: 12,535
NH
supton Offline OP
supton  Offline OP
Joined: Nov 2008
Posts: 12,535
NH
So I put on new struts, and I suspect I could use an alignment (I used quickstruts of a different brand than what was taken off). I need new tires, so it seems wise to at least check. Before I drop coin at a shop, I decided to look into how to do myself. I've read a few procedures and have the basic idea; but my question is: to what precision do I need here?

For example, if I check camber, and use a 12" level so as to find the distance the wheel is "off" from perpendicular, every 1/16" of an inch is 0.3 degrees (ish). If I found the right specs to my '99 Camry, camber is is -0.14 to 0.1 degrees in the front, and -1.5 to 0.1 in the rear. So to check front camber, I need to be on the order of 0.01" capability, not "within a couple of sixteenths".

Does that sound right? I have a tough time believing I could check that kind of spec. While I have digital calipers, holding a level and measuring the required +/-0.02" seems a bit... nontrivial. OTOH I guess as long as I'm just checking that it is "close enough" it would suffice?


2011 Toyota Camry, base, 2.5L/6MT, 163k, hers
2010 Toyota Tundra DC, 4.6L/6AT, 144k, ours
1999 Toyota Camry LE, 2.2L/4AT, 190k, his
Re: Tire alignment question [Re: supton] #4239049
11/01/16 02:43 PM
11/01/16 02:43 PM
Joined: Jun 2005
Posts: 11,323
Santa Barbara, CA
bdcardinal Offline
bdcardinal  Offline
Joined: Jun 2005
Posts: 11,323
Santa Barbara, CA
http://www.maximummotorsports.com/Camber-Gauge-P192.aspx

You need something like this to check camber on your own.


2014 Ford Mustang GT Track Pack
1995 Ford Mustang GT

Ford/Mazda Parts Counter
NRA Benefactor Member
Opinions expressed are my own.
Re: Tire alignment question [Re: bdcardinal] #4239067
11/01/16 02:54 PM
11/01/16 02:54 PM
Joined: Nov 2008
Posts: 12,535
NH
supton Offline OP
supton  Offline OP
Joined: Nov 2008
Posts: 12,535
NH
Originally Posted By: bdcardinal
http://www.maximummotorsports.com/Camber-Gauge-P192.aspx

You need something like this to check camber on your own.


Thanks, I had seen the Hot Rod link, but didn't check out the tools yet. Not that pricey, but in the description it says "With accuracy better than 1/8-degree..." (or better than 0.125"). So it would just qualify, if I'm not mistaken, in capability.

[I'd also have to measure that the ground the car is on is actually flat; that may require a large level to make sure. A garage floor ought to be level, but as with most things, it's best to measure I'd think.]


2011 Toyota Camry, base, 2.5L/6MT, 163k, hers
2010 Toyota Tundra DC, 4.6L/6AT, 144k, ours
1999 Toyota Camry LE, 2.2L/4AT, 190k, his
Re: Tire alignment question [Re: supton] #4239081
11/01/16 03:09 PM
11/01/16 03:09 PM
Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 14,505
Top of Virginia
Hokiefyd Offline
Hokiefyd  Offline
Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 14,505
Top of Virginia
Supton, I haven't taken my stuff to an alignment shop in years. I do it at home, and don't have near the precision of a gauge. To be fair, camber is one of the more difficult ones to do at home because it's hard to get a perfect level across the tire, vertically, because of the sidewall bulge as the car is parked. I start with getting level as best I can across the tire and using an app on the phone which tells you level (or not) to 0.1 degree. It's probably not terribly accurate, but it should be repeatable. You're looking for about 0* in the front, so you should be able to get it close with the tools you have available. After I set something by hand, I keep a keen eye on tire wear. Wear due to the smallest variance in camber will take a pretty long time to develop, so I don't think it's a big deal in terms of tire life. Camber can have a dramatic effect on how the car handles, though. Negative camber generally aids in stability in corners. Closer to neutral, and the tire can rotate away from its contact patch in the corners and the car will feel less stable.

Toe is pretty easy to set. I have a long 2x4 that I lay against the opposite axle (so if you're doing front toe, the 2x4 goes behind the rear tires). The ends of the 2x4 are graduated with labeled marks each 1/2". I center the 2x4 on the vehicle so I have an equal amount sticking out each side. I have a board with a small laser pointer mounted to it that I lay against the front tire and aim towards the 2x4. I set toe so that my toe "reading" is the same for both tires. It takes some trial and error to find the balance that I want between tire wear and steering response. More toe-in generally means faster steering response (at the expense of tire wear). Less toe-in generally means better tire wear (at the expense of steering response).

Our MDX is generally a very good-handling vehicle anyway, so I don't have a very aggressive front toe on it. Same in the rear -- I don't have much toe-in and I keep the rear camber fairly neutral through the adjustable camber links I installed. I have Michelin Primacy MXV4 tires on it in P235/65R17 size. You may recognize this as the OEM tire for the Honda Odyssey, an application in which owners complain of vary rapid tire wear -- sometimes to the point of being worn in 20,000 miles or less. I'm proud to note that the set on our MDX has about 40,000 miles and still has about 5/32" of tread depth. This is a 4,500 pound SUV.

I'll be the first to say that I've spent MUCH more time messing with alignments myself than I would have if I took the vehicles to a shop, and I've probably spent more $$ as well if I put a price on my time. In return, though, I've learned a ton about how alignment geometry influences how a vehicle drives. You can take a relatively malaise-driving vehicle and really brighten it up with some simple toe and camber settings. You may be doing that at the expense of tire wear, but it's something that you, as the owner, have the ability to do, given the desire.

Re: Tire alignment question [Re: supton] #4239093
11/01/16 03:21 PM
11/01/16 03:21 PM
Joined: Dec 2014
Posts: 1,671
'murica
Ethan1 Offline
Ethan1  Offline
Joined: Dec 2014
Posts: 1,671
'murica
Yes, struts require an alignment.

There are some shadetree ways to get your wheels pointed in the right direction, but these techniques are best used to ease your trip to the alignment shop.

Re: Tire alignment question [Re: supton] #4239096
11/01/16 03:30 PM
11/01/16 03:30 PM
Joined: Jun 2015
Posts: 657
Arizona
Kawiguy454 Offline
Kawiguy454  Offline
Joined: Jun 2015
Posts: 657
Arizona
The gauge in the link could be DIY easily with a piece of angle aluminum and a level you may already have.

Another idea would be to use angle aluminum and 2 X 4" bolts for the points that touch the rim. Mount the bolts with jam nuts at identical depths and on the top bolt head mount a plumb bob that points to the bottom bolt with a mark on it indicating zero degrees.

Of course you need to get past the whole unlevel pavement issue. Do the setup then after a few thousand miles uneven wear can be felt running a hand over the treads and feeling the wear. If you cant feel it its good enough.

Re: Tire alignment question [Re: Hokiefyd] #4239101
11/01/16 03:32 PM
11/01/16 03:32 PM
Joined: Nov 2008
Posts: 12,535
NH
supton Offline OP
supton  Offline OP
Joined: Nov 2008
Posts: 12,535
NH
Originally Posted By: Hokiefyd
Supton, I haven't taken my stuff to an alignment shop in years. I do it at home, and don't have near the precision of a gauge. To be fair, camber is one of the more difficult ones to do at home because it's hard to get a perfect level across the tire, vertically, because of the sidewall bulge as the car is parked. I start with getting level as best I can across the tire and using an app on the phone which tells you level (or not) to 0.1 degree. It's probably not terribly accurate, but it should be repeatable. You're looking for about 0* in the front, so you should be able to get it close with the tools you have available. After I set something by hand, I keep a keen eye on tire wear. Wear due to the smallest variance in camber will take a pretty long time to develop, so I don't think it's a big deal in terms of tire life. Camber can have a dramatic effect on how the car handles, though. Negative camber generally aids in stability in corners. Closer to neutral, and the tire can rotate away from its contact patch in the corners and the car will feel less stable.

Toe is pretty easy to set. I have a long 2x4 that I lay against the opposite axle (so if you're doing front toe, the 2x4 goes behind the rear tires). The ends of the 2x4 are graduated with labeled marks each 1/2". I center the 2x4 on the vehicle so I have an equal amount sticking out each side. I have a board with a small laser pointer mounted to it that I lay against the front tire and aim towards the 2x4. I set toe so that my toe "reading" is the same for both tires. It takes some trial and error to find the balance that I want between tire wear and steering response. More toe-in generally means faster steering response (at the expense of tire wear). Less toe-in generally means better tire wear (at the expense of steering response).

Our MDX is generally a very good-handling vehicle anyway, so I don't have a very aggressive front toe on it. Same in the rear -- I don't have much toe-in and I keep the rear camber fairly neutral through the adjustable camber links I installed. I have Michelin Primacy MXV4 tires on it in P235/65R17 size. You may recognize this as the OEM tire for the Honda Odyssey, an application in which owners complain of vary rapid tire wear -- sometimes to the point of being worn in 20,000 miles or less. I'm proud to note that the set on our MDX has about 40,000 miles and still has about 5/32" of tread depth. This is a 4,500 pound SUV.

I'll be the first to say that I've spent MUCH more time messing with alignments myself than I would have if I took the vehicles to a shop, and I've probably spent more $$ as well if I put a price on my time. In return, though, I've learned a ton about how alignment geometry influences how a vehicle drives. You can take a relatively malaise-driving vehicle and really brighten it up with some simple toe and camber settings. You may be doing that at the expense of tire wear, but it's something that you, as the owner, have the ability to do, given the desire.


Thanks Hokiefyd; I recalled that you liked to do your own alignment (amongst others here), and wondered if I'd be satisfied doing my own. If I were buying cheapo tires I'd probably not hesitate.


2011 Toyota Camry, base, 2.5L/6MT, 163k, hers
2010 Toyota Tundra DC, 4.6L/6AT, 144k, ours
1999 Toyota Camry LE, 2.2L/4AT, 190k, his
Re: Tire alignment question [Re: supton] #4239143
11/01/16 04:33 PM
11/01/16 04:33 PM
Joined: Feb 2013
Posts: 10,686
Phoenix, AZ
Nick1994 Offline
Nick1994  Offline
Joined: Feb 2013
Posts: 10,686
Phoenix, AZ
I think alignments are worth every penny. They very well could pay for themselves if tires start wearing prematurely.

I didn't hesitate getting a dealership alignment this summer, $99. They did a fantastic job.

My dad (who has done collision repair now for almost 30 years) helped me with my alignment on my Chevy truck. We used a tram bar and it still messed up my new BFG All Terrains. After an alignment at Brake Masters they wore perfect.


2015 Hyundai Sonata 2.4L 84k Mobil 1 AFE 0w30 & OEM
2000 Toyota Camry 2.2L 230k Valvoline 5w30 & Fram Ultra
1996 Jeep Cherokee 4.0L 147k Mobil 1 HM 10w40 & Fram Ultra
Re: Tire alignment question [Re: supton] #4239152
11/01/16 04:44 PM
11/01/16 04:44 PM
Joined: Sep 2004
Posts: 21,629
Orlando, FL
Mr Nice Offline
Mr Nice  Offline
Joined: Sep 2004
Posts: 21,629
Orlando, FL
Unfortunately some techs barely know how to properly use a Hunter alignment rack. I've seen it a few times.

Re: Tire alignment question [Re: Mr Nice] #4239167
11/01/16 05:13 PM
11/01/16 05:13 PM
Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 14,505
Top of Virginia
Hokiefyd Offline
Hokiefyd  Offline
Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 14,505
Top of Virginia
Originally Posted By: Mr Nice
Unfortunately some techs barely know how to properly use a Hunter alignment rack. I've seen it a few times.


This is really what started me out doing it myself. I was never really satisfied with an alignment job done by others. I've been far happier with my own results than with others'.

Re: Tire alignment question [Re: supton] #4239168
11/01/16 05:14 PM
11/01/16 05:14 PM
Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 14,505
Top of Virginia
Hokiefyd Offline
Hokiefyd  Offline
Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 14,505
Top of Virginia
Originally Posted By: supton
...and wondered if I'd be satisfied doing my own...


I think you have to want to do it. You have to have the desire to learn about it, learn how your car reacts to different setups, etc. It does take some time to get it right.

Re: Tire alignment question [Re: supton] #4239172
11/01/16 05:18 PM
11/01/16 05:18 PM
Joined: Jun 2013
Posts: 1,034
iowa
Traction Offline
Traction  Offline
Joined: Jun 2013
Posts: 1,034
iowa
In your case, and many others, I would say a good alignment would be money well spent. All you need to do is find a good shop. Even if you know what you are doing with a couple of the right tools, you won't beat a good alignment rack checking all 4 wheels with someone that knows how to do it, period. Once you figure out you did it wrong, your tires will be toast, and you didn't save a dime. Just finding a PERFECT flat surface is one problem by itself. The best you can do is get it in the ball park. I have a caster/camber gauge, and figured out how to set toe within 1/32, but even then it is not ideal. Just close. There is so much more to it than just camber, and toe. I agree there are too many shops out there that just set the toe, and collect the doe.

Last edited by Traction; 11/01/16 05:30 PM.

Certified Tire Service Instructor since 2009
50 Chevy Fire Truck
13 Tahoe Pursuit
97 C5 Corvette
00 BMW M Roadster
02 Camry
12 Camry
81 Camaro
55 Chevy C4
Re: Tire alignment question [Re: supton] #4243310
11/06/16 07:33 PM
11/06/16 07:33 PM
Joined: Nov 2008
Posts: 12,535
NH
supton Offline OP
supton  Offline OP
Joined: Nov 2008
Posts: 12,535
NH
Spent some time on this today. I don't know how caster is adjusted, if at all; but camber requires eccentric bolts. So I skipped that for now.

Made up a T-stick, just a 1x2x7' with a board screwed on at about 90 degree angle at about 8 or 10 inches tall. Used rubber cement to attach a measuring tape to the long section. Tuck under car, "hook" one tire edge, use square to find a measurement. Repeat on other tire side, subtract measurements, find toe. Precision it's not, not on a dirt driveway. Rear toe was 2mm in, front was 6mm in. Spec (from what I can tell) is 4mm +/-2 in the rear (so ok), +/-1mm in front (so way out). Busted loose the tie rods, turned the inner a full turn on each side, took out for a spin. No bad handling (above what it has). When I parked I backed in like I always do, but then pulled forward again. This time I measured 2mm toe in. Good enough for today.

I checked on my other Camry, and measured 1mm toe in. So the method can't be too far off.

I like the idea of a graduated 2x4 and a laser pointer, but I haven't figured out how to make it repeatable enough (laser pointer centered in a board that is properly parallel cut).


2011 Toyota Camry, base, 2.5L/6MT, 163k, hers
2010 Toyota Tundra DC, 4.6L/6AT, 144k, ours
1999 Toyota Camry LE, 2.2L/4AT, 190k, his
Re: Tire alignment question [Re: supton] #4243383
11/06/16 08:55 PM
11/06/16 08:55 PM
Joined: Feb 2013
Posts: 10,686
Phoenix, AZ
Nick1994 Offline
Nick1994  Offline
Joined: Feb 2013
Posts: 10,686
Phoenix, AZ
You did it with the wheels on the ground, right?


2015 Hyundai Sonata 2.4L 84k Mobil 1 AFE 0w30 & OEM
2000 Toyota Camry 2.2L 230k Valvoline 5w30 & Fram Ultra
1996 Jeep Cherokee 4.0L 147k Mobil 1 HM 10w40 & Fram Ultra
Re: Tire alignment question [Re: Ethan1] #4243387
11/06/16 08:58 PM
11/06/16 08:58 PM
Joined: Jun 2003
Posts: 33,074
ME
eljefino Offline
eljefino  Offline
Joined: Jun 2003
Posts: 33,074
ME
Originally Posted By: Ethan1
Yes, struts require an alignment.

There are some shadetree ways to get your wheels pointed in the right direction, but these techniques are best used to ease your trip to the alignment shop.


It depends. My camry doesn't have any factory provisions. The strut-to-knuckle bolts are round (eg not elongated) as are the top strut mounts. The factory engineers seem smug that their laser welded unibody is very repeatable and shouldn't need tweaking. To do so would probably require cam bolts.

My 3rd gen firebird, OTOH, had camber slots in the upper fenders for the strut mounts.

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