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DIY alignment vs. shop alignment


600$04Ranger

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I've spent enough time under my truck to experience some of the hazards of car repair. Getting showered with mud, crud, grease hail is no fun and even with eye protection it can end up trapped under your eyelid. At this point my drivetrain and everything under the truck has been fairly deep cleaned so I can easily see any leaks or other signs of wear. I won't always clean out the inside of my cab before a service but try my best to leave the flatulence at home. Figure nobody likes the smell of another man's farts! Ewwww!
 


Rock Auto 5% Discount Code: 70D65189E6D8FF: January 5th, 2022

600$04Ranger

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Xlt 4wd 4.0L V6
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2WD / 4WD
4WD
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31x10.5
My credo
Mandates are for fascist dictators!
Those need to be mounted true to the wheels, all 4. Then you need a target for them to shine on, and the target needs to be scaled in degrees for the various measurements like centerline, toe and caster. There is a lot of geometry going on in this procedure. You really can only hope to do the toe adjustment with a string.
Fair enough! Figured there was a way given the right math and some experimentation. Maybe one day I'll delve just for the challenge and to make my head hurt:) Maybe......
 

SenorNoob

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I've been looking into it myself. Seems like without fabrication skills and being good at math, it's be best to buy a used alignment rack.
 

19Walt93

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I've been looking into it myself. Seems like without fabrication skills and being good at math, it's be best to buy a used alignment rack.
The Hunter system I bought for our shop in about 2014-5 was $70,000 , takes up more than a full stall, and needs to be recalibrated every year. Paying for an alignment is cheap and doesn't take up space in my garage. When I do front end work I set the camber by eye, toe in with a tape measure and drive to the alignment shop. The tech loves to see new parts and no rusty bolts.
 

rusty ol ranger

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The Hunter system I bought for our shop in about 2014-5 was $70,000 , takes up more than a full stall, and needs to be recalibrated every year. Paying for an alignment is cheap and doesn't take up space in my garage. When I do front end work I set the camber by eye, toe in with a tape measure and drive to the alignment shop. The tech loves to see new parts and no rusty bolts.
I dont think ive had an alignment done is 12 years or so
 

sgtsandman

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31X10.5R15
When I did the suspension replacement on my 2011, I paint marked the tie rod end threads so as to get the new tie rod ends close.

Close enough that I probably could have gotten away with not taking it to a shop but did anyway. They had to do very little to align it properly but with as expensive as my tires were, it was well worth paying for an alignment.

Also, something very important that few think about. Bring it to the shop loaded how you normally drive it. It WILL make a difference. People have had chronic alignment problems because they would unload their vehicle before taking it to the shop and then load it back up after. It took a while before the shop figured out what was going on.

So, self alignment or shop alignment, keep that in mind. I would recommend going to a shop though.
 

Blmpkn

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Just take er to a shop. 100$ gets you a front end alignment around here.. I'll gladly pay 100$ to have a dead nuts alignment and not have to jack with it myself. Tape measures are for building stuff, not trying to get your truck to drive straight.
 

franklin2

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When I did the suspension replacement on my 2011, I paint marked the tie rod end threads so as to get the new tie rod ends close.

Close enough that I probably could have gotten away with not taking it to a shop but did anyway. They had to do very little to align it properly but with as expensive as my tires were, it was well worth paying for an alignment.

Also, something very important that few think about. Bring it to the shop loaded how you normally drive it. It WILL make a difference. People have had chronic alignment problems because they would unload their vehicle before taking it to the shop and then load it back up after. It took a while before the shop figured out what was going on.

So, self alignment or shop alignment, keep that in mind. I would recommend going to a shop though.
The better way is to measure from the center of one joint to the other. By center of the joint, I mean the spot where a grease fitting goes if you have one or not. So carefully measure grease fitting to grease fitting, or center to center with a measuring tape. I have tried the thread count method before and it doesn't work well with the china made suspension parts. They are not consistent, they make them different all the time. You can't even measure from the outside of one joint to the other, because the different joints have different diameters depending on who made them.
 

19Walt93

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If you don't have time to do it right will you have time to do it over?

scotts90ranger

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I adjusted the toe (only thing adjustable) on my '94 Geo Tracker, the tires that have been rotated I think twice? are perfectly even at 55k miles, of course they're 55k mile rated light truck tires but still... to get a tire warranty I had to get the alignment checked, they didn't touch it... Did similar on my '00 Explorer, I've done a couple tie rod ends and good tire wear, got like 40k miles on some used scallopped (they were on a Jeep) mud terrains...

With all the horror stories I used to hear of people getting TTB alignments back in the day my '90 Ranger hasn't seen an alignment bench even though the front suspension has had a bunch of issues over the years. The tires aren't even wearing all that bad... I blame the wandering upper ball joint adjusters as they won't stay put...

I just use a tape measure on the front and rear of the inside of the wheel rim, a touch of toe in is good, I eyeball the camber if it's even adjustable... then throw in some caster if I can (doesn't leave much room on the '90...)
 

franklin2

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I adjusted the toe (only thing adjustable) on my '94 Geo Tracker, the tires that have been rotated I think twice? are perfectly even at 55k miles, of course they're 55k mile rated light truck tires but still... to get a tire warranty I had to get the alignment checked, they didn't touch it... Did similar on my '00 Explorer, I've done a couple tie rod ends and good tire wear, got like 40k miles on some used scallopped (they were on a Jeep) mud terrains...

With all the horror stories I used to hear of people getting TTB alignments back in the day my '90 Ranger hasn't seen an alignment bench even though the front suspension has had a bunch of issues over the years. The tires aren't even wearing all that bad... I blame the wandering upper ball joint adjusters as they won't stay put...

I just use a tape measure on the front and rear of the inside of the wheel rim, a touch of toe in is good, I eyeball the camber if it's even adjustable... then throw in some caster if I can (doesn't leave much room on the '90...)
A lot of newer cars and trucks are like that, no adjustments. But usually the aftermarket has tools and gizmos to align these vehicles. They do get in accidents sometimes, and even a large pot hole can tweak something and start wearing the tires. My 99 Tahoe is not adjustable for camber and caster from the factory, but they make a punch the alignment guys use to make the holes slotted so they can bring it in. My Tahoe is off a little bit on one side, and the alignment guy said he could use the tool and then bring it in perfect, but it would have not been cheap and it wasn't out but just a tiny bit so I didn't have it done.

If your Geo Tracker has shock towers, I bet they make a plate that can be installed on top to give it some adjustment.
 

19Walt93

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Ford Ranger
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Engine Size
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2WD / 4WD
2WD
Total Drop
3"
Tire Size
235/55R16
My credo
If you don't have time to do it right will you have time to do it over?
I adjusted the toe (only thing adjustable) on my '94 Geo Tracker, the tires that have been rotated I think twice? are perfectly even at 55k miles, of course they're 55k mile rated light truck tires but still... to get a tire warranty I had to get the alignment checked, they didn't touch it... Did similar on my '00 Explorer, I've done a couple tie rod ends and good tire wear, got like 40k miles on some used scallopped (they were on a Jeep) mud terrains...

With all the horror stories I used to hear of people getting TTB alignments back in the day my '90 Ranger hasn't seen an alignment bench even though the front suspension has had a bunch of issues over the years. The tires aren't even wearing all that bad... I blame the wandering upper ball joint adjusters as they won't stay put...

I just use a tape measure on the front and rear of the inside of the wheel rim, a touch of toe in is good, I eyeball the camber if it's even adjustable... then throw in some caster if I can (doesn't leave much room on the '90...)
It's always better to be lucky than good. I'm glad it's worked for you but I notice your not from an area that experiences frost heaves.
My hourly alignment techs never had a problem doing good alignments on TTB/TIB front ends and we straightened out a bunch of set-the-toe-and-let-it-go tire store alignments. The key to any alignment is SET EVERYTHING TO PREFERRED and that requires allowing the tech to spend the time without beating him up for taking too long.
 

scotts90ranger

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35"
I'm not against getting alignments, I'm just stubborn and want to know how to do everything and try to figure an easy way out of certain situations :). I might be lucky and live in an area with better than average roads, but I also get bored of driving "with the flow" so I push things to the edge... I drive roughly 20k miles a year so it gets boring driving the same 30 miles twice a day like 200 times or more a year...

But on the other hand I do have an engineering degree and do understand the physics of things, when possible I do take a more sophisticated route than I posted above, but with the Ranger I just wing it since the alignment adjusters for the upper ball joints constantly move when I drive hard... I really need to make some extended radius arms so they're not living on the edge with bad geometry on the eccentrics...

Then there's the part of not taking me too serious, I lace random things with odd sarcasm that doesn't read well over the interwebs :) Sometimes I over type and others I forget that not everyone understands things, I've talked to several "mechanics" through work that I'm pretty sure don't know how to operate a potato let alone which end of a screwdriver to use...
 

19Walt93

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Ford Ranger
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V8
Engine Size
351
Transmission
Automatic
2WD / 4WD
2WD
Total Drop
3"
Tire Size
235/55R16
My credo
If you don't have time to do it right will you have time to do it over?
If no adjustments get tweaked during an alignment, odds are they see everything in the green and ship it. The problem is stack up of tolerances, for example: max allowable negative camber plus max allowable toe out means extreme inside tire wear. Set to preferred is properly aligned, everything in the green is within a row of assholes, in the technical terms we used. My biggest gripe with the flat rate system is that it rewards quick and dirty and short changes techs who want everything to be the best possible
 


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