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thoughts on diy alignment?


s_frost

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For the past while, I've noticed an incredibly annoying little pop or clunk from the front suspension, mostly the driver's side, but I couldn't figure out what it was. I'd replaced the outer tie rods, all four struts, all upper control arms, rotors and brake pads in the past year, and had the lower ball joints done a few years ago. I knew the bushings were worn and tend to creak in cold weather, but the pops happen at slow speeds and little turns and fast brakes, but I couldn't figure it out. today I got under the car while my dad pushed on the wheel and sure enough found that there was a good bit of give on the driver's side inner tie rod. so I plan to replace both.

 

problem is, I've nearly paid for a second pair of tires' worth of alignments this past year and a half, thanks to each project being a first-time project, and I'd rather never pay for one again if I can help it. alignments run $90 a pop in this area, and I don't know if I've ever seen a firestone around for the lifetime alignment. what do you all think about diy alignments? a lot of the tools I see for alignments are marketed toward racers, but I don't know if that's all a track deal or something perfect for home use, too. I've seen smart strings for toe at $400 and some camber/castor gauges for far less, but I want to know how reliable these things are. if people were aligning cars before computers, it can be done now, too.

 

particularly, does the jackstand/string method work good for toe? I'm thinking about the tie rods right now. I had an alignment this past summer and haven't touch the rear so I'm hoping I can gauge from that. also, lifetime alignment sounds good but I like to think long term and multiple cars (friends, family, etc). good/bad experiences? suggestions?

Edited by s_frost
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well, nobody replied to this topic, but I thought I'd give an update in case it's valuable to anybody else.

 

inner tie rod replacement turned out just fine, despite some fooling around with the lockwasher and the boot clamps. a few spares of those certainly wouldn't hurt somebody attempting this for the first time, as was the case for me. also, the boots on my car were fine, but for some it is best to buy those, too.

 

alignment worked just fine. I set the jackstands about 6 inches from the hubs (with the covers ON, very important - the axle cap thing on the rear is further out than the axle nut on the front by just by a little, maybe 5/16 of an inch or so). the hub covers do push out a bit, so at a hub cover center distance of 6 inches, the front and back of the rim were about 5.75in for a toe in of 0". that toe was set correctly was further evidenced on my test drive, in which I did a basic hands-off-the-wheel test, and the car travelled very straight for a very good distance. the steering with the new inner rod is a bit tighter, so I will have to get used to that, but otherwise I think the jackstand/string method works great for toe. note however that I did have an alignment done over the summer and I did not check toe on the rear tires. also, metric is probably more precise for measurement, but I honestly didn't care at the time.

Edited by s_frost
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