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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Ok, not being a mechanic I don't know this answer so bear with me. My question is do all cars need a "4 wheel alignment"? The dealer across the street says they do. I asked why? I replaced the struts in my car (with the help of a friend) and as far as I can tell, there's 3 bolts on top, the big mother at the bottom, and a couple little ones holding the brake lines & the stabilizer bar. There's no room for movement left, right, sideways, up or down...they bolt in one way, and one way only. He tells me there are "shims" and "YOU won't see them" (in a negatively conotated sort of way - like I'm a complete idiot, and maybe I am - he could really take a course on how to deal with people). "The wheels have to come off" etc.
So, they (these shims) would't have fallen out when we did the struts? I mean the wheels had to come off for that too. The only reason I was asking him was because I wanted to know what a 2 wheel alignment cost since it would appear to this 'idiot' that my car doesn't need all 4 done. The back only follow along one way and I didn't see any way at all you could adjust them for camber or whatever. Nor did my friend and he is fairly mechanically inclined.

Just wondering...

Thanks.
 

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I had a similar issue when I took my car in for an alignment after buying tires. The rear was out of adjustment, but the only way to adjust it is to add a shim kit. I don't believe the cars come from the factory with the shims, but as it goes out of spec from use they must be added to put it back into spec. I don't think he is trying to rip you off, but he could have phrased his position better.
 

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Ok, not being a mechanic I don't know this answer so bear with me. My question is do all cars need a "4 wheel alignment"? The dealer across the street says they do. I asked why? I replaced the struts in my car (with the help of a friend) and as far as I can tell, there's 3 bolts on top, the big mother at the bottom, and a couple little ones holding the brake lines & the stabilizer bar. There's no room for movement left, right, sideways, up or down...they bolt in one way, and one way only. He tells me there are "shims" and "YOU won't see them" (in a negatively conotated sort of way - like I'm a complete idiot, and maybe I am - he could really take a course on how to deal with people). "The wheels have to come off" etc.
So, they (these shims) would't have fallen out when we did the struts? I mean the wheels had to come off for that too. The only reason I was asking him was because I wanted to know what a 2 wheel alignment cost since it would appear to this 'idiot' that my car doesn't need all 4 done. The back only follow along one way and I didn't see any way at all you could adjust them for camber or whatever. Nor did my friend and he is fairly mechanically inclined.

Just wondering...

Thanks.
What kind of vehicle is this?
 

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Yeah usually the rear axle especially on FWD cars with a beam axle type rear suspension don't have any kind of alignment possibility. Of course you could fit shims if it is out of whack but that shouldn't be necessary.

Some do have an adjustment, like on the back of a GM W-body there are tie-rods in the back... I want to just get an extra steering rack and install it so I could have a 4 wheel steering Wbody...



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First off, what kind of car?
Can you just get away with a 2 wheel alignment? Sure. Or you could go to a shop that has one price for alignments instead of some shops that have 5-6 prices. Therefor you are getting all 4 wheels done for a lot less then what most shops do for 4 wheels, but a little more then what they might do for 2.
When you replace struts, its is a good idea to have the alignment checked and adjusted. Struts are an integeral part of the suspension where shock's are just there to absorb road variations.
Your alignment could be out already, so its a good idea.
What kind of car do you have, and that can give us a better idea. A lot of FWD cars have 4 wheel adjustments.
 

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I will assume you are talking about the 2000 Taurus. The front strut tower has an alignment plate on it and to adjust camber you simply drill out the spot welds. Once the plate is loose you can adjust caster and camber. There are aftermarket plates available as well for a larger adjustment range.

The rear is not a twist/torsion beam, it does have OE toe adjustment but no Camber adjust. There are Camber kits(eccentric bushings) that are available for the rear if necessary.

Unless the car was lowered or crashed I wouldn't think you would need to adjust the camber front or rear, most people set the toe and go!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
What kind of vehicle is this?
Sorry...guess I coulda mentioned that. It's a Ford Taurus. Low tech rear end. Torsion bars (I believe - I'm gonna run with that) a stabilzer bar and 2 struts with springs. Unless you can adjust the wheel mount itself I don't see how or where you could adjust or install the shims. The strut goes in, and being new (springs and all) put everything back in spec as per new (lifted the rear end 2-3 inches! Man were they shot!). Maybe it was more his approach, and maybe he doesn't know Fords (I usually go across the street as they're right there, but it is a GM dealer)...I thought I was asking a legitimate question, having just done them myself and not being able to see how on earth you could possibly do all 4 in an alignment. It's not like the cost was all that much - $69 for an alignment...I just wanted to know why they'd do 4 if all it needed was 2...and he made me sound/feel like an idiot. Which is great, if I really am...but maybe that's only because I keep going back! (Sometimes I think he's still pissed at me 'cause they screwed up on a car I had 3-4 years ago - a 6 hr job took them 11-12, and then they had to do it again because they forgot something - replace all belts when doing timing belt - not just timing belt, and I even paid for half that screw up! Not their fault he said. And they keep forgetting to put my oil cap on after an oil change...3 times now...not my fault.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Dang you're good...and I'm darn slow!!
 

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The rear of a Taurus is not torsion bars. It is fully independent.

And it sounds like you need to find a new place if they forget to put on your oil cap 3 times.
 

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My family has had a specialist suspension and alignment business started by my father for coming up 50 years, and a cousin still operates it to this day. I grew up with the intricacies of not just normal alignment but post crash repair problems, custom cars and racing suspensions.

You generally only need a 4-wheel alignment when you have a problem that cannot be corrected by a front wheel alignment. Often you can set up a car to fall exactly within the specified ranges and the car handles like crap, pulls, wears tires, etc. A good alignment specialist will check the tire wear and drive the car first and diagnose if it has any obvious handling issues, and then will check the cars specs to see if it's camber, caster and toe-in are within spec at the front. If they are within spec and there are no handling issues, that's usually the end of it.

However the world isn't that simple and often a car can be within spec but have an issue. Unless the car has just been in a major accident or had suspension repairs on it's rear end then the rear suspension is the last place you look to solve the problem, but there can be rear alignment problems. However most problems will be bad tires or a bent body frame from an accident or hitting a big pothole etc before the rear is a problem.

Yes these days there is few built in adjustments and so shims are often used and you may well not see them. And sometimes, to fix a bad alignment problem due to a bent frame, people may even oval those three bolt holes at the top of the strut and relocate it in the appropriate direction. But I have to ask the question - did you even touch the rear suspension? And does the car even have any tire wear or steering issues? Also you should say what the car is and its suspension set-up if you need specific advice.

So in the absence of specifics, no you don't need a 4 wheel alignment unless there is a specific issue that warrants it, like the car crabs down the road, or the front has a steering issue which can't be traced to bad specs, bad tires (swapping them around will usually show that up) or frame damage.

Hope that helps, if you need more then give me the details.


;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks guys...even though I know I know nothing (hence I probably am somewhat of a mechanical idiot - I'll admit that! See torsion bar comment above.) I appreciate not being condescended (is that a word?! Spell it right?) to. It is a Taurus, MonaroSS, I just forgot to be specific, normally I am...maybe too much so. The only thing we touched was changing the struts and putting new links on - the right side did have a busted spring (ya'd think they'd notice that when they do a service job, no?), and that tire is definitely worn on the inside, but now it stands stright and tall like it's supposed to.

Being in a small town they're the only game in town - even the Ford dealer takes their stuff there for alignments. I doubt they take it for a drive before hand. At $69 that's less than the hourly shop rate so they'd want it up and out ASAP. Test drive shmest drive!
 

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Understandable. For what it is worth, Taurus rear wheels have very little alignment capability. In fact, what some people do is repalce the rear suspension with a certain GM control arm since it is more adjustable. A good site to go to for maintenance questions is www.taurusclub.com/forum. I'm on there too, even though I don't own a Taurus anymore. (I had a 1996)
 

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Yeah, Taurus is a toe-n-go.
Most auto service places will do alignments for one price, be it 2 or 4 wheel adjustments.
 

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you can adjust the alignment on any vehicle. and yes you should have one done after replacing struts.

even with rear struts on a fwd, you sometimes have to elongate the strut mount holes at the bottom where it bolts to the knuckle. same for fronts.

all cars have adjustment, even solid axle. just in a different way.

most front wheel drive vehicles, you have to adjust front camber and caster with the front subframe. on fwd drive cars with independant rear suspension, you adjust camber by elongating the holes in the struts, or in some cases with shims, not usually though.
sometimes you have a slotted hole that you can adjust stuff with, and alot of times, they use cam adjusters, like the malibu, it uses cam adjusters for the rear adjustment of camber and toe.

it is different for each vehicle, sometimes its easy to adjust, sometimes it sucks.

if anything the guy at the dealer doesnt know what hes talking about, shims havent been used in years. unless you get a old car or truck that uses them for the front end.

the only place you use shims now, is in the rear of solid axle vehicles. which sucks because you have to unbolt the entire braking system and hub assembly, the shim slides between the hub and axle flange, and you have to increase or adjust the shims to get what you want out of it.
 

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you can tell what needs to be adjusted just by driving the car, and by inspecting the tires. you can tell what parts of the alignment are out of whack, be it toe or camber, or incorrect air pressures, lack of rotation, etc... alignments are like art. you have something blank or really messed up, and you turn it into something amazing.

there is a difference between a good alignment and a alignment.

anyone can slap a car on a rack and say, yep needs toe n go, but its the extra effort of all the pre alignment steps, and measurements and inspections that make the car drive that much better. and keeps customers happy.
 

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Old post, I know.

There is some really good advice here.

However, one thing I think that was missed was:

The rear alignment effects the front alignment; specifically rear toe effects front toe. Camber adjustments will throw toe off. So even if you have a camber problem in the rear, you will need to align the front as well.

Always align the rear first, and then when you align the front, you'll never have issue.

Typically, shops that have one priced alignments are toe and go shops. It's not a very good alignment.

I'm on an alignment machine atleast twice a day, sometimes 5 times a day, monday through friday. We have 2 wheel prices, and 4 wheel prices + parts like camber kits, or + labor for grinding slots.

Use shops that have updated equipment. Updated alignment machines can print out graphs that will show you where each wheel is, and are color coded to show if it is in spec. If it's in spec, the graph will be green. If it's out of spec, the graph will be red. If it's not adjustable, the graph will usually be grayed out. Always ask to see a print out of before and after. That way you can compare to see if the shop actually performed the service you paid for.
 

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same here, all alignments in our group go to me. on a good day about 5-6 alignments.

we have one of the hunter 3D alignment machines, with the targets mounted on each wheel. i love that machine.
 

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you can tell what needs to be adjusted just by driving the car, and by inspecting the tires. you can tell what parts of the alignment are out of whack, be it toe or camber, or incorrect air pressures, lack of rotation, etc... alignments are like art. you have something blank or really messed up, and you turn it into something amazing.

there is a difference between a good alignment and a alignment.

anyone can slap a car on a rack and say, yep needs toe n go, but its the extra effort of all the pre alignment steps, and measurements and inspections that make the car drive that much better. and keeps customers happy.
I agree that alignments are like art. My dad being a specialist in the field used to get all the problem cars from all over the state to fix. I don't know how people think they have done a good alignment on a car without driving it first and then afterwards. And our shop used to regularly go outside the manufacturers specs to fix problems. For one thing most modern specs assume the car will be driven on relatively flat urban streets but country cars, especially in areas prone to heavy rain, have highly cambered roads so that the water runs off faster, and a car set for urban streets will seem to want to pull off the road as they want to run down the camber of the road and so we would set them up with a slight pull to the centreline to offset this and explain it to the owner so they knew what was happening and why on a flat road in town they may feel the slight offset pull.

I remember as a kid dad had one car that drove perfectly and was all within spec but for some strange reason was badly wearing the outside edge of the front outside tire. It was a complete mystery that dad couldn't crack and so he took the car back to the owner who was to drive him back to the shop. When dad hopped in the passenger seat and the owner took the wheel in the owners yard he turned the car full lock and floored it to do a U turn on his course concrete block paving scrubbing the tires all the way. Dad asked, "do you do that often?" to which the answer was "every day". So the solution to that tire wear problem turned out to be to teach the customer how to do a three-point turn in his yard. :D

But it's amazing what things you can do to change the alignment on a car. If there is a bolt you can shim it, whether the manufacturer designed it to be or not, if there is a bolt hole you can slot it, if there is a cam adjuster that never wants to stay where you set it you can always tack weld it. And then there are the things you can do with hydraulic rams. :D And even solid live axles can be re-aligned for toe just by running a bead of weld along the leading or trailing edge of the offending side or both.

Machines can tell you what the static alignment of a car is but only a test drive will tell you what's going on with dynamic alignment. Because suspension and tires are flexible due to rubber in bushes etc, under brakes a cars suspension may go from toe-in to toe-out with really bad bushes and totally change the handling under brakes, or leaning through a corner can compress bad bushes and change the alignment. Even accelerating can change the toe on the driven wheels so a car may do funny things when you floor it mid corner and it may all be down to a failed or failing bush. It truly is an art, felt in the seat of the pants and solved with innovation.

But I would say that half of all cars out there today may not be aligned properly and people think that's normal.......

Even wheel balance can be crazy. One time we had a car in that it was impossible to balance this one wheel, turned out it had loose rubber left over from its manufacture that wasn't trimmed off and had come loose inside the tire. So at slow speed it would tumble until centrifugal force stuck it to the inside of the tire where it's weight threw off the balance of the wheel. But when the wheel slowed it would tumble again so next time it would stick in a different spot again and again. Yet being rubber you could not hear it tumbling. Only found it as we took the tire off the rim in frustration to inspect the carcass.

Of course other times it can go your way. This one guy had 4 new tires put on his car and it needed a balance. The first thing you do is take off any old weights on the rims which this car had quite a few. Turned out the tires were in perfect balance just by removing all the weights. It would be nice if that happened all the time, but mostly tires can be crap.


;)
 

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you can adjust the alignment on any vehicle. and yes you should have one done after replacing struts.

even with rear struts on a fwd, you sometimes have to elongate the strut mount holes at the bottom where it bolts to the knuckle. same for fronts.
A lot of aftermarket struts have elongated holes, or you can use a cam kit.

all cars have adjustment, even solid axle. just in a different way.
Solid live axle cars dont have an adjustment unless there are adjustable parts from the aftermarket.

most front wheel drive vehicles, you have to adjust front camber and caster with the front subframe. on fwd drive cars with independant rear suspension, you adjust camber by elongating the holes in the struts, or in some cases with shims, not usually though.
sometimes you have a slotted hole that you can adjust stuff with, and alot of times, they use cam adjusters, like the malibu, it uses cam adjusters for the rear adjustment of camber and toe.

it is different for each vehicle, sometimes its easy to adjust, sometimes it sucks.

if anything the guy at the dealer doesnt know what hes talking about, shims havent been used in years. unless you get a old car or truck that uses them for the front end.

the only place you use shims now, is in the rear of solid axle vehicles. which sucks because you have to unbolt the entire braking system and hub assembly, the shim slides between the hub and axle flange, and you have to increase or adjust the shims to get what you want out of it.[/QUOTE]

Shims are used for the rear hubs of just about every rear end of Chrysler minivans sans the AWD units. And yes, its a pain, but my guys got it down pretty good. Same with Cam bushings for big Econoline vans, and ecentric cams for struts.

Old post, I know.

There is some really good advice here.

However, one thing I think that was missed was:

The rear alignment effects the front alignment; specifically rear toe effects front toe. Camber adjustments will throw toe off. So even if you have a camber problem in the rear, you will need to align the front as well.

Always align the rear first, and then when you align the front, you'll never have issue.

Typically, shops that have one priced alignments are toe and go shops. It's not a very good alignment.
Eh, on that last note, I have a one price alignment for 90% of cars, and it adjusts all angles that are adjustable. The majority of our cars are Camry's, Accords, Civics and Corollas. Most are toe-and-go and most dont need camber/caster adjustments. The other price I have is for advanced alignments for cars like BMW and MB which require a bit more then mounting heads.

same here, all alignments in our group go to me. on a good day about 5-6 alignments.

we have one of the hunter 3D alignment machines, with the targets mounted on each wheel. i love that machine.
A modern Hunter machine will sure as hell make doing an alignment faster, much faster then it used to be.
My tech's see about 6-10 alignments a day, depending on the day, and how many are on for that day.
 

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worst vehicle i have ever had, was a truck that was dropped from one of our lifts by my group leader, 2500 HD diesel, dropped from about 4-5 feet in the air, landed crooked.
and of course it sat like that, so the body shop had to straighten the frame, when it got back, it pulled like a mother. it would make a lane change on its own. alot of trucks pull, but this one was really a pain to get back to normal, i had to adjust everything on it.

ride height camber caster, toe, the whole deal. wasnt horrible but it just sucked doing it because it absolutely needed to be perfect. and nothing is ever the same as it was before it was wrecked.

also i had a early 90's lumina that broke a rear strut, had the elongated holes in the struts, replacement ones. well, the rear was 4 degrees positive camber after the struts got replaced, so me being the alignment guy in our group, i got stuck with that wonder job. each side was 3-4 degrees positive camber, and the toe was a mile out of whack. one side i got ok, but thje other side i had to elongate the strut holes longer. that thing had plenty of movement after that deal. toe was a real fun project as well, wasnt cam adjusters or rod adjustments for the rear toe, so the frame was elongated, and being a early 90's car and never had an alignment, the rear was frozen solid, torched the hell out of that car. total time on that one was about 3 hours. and of course, our alignment rate for cars is a fixed 1.0 hours, and 1.2 for trucks. so i lost my ass on that job
 
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