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Alignment Question

23351 Views 23 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Triple-X08
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...

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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.
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.
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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That must have been pretty painful... it falls down, you watch it bounce, bounce, bounce, stop. Oh **** it is sitting at an angle :eek:

yep, it happened when i was across the shop in my bay, the dude across from me had it in the air in his bay and he was doing brakes on it, and it rocked a bit, then the ass dropped and the hoist pads kicked out, it made a hell of a noise, sounded like the world coming to an end when it happened.

had one a few weeks back where i had to help a guy at our shop bleed brakes on a truck, fresh from the body shop, and i was up in it pumping the pedal, while he was bleeding them, and then it was all good until he went to lower it.

well, it was at the top of its maximum lift point, and it was an old air hoist, we only have like 3 left in the whole shop, and i knew going up, i was like man, something is going to happen i can just feel it.

sure enough when he went to lower it, the hoist shifted a bit and twisted the truck, so it moved off from the hoist pads, and the truck dropped with me in it.
from the top- which is like 6 feet up. it didnt drop far luckily, because the truck had running boards on it, the running boards caught the hoist arm, and the truck was suspended in the air by the running boards. and i'll tell you what, its a weird feeling to be in something like that when it starts to come down. you feel it in the floor at first, and then it twists and rocks a bit. and it makes alot of noise, and your ass puckers the seat.

I do not like heights at all, i mean im petrified by a ladder, so even 5-6 feet in the air is bad enough, especially when you have 3 tons of metal surrounding you.

never jumped out of a truck from 6 feet in the air, but oh buddy my feet hurt for the next couple days after that.

My ass puckered that seat so bad i think left a brown spot on it.

i couldnt crap right for a week after that deal. my ass was so puckered if you had a lump of coal and you stuck it in there you would have a diamond in 2 days.

it was so puckered you couldnt pull a tooth pick from my ass with a john deere.

if your ever in a situation like that, you just hold on and hope for the best. i had a death grip on the steering wheel as it happened.
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