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Alignment Basics Questions

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Hey everyone! So I replaced just about everything in my front suspension over the last couple months. Sway bar, tie rods, center link, shocks, idler arm re-greased and torqued. I am going to need an alignment for sure but I just don't know 100% about what I can do or what can be adjusted. I tried searching up on the forums the basics on WD21 Suspension Alignment but couldn't find an all inclusive guide. 

 

I cranked up the torsion bars a bit because it was sagging. Sagged a little bit more on the left so i cranked it a little. From the top of the tire (235/75R15) to the bottom of the fender flare I measured about 3in each side. I have 1mm spacers on each UCA which I may have to remove with the added height. I can see quite a bit of positive camber and I am going for neutral. I have new all season touring tires on each corner because I only daily this rig. 

 

From my understanding, we have the toe in toe out on the tie rods. Front ride height is controlled by the torsion bars, with consideration to the camber effect on the UCAs. (Lift will result in added negative camber while lowering will result in added positive camber. The UCAs can add or subtract camber angle based on the amount of shims added or subtracted. (Adding shims will add positive camber while removing will result in less camber. 

 

Let me know what is wrong, what is correct, and what you all do maybe at home in the garage or driveway. Dealership is asking more than I am willing to give them for something like this. Looking to learn basically. Thanks!

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You will need an alignment rack to properly set the alignment. The measurements are not something you can get with a tape measure in the driveway. 

 

Toe and steering wheel centering is done with adjustments on the tierods. Caster and camber is adjusted by adding and removing adjustment shims between the upper control arm spindle and frame. Caster and camber are adjusted at the same time first, then the toe is set last since the caster/camber adjustments will affect toe. 

 

You don't have to go to a dealer, you can get alignments done at many different auto shops. Firestone offers a lifetime alignment service for about $200 last I checked.

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Sounds like you've pretty much got it. I did about the same as you've done, just a small lift to level it out, along with a whole lot of front-end work. I don't trust the muppets at the local tire place to touch anything I own, and I'm not done messing with the front end anyway, so I did my own alignment. A proper tech with a proper rack could do a much better job, much more quickly, but I have neither of those things, so here we go.

 

Caster's the tricky one to measure. Mine seemed alright when I started, so I just tried not to change it when I adjusted the camber (add/remove the same number of shims front/rear). I'll bet you could make a jig with legs going to the upper and lower ball joint bolts and a flat spot for an angle finder if you want to be sure. If you really screw up the caster, you might have stability issues (not enough caster) or a pull to one side (more caster on one side than the other).

 

I set camber using a cheap digital angle finder and a piece of scrap metal across the face of the rim, though you could probably use the face of the hub if it's flat. Make sure you're parked on a level surface and the suspension has settled (you haven't jacked it up since you moved it). IIRC the spec for camber is a little positive. I too aimed closer to neutral. I found shims at Rockauto, but I don't think I actually used any of them. I think I actually removed shims to get it where I wanted it, which is odd, because lifting this front end should make negative camber. I suspect I shifted the LCAs in a little when I replaced the strut rod bushings, and had to compensate more for that than for the inch or so I cranked the bars. The nature of shims means it's only gonna get so close, which is fine, because you'll get tired of lifting the truck, loosening the UCA bolts, messing with the shims, doing them up again, setting it down, test-driving it to settle the suspension, re-checking it, rinse and repeat. (The manual has a "this many degrees means this many shims" chart, which could save you some time, if it makes more sense to you than it did to me.) Screwed-up camber results in uneven tire wear and unironically using the term "hellaflush."

 

To set toe, I take two long-ish pieces of straight angle iron and set them against the front tire sidewalls, on jackstands, below the hub but above the bulge at the bottom of the tire. Make sure they're tight up against the sidewalls and not being thrown off by casting tits or crazy raised lettering or whatever. Measure the distance between them, right in front of the tires, with a tape measure, making sure the tape isn't sagging excessively or hitting on the skid plate or something like that (any deflection in the tape changes the measurement). Then move forward along the angle iron about the diameter of your tire and measure again. (You can try to measure behind the tire instead, and the math works out the same, but there's usually a truck in the way.) If the front measurement is longer, you have toe-out. If the front measurement is shorter, you have toe-in. I shoot for 1/8-1/16" toe in. Toe-out makes it dart and wander, and excessive toe in either direction eats tires. Write down your measurements and adjustments ("1/4 toe in, adjusted both sides out by one flat") as you go as a sanity check and remember to settle the suspension (drive back and forth) between adjusting and measuring. You can bias which adjuster you move to try and straighten the steering wheel as you go. If the toe is where you want it, but the wheel is cockeyed, lengthen one adjuster and shorten the other, check again, repeat until you're sick of it and decide it's close enough for what it is.

 

TL;DR it's a pain in the ass and it takes a while to get it right, but it is entirely possible to do your own alignment.

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Not sure what it is like over there but locally for us in Aus it is really hard to find a good alignment shop. 

Between the WD21 and all of the Mopar A bodies I have had over the years, I find a lot of them do not know how to set these old girls up.

9 of 10 shops will set the toe and send it out.

Last alignment I did myself on my WD I done using a stringline, some straightedges and a tape measure (after lift and front end rebuild) and it was the best the thing ever driven. 

Edited by FirstGenFreak
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I got one of these on the recommendation of Mr.510 and it has been the best tool in the garage lately:

 

https://www.joesracing.com/product/joes-caster-camber-gauge-with-magnetic-adapter/

 

I just set the alignment on the Xterra since the shop decided to leave it with .75 + camber on one side and - .75 on the other. To say it drove like @!*% was an understatement.

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Looks like a nice piece of kit. How does it read caster? I see the bubble for it but I'm having a hard time working out how that would work.

 

And yeah, I'll bet that handled like crap. Did they think it was a circle track racer or something?

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3 hours ago, Slartibartfast said:

Looks like a nice piece of kit. How does it read caster? I see the bubble for it but I'm having a hard time working out how that would work.

 

And yeah, I'll bet that handled like crap. Did they think it was a circle track racer or something?

You put it on (it does not attach to the warn hub face well, I have to take off the cap but no big deal) and then you do a roughly 20 degree sweep. It comes with detailed instructions on how to use it. I honestly set it for almost 1 deg positive camber and as much caster as I could get out of it while keeping it even on both sides.

 

Shops are lazy. They did not even try to adjust the camber/caster and said the adjuster bolts were seized. Not sure how that could be when I just replaced the UCA bushings.

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