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DIY wheel alignment


stolpsaddles

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I was talking to a mechanic the other day abad he was telling me about shops doing wheel alignments in big rigs.

 

Jack up and spin each tire to place a line on the tread all the way around. Next backup the truck 20 to 30' on pavement then drive forward 20-30 '

Accurately measure the distance the lines on the tires front and rear from tire to rise to get your toe in/out reading

Once you set the toe in move the truck again forward and back to get a 2nd reading.

 

This sounds like an accurate system as it would be the actual rolling toe in,

No Fancy equipment required, I would use a stick with 2 nails in to get a very pinpoint read with no sag in the tape measure.

 

 

 

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I've been doing that for many years. Nothing new - but, that is a quick way to check if that may be a problem for a more serious alignment.

 

King pin play, steering linkage, wheel bearings, steering box linkage are all other factors to consider. You'll need to do more than the quick align if your having problems. You must look at the total picture.

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For toe in, I have always used this method on all my vehicles. For camber, I use a carpenter’s level and a couple deep well sockets for spacers. Caster, well, if it's not pulling, I don't touch it.

For the all wheel chassis adjustment, get out your check book. Strings and tape measures aren't going to get me there.

 

When I talked to the original owner of my truck, he was lamenting that he could only get 80K miles on the front tires .....well, with 1/4" of toe in, I am thinking that was good. The truck is a lot less work to drive down the road with the toe set to almost nothing.

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Brad, don't know about the Western Star but on my Volvo caster can only be changed by wedge shaped spacers under the axle. Camber is pre-set and the axle must be bent to change. "Usually" these two settings only need adjustment after an accident or really bad roads that bend or stress components.

 

The alignment method described for toe is basically correct but you will not be able to get a good measurement with just a tape or string due to "stuff in the way". You can easily construct a jig such as the one below out of dry, straight wood or metal and pipe (EMT) that will allow an accurate check of toe. The upper arms slide along the horizontal pipe and allow you to measure at 180 degrees without stuff getting in the way. The sliding arms must not have side-to-side play once in position and the cross bar must be perfectly straight. Correcting toe on the simple suspension design used on our trucks requires backing off the cinch nut on the band at each end of the ball joint/tie rod and using a pipe wrench to twist the single tie rod in the needed direction. A little liquid soap between the tire and concrete is helpful or put a 1/4" piece of plywood under the tires if the floor is rough so the tire slides in or out easily.

 

When I was running autocross I often changed alignment on my cars for an event via a similar method but also set camber using a bubble gauge that attached to the wheel rim. Toe is really not hard to adjust. A check for wear that would ruin a tire due to incorrect adjustment is to paint horizontal stripes across the tread of the tire with white latex paint, let it dry and then drive. If the scrub off of the paint is not even irregular tire wear will be an issue.

 

My method is to make/get a good inspection for wear and component movement and then a 2 or 3 axle alignment. After that keep tabs on your toe adjustment using the described method.

 

alignment.jpg

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The above method is what i had in mind, after the adjustment move the truck back and the forward 20 to 30 feet to set the wheels and check again.

I am looking at changing a tie rod end as there is some play in the joint ( but not right after I grease it ) so I will have to do an alignment.

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