Looking at alignment from a few different angles - Transmission Digest

Looking at alignment from a few different angles

It could be argued that modern alignment equipment has seen some of the most enjoyable advancements over any other automotive equipment in recent years. It has become so technician-friendly that many shops are providing no more than a five-minute crash course to new technicians coming in.

This makes it easy for seasoned technicians who are familiar with alignment theory, since any learning curve on new equipment is virtually eliminated. It also makes it easy for new technicians or those without alignment experience because the new equipment basically walks you through the entire alignment process.

The downside? Without core knowledge of alignment geometry and how it affects vehicle handling, you may not be able to properly diagnose steering-related issues or recognize them and tie them in with alignment readings.

So before we get into some of the features and benefits of new alignment equipment, we thought we’d run through a quick refresher on steering system geometry and alignment.

Steering system refresher

The steering system on a car, in the most obvious sense, simply gives the driver directional control of the vehicle. What’s important to remember is that the steering system, while quite often only thought of as the components that make it up, such as the tie rods, is functionally interrelated to all of the suspension angles on a vehicle.

The steering system is designed to work together with properly set alignment angles as well as built-in angles and suspensions design in order to provide the best directional control of the vehicle. When you perform an alignment, you are ensuring that the angles are correct for the particular vehicle you are working on, which in turn allows the suspension and steering to work together as designed.

Camber is the inclination of the centerline of the wheel from a vertical position when viewed from the front. Camber is considered positive when the top of the wheel centerline tilts outward, negative when it tilts inward. Positive camber creates a natural turning tendency so a vehicle will tend to go toward the side with the most positive camber. Equal camber on each side causes any turning tendencies to oppose each other.

To picture this, think of rolling a wheel across the shop. If it is perfectly vertical, it will roll straight. If it tilts to one side or the other, it will roll in a circle in the direction in which it is tilted.

Not only will incorrect camber affect the directional tendency of the vehicle, but it will also cause tire wear on one side of the tread. The wider the tire, the more important it becomes to provide equal weight distribution across the tread of the tire with the correct camber setting.

Caster is the angle between a vertical line drawn through the spindle and a line drawn through the steering axis. The steering axis line is best described as a line drawn through the upper and lower ball joints, or through the upper strut pivot and lower ball joint, depending on the type of suspension.

Positive caster is when the top of the steering axis tilts toward the rear of the vehicle and negative when it tilts toward the front. Caster can easily be the subject of a story of its own, but the most noticeable effects are with directional stability and steering effort. Rarely do we have to make caster adjustments on newer vehicles, but if the caster angle is incorrect, it’s time to look for bent components or possible collision damage.

Caster is not a tire wearing angle, but should not be ignored and vehicles that require a caster adjustment rely on it so all steering and suspension angles work together and make the vehicle handle as it was designed.

Toe is the difference in distance between the front and back of the tires. Toe-in is when the fronts of the tires are closer together than the backs. Generally speaking, slight toe-in is preferred because vehicles are aligned when they are stationary. While a vehicle is moving, dynamic loads on linkage components will cause a slight change in alignment angles, resulting in running toe that is different than the static setting.

A slight toe-in as a static setting will result in a zero running toe when the vehicle goes down the road and dynamic forces act on the steering. A zero or slight toe-in is best for running toe as toe-out will generally cause a vehicle to wander. Incorrect or excessive toe-in or toe-out will cause abnormal tire wear.

There are also a number of additional angles and measurements (perhaps a topic for another day) related to vehicle alignment and you may have heard of Steering Axis Inclination and Toe-Out on Turns. These are non-adjustable angles but when all other alignment specifications are correct, they will in turn be within specification. If not, look for bent components.

Modern alignment equipment

As technicians, regardless of the job, we are focused on quality and accuracy along with productivity. Older alignment equipment, some of which is still in service in many shops, is known for the amount of time it takes to make the initial setup and take measurements. It’s not uncommon for technicians to avoid the process and possibly not recommend profitable work as a result.

Modern equipment has taken setup times of 15 minutes or more and reduced them to two minutes or less. When you have new equipment that allows this type of productivity, technicians will be scrambling to recommend alignments, even just from a maintenance standpoint.

“Independent shops that are investing in modern alignment equipment are quickly realizing the profit potential that it offers.”

Quick mount wheel adapters are just one feature that has made setup much quicker with modern equipment. Automatic turn plates prevent a technician from having to manually remove the pins, barcode scanners make for quick vehicle identification, tire pressure stations automatically set the correct pressure and the technology of the cameras and targets is the crowning touch that makes setup and initial measurement a quick and easy process.

Even if you are only beginning to think about new alignment equipment, a recommendation from BendPak is to purchase an alignment lift as opposed to a standard four-post lift. An alignment lift, while functionally the same as a four-post lift for standard service, is designed differently with runways that are outfitted for turn plates. You can use an alignment lift just as a regular four-post and when you are ready to invest in the additional equipment, you already have what you need.

Armed with the core knowledge of alignment angles and the advantages of modern equipment, alignments can quickly become one of your most profitable general repair services.

Editor’s Note: This article initially appeared in TD’s sister publication, TechShop, and is being printed here as part of a series for transmission shops that offer general repair services.

You May Also Like

Lubegard announces new Assemblee Goo formula with LXE XP technology

International Lubricants, Inc. (ILI), makers of Lubeguard automotive branded lubricants, announced the introduction and immediate availability of its new and improved Assemblee Goo Blue with LXE-XP. LXE-XP is an advanced anti-wear technology developed by International Lubricants, providing extra protection to metal at the molecular level, according to the company. LXE-XP is now available in both

Lubeguard-1400

International Lubricants, Inc. (ILI), makers of Lubeguard automotive branded lubricants, announced the introduction and immediate availability of its new and improved Assemblee Goo Blue with LXE-XP.

LXE-XP is an advanced anti-wear technology developed by International Lubricants, providing extra protection to metal at the molecular level, according to the company. LXE-XP is now available in both Blue and Green Assemblee Goo formulas to protect metal surfaces during initial startup before fluid reaches parts prone to friction-wear in the vehicle’s systems. Lubeguard says its Assemblee Goos offer robust anti-wear protection on the initial start-up.

Debunking three car lift safety myths

Safety is obviously a top concern when it comes to choosing a car lift to hold thousands of pounds above your head. But how do you know if a lift is safe?  Related Articles – Keeping comfortable in the bays: Shop climate and happy techs – Video: Handling a car that won’t start – Video:

bendpak-2-Post-Lift-ALI-Gold-Labels-1400
Keeping comfortable in the bays: Shop climate and happy techs

Here in the Midwest region of the country, we are in the middle of the short spring season where the temperature always seems to be just right. The bay doors are open, and everyone is happy. It’s not too hot or too cold in the shop. Related Articles – A guide to automotive lifts and

Climate-1400x700-1
Video: Handling a car that won’t start

CC: Why is your customer’s car not starting? Electrical diagnosis always has been a challenge in the shop and nowadays, with electrical systems and computer control being the hub of automotive technology, it’s even more so. Rotating-electrical components, primarily alternators and starters, are more important than ever, playing an integral role in vehicle and electrical-system operation.

Video: Wheel bearing tips and tricks

In this video, Andrew Markel of TD’s sister publication Shop Owner answers the following questions about wheel bearings: Related Articles – JEGS introduces line of hydraulic shop presses – Lock Technology offers new line of sockets for work on O2 sensors – Bosch introduces new ADS 625X scan tool Where do I place a stethoscope

Other Posts

BendPak introduces new AP Series of two-post lifts

BendPak introduces its AP Series of two-post lifts, which the company says are designed to make lifting internal combustion and electric cars, trucks and vans safer, easier and more efficient.  Related Articles – RatioTek introduces new tuner kit for BMW M240, Toyota Supra – Sonnax introduces input housing forward sleeve kit for GM 4L series –

BendPak introduces Ergochair ERGO-RS for technicians

BendPak Inc. has introduced Ergochair, a new brand it says is dedicated to helping technicians work more comfortably. With this new brand the company has also introduced the ERGO-RS, a crossover work seat for technicians. Related Articles – Alto introduces steel plate for GM transmissions – GFX introduces new oil pan lines for various GM

Bendpak-Ergochair-in-action-1400
Dannmar introduces new heavy-duty lifts

Dannmar (a BendPak, Inc. brand) has introduced two symmetric heavy-duty two-post lifts, which the company says are suited for cars, pickup trucks and medium-duty trucks. Related Articles – Sonnax highlights boost valve kits for Aisin Seiki transmissions – Alto offers filter kit for GM TR-9080 DCT – GFX adds new pump for vintage Powerglide models

Danmar-D2-12C-and-D2-15C-1-1400
BendPak announces leadership succession plan

BendPak, Inc. announced changes to its executive team effective August 3. President Don Henthorn, who has led the company since establishing it in 1965, will take on a more limited role in its daily operations as chairman emeritus. Jeff Kritzer will be promoted from executive vice president to succeed Henthorn as president and CEO. At

BendPak-team