DIY Alignment: The Basic Version
 

One day you have an alignment shop sponsoring you and your car gets set up and rides the track perfectly. The next day you move to the other side of the country and your alignment sponsorship stays put. Suddenly, that element of track day nirvana has vanished. If you’re like me, you take your trusted alignment specifications to a local shop in your new community – one that has a good reputation and works on track cars – and expect life will be perfect. Except it isn’t. It’s okay. Honestly, maybe just mediocre. That is, however, far from perfect. And it cost a lot more. Plus they don’t do corner balancing.

Stationary in the paddock – the NX GTi-R is looking good and ready to go!

 

Before you start criticizing the thick red yarn, that wasn’t what we were using for toe; that’s just a visual aid. Just inside that is fishing line that is impossible to see. So challenging, in fact, that we’ve switched to kite string instead. The shop towels are multi-purpose. First off, they protect the car’s finish. Secondly, they’re close by when I need to clean my hands.

After a couple of years enduring a car that didn’t handle the way that I knew that it should and blaming it on bushings, control arms, and tires, an opportunity presented itself. The three enablers – also known as my track buddies Jeremy, Kyle, and Bron – had an idea. What if we did our own alignments? Think of the money we’d save. Think about how our wives would appreciate how thrifty we were and would applaud our ingenuity and love of purchasing equipment – while knowing that we were saving money with the by-product hopefully being a car that performed better on the track. That settled it – we decided to go ahead to make the world a better place for our wives while we saved a ton of money every year on alignments. Of course, not everything is perfect. All of us want a shop with a hoist – as that would be ideal. Our wives don’t know each other but they’ve all indicated that our lives would be in jeopardy should a shop ever be mentioned again. In the process of making our wives happy yet understanding that a shop was taboo, we are now the proud owners of equipment that allows us to do our own alignments. Yet, for reasons beyond our understanding, our wives are not impressed.

Now, if you’re into the math and science of alignments then you absolutely need to stop reading here and click this link. This will take you to Nikita Rushmanov’s Wrench Tip article on alignments. Wow, it is an incredible article of the inner workings of an alignment. If you really want to understand the nuances of setting up the geometry of your car, then that is what you need to read. In fact, Nikita will save you even more money. Or check out Erik Jacobs fantastic article The Ultimate DIY Alignment Rig. I seriously want to haul my car to Erik’s shop and use his stuff, but I don’t think he’d really appreciate that. So lets take a look at a basic system that we know works and falls somewhere between (well, probably under) the systems described by Nikita and Erik. Nikita focuses on the math, Eric focuses on the ultimate equipment, and we focus on what we think is the best bang for our buck and maybe your buck too. So start scouring marketplace to find some bargains. Check out the new items we purchased and see if it works with your budget. Get a group together to share costs – after all you don’t do an alignment every day. Our DIY alignment setup involved spending some money as a group so that most of the math could be left out of the shop. I love working on my car, but I’ve confessed before that I’m not an engineer or a mechanic. Just a guy who likes tinkering and, when I cannot get something done to my satisfaction, I’ll either find a source that can or see if I can do it myself (and that doesn’t always work out to my satisfaction either).

6 comments

  1. Great write-up. As always Mr. Ewald, your articles are informative and entertaining. I do have a question regarding the digital camber/caster tool: Is there a way to zero the measurement? You can zero a scale with nothing on it (or zero it with an empty container on it). How do you ensure that the -3.25 degrees of negative camber as measured by the tool is actually -3.25 degrees?

    1. Banfstc, thank you. I appreciate your kind words.
      Great question about the Longacre unit. It is supposed to hold it’s zero, even when shut off. According to AES, running my car on the Mustang dyno was like running one of his drift client cars – it didn’t want to run nicely for him. So I’m pretty sure the -ve camber is there. More details about the Longacre calibration can be found here: http://www.longacreracing.com/instructions.aspx?item=42369&article=AccuLevel%E2%84%A2%20%20Pro%20Model%20Digital%20Level%20(ver.%205)

  2. Thank you so much for this article. I read Erik’s article when it first came out and dreamed about something like that, but unfortunately, his set up is out of my price range. This on the other hand is right up my alley. Thanks

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