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Old 07-29-2010, 11:05 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default DIY Alignment: Toe (not using strings)

So, you just changed the ride height of your car, and you want to set the alignment so you don't eat tires like crazy.

IMO the most important alignment setting is toe in/out. Not only will having too much toe (either direction) wear out tires like mad, your car will handle like crap.

Lots of folks talk about using string to align the car - I've tried it, found it to be a pain and wasn't able to get any accuracy at all. I had read in Grassroots Motorsports magazine about a tool that was fairly easily built, but didn't quite understand. Then, I found this online: - called a Toe Bar, Toe Rod, etc.

So, having seen that, I set out to build something similar myself, and found that it could be built cheaply, and could be used easily to set the toe of wheels quite accurately.



Before I get started, there's one big caveat:
This method only gives you "total" toe for a pair of wheels - you could, for example have one wheel toed-in 1/4", and the other toed-out 1/4", and read 0 toe with this method. For the front wheels, that's not a huge problem - it will just mean your steering is a little off-center. For the rear wheels, it's a bit of a problem. For this reason, I highly recommend starting from a known good alignment - if the alignment was good before, and you lowered it, the wheels should be centered, so you just need to be careful to make the same adjustment to each side.


ok, with that out of the way....

(multi-part post b/c of D-series image limits...)
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Old 07-29-2010, 11:05 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Building a Toe Rod

What the finished product will look like:


I built the toe rod above using just a hacksaw, dremel, and epoxy - no welding or fancy metal fabrication.

Shopping list:
* Two pieces of PVC pipe - one should fit fairly snugly inside the other.
* A 4' piece of 1"x1" aluminum angle
* A set-screw

The basic set-up is like this: you've got two pointers fixed to the rod, and you can adjust (and fix) the distance between them using the set screw.


Pointers
I made my pointers with a flat base (to keep it from rolling around and keep it exactly upright), and a large vertical pointer. Add a third small piece to make sure everything's securely fastened together, and you've got a pointer.

Detail:


Other Side detail:


The 'big' picture:


All I did was cut the three different pieces of aluminum, and then epoxy them together. Getting this pretty square isn't 100% necessary, but it doesn't hurt.

with this pointer design, you'll want to make the pointers mirror images (rather than identical) so that they'll both sit on the same side of the PVC.
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Old 07-29-2010, 11:06 AM   #3 (permalink)
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The Adjustable Rod

When I purchased my PVC, I bought two different pieces - the slightly larger (diameter) piece was a pre-cut 2' piece, and the smaller piece was a long 8-footer up on the rack. I cut the long piece to be about 12" narrower than my car's track width. I then took the bigger (diameter) piece, and cut a 2" chunk off the end - take this chunk, and glue it to one end of the long piece.

This double-thick piece will be one end of the rod, and the bigger diameter piece will slide on to form the other end. The reason for gluing a small piece onto the one end is to make both ends the same size - not absolutely necessary, but makes it work nicely.

Once you've got the two ends figured out, you'll cut a slot in each to install the pointer.

slotted:


installed:

(see that extra piece of aluminum? remember the little tidbit about how the two pointers need to be mirror images? I figured that out the hard way )
(blue stuff is paper towels stuck in the epoxy...)

once you've got the pointers glued onto each end, you'll need to add the finishing touch: the setscrew!

slide the two halves together, set it upright like you're using it, and find a good spot near the non-pointer end of outside piece to put your setscrew. drill a hole slightly smaller than the setscrew ( pull the inner piece out before you drill!), and then thread the setscrew in.



Annnnnd.... You're done! (building it, that is)
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Old 07-29-2010, 11:06 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Using a Toe Rod

So, you've just gone through all that work to build this tool, how do you use the stupid thing?


First, you need a nice straight line on both tires. If the tread has a line molded into it, you may be able to use that. But - if you don't have a straight line in the tread, or you're not 100% confident that the tread is perfectly straight all the way around, then there's an easy way to do it.

use some paint or shoe polish (I found 'glass chalk' at walmart) to put a nice fat strip around the tire:


Make something kind of pokey that you can use to scribe a line in the paint:


put the wheels up in the air, spin them, and while they're spinning, jab your scribing device in there to make a nice solid line in the paint:




now that you've got a good line on each tire, you can measure the toe of that pair of wheels.

put the car back on the ground. give it a good bounce on each corner to make sure the suspension is settled. slide the toe rod into place, at the back of the wheels. loosen the set screw, then line the pointers up with the line on each tire. once they're lined up, tighten the set screw back down, then pull the toe rod out from under the car (takes some jiggling, but you'll figure it out).

WITHOUT loosening the set screw, the the toe rod into place at the front of the tires. Line one pointer up with a line, then look at where the other pointer is to determine what your total toe is for that axle. If the pointer is lined up with the tire line, then you've got 0 toe. If the scribed line is inside the pointer (between the two) then you've got toe-in. If the scribed line is outside the pointer, then you've got toe-out.

From here, you can adjust the toe if necessary. For the front, break loose the jam nut on the tie rods, and then turn the inners as necessary (
Don't forget to tighten the jam nut when you're done!). Then re-measure (loosen the set screw, set it using the backs, measure the fronts) to see how your changes affected it.

For the rear, you'll probably want to adjust one side at a time.


That's toe, in a nutshell. Sorry for the crappy pictures, didn't realize how many more I should have taken to make a really good DIY, so you're stuck with these. I know I've left out some of the small details, especially on the actual adjustment process - if you're not sure how it's supposed to work, take a look at the parts (on the car!), think about it long and hard, and if you're still not sure how it's supposed to work, just post up a question.
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Old 07-29-2010, 11:35 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Awesome. I was going to post up a string DIY but I can't get the car repeatedly straight with it, Might have to give this a shot.
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Old 07-29-2010, 11:36 AM   #6 (permalink)
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EXCELLENT write-up man! This is definitely going on my "to do" list!
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Old 07-29-2010, 11:23 PM   #7 (permalink)
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good write up! that looks like a lot of work though.I scribe the tire using a homemade tripod with a nail pointing out. Then I just put a can in front of each tire and use a tape measure. same thing just, you don't have to build anything. Either way Its good to point out, you can line your car up yourself fairly easily and fairly acurately too!
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Old 07-29-2010, 11:36 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Wait.... I thought you had to have the weight of the car on the tires to get an accurate adjustment...
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Old 07-30-2010, 12:14 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Longacre toe plates, game over.
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Old 07-30-2010, 01:41 AM   #10 (permalink)
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ehh ill just use my alignment machine at work lol.
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Old 07-31-2010, 01:55 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Nice right up. Now I need to do it lol
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Old 07-31-2010, 07:52 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Longacre toe plates.

Getting my car aligned tonight, takes 5 minutes or less.
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