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Front End Alignment Question... Any Pros?

This is a discussion on Front End Alignment Question... Any Pros? within the General Help forums, part of the LSx Technical Help Section category; Well... it was barely 400 miles, but the new GTO had it's first mishap. It happens to everyone... that first ...

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    6 Speed / Spice Red
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    Front End Alignment Question... Any Pros?

    Well... it was barely 400 miles, but the new GTO had it's first mishap. It happens to everyone... that first ding or scratch. We all hate that... I think I have the record, though.

    Anyway, no big deal. Hit one of those curbs that were jutting out (corner, triangle sticking way out), scratched the rim just a bit and knocked the alignment out.

    The tire place sent the wheel out and for $55 did a very good fix. Not perfect, but barely noticeable. Better than $300 for a new rim right now.

    Alignment... they did what seemed a perfect job in a test drive at night. Driving the car to work today, the steering wheel is just slightly off center. (Car goes straight, but steering wheel set at slight turn to the left).

    Instead of having the tire place do it again for such a small adjustment, what if I moved the tie rod end adjustments 1/2 turn on each side... moving the wheels slightly left in relation to the steering wheel so the car goes straight when the steering wheel is straight?

    Would this fix it? Is it something I can do on the driveway with a floor jack if I turn each side exactly the same and the same direction?

    Thanks
    Last edited by Tom 06 GTO; 08-11-2006 at 06:28 PM. Reason: spelling
    Tom 06 GTO
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    Senior Member 02z28ls1's Avatar
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    Yes-in a pinch it is possible to recenter the steering wheel in this way-however-I would have the alignment rechecked while they will still do it for free. Maybe the alignment wasn't perfect to begin with creating the off-center situation. Most places will bend over backwards to keep you happy in this situation-just let them know it's not a huge deal to you-just could they recheck it. The nice guy will be better appreciated by the tech in the shop. ( please note- I just went back to work for a former employer as an alignment tech)

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    6 Speed / Spice Red
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    Good info... thanks!

    I think the alignment is dead on perfect (except for this)... camber, caster and toe seem exactly right.

    The car has no pull or drift, handles perfectly. Just the steering wheel's a little off center.

    Do I understand correctly?... that the wheels can be set perfectly aligned on the 3 axis, but not centered with the steering wheel via the tie rod end adjustments?

    Thanks again!

    Tom.

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    6 Speed / Spice Red
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    Anyone else experience this? What do you do?

    I found this link that seems to explain it...

    http://www.familycar.com/Alignment.h...ering%20Center

    It says this is the most common complaint... I'd say about 1/2 the time, I get my car back with the 'steering center' more than just slightly off.

    I've gotten my car (and wife's truck) back with this setting as much as 45 degrees off... car goes straight, but steering wheel is 45 degrees left or right. I asked one place to redo it... just adjust the tie rod ends to center the wheel... and they told me I should just take the steering wheel off and put it back on straight... ...


    I had gotten to the point that I put a line on a piece of blue painters tape, center the wheel and put the tape over the wheel and steering column... asking the mechanic if he would kindly line up the tape before locking the wheel & setting the alignment.

    I tell them know sometimes it's hard to see 'center' when locking the wheel while not sitting behind it and appreciate if it is on center. I used to get pretty good results with that. But once it's set properly, I hate to get another alignment when I should because they mess up this 'steering center' so much.

    I bought the three year alignment... hitting curbs included... They recommend every 6 months, which is about my oil change timing, too. (Oil life monitor, synthetic oil, etc). I may just live with it until then. I hate to ask them to do it again for it being off such a small amount.

    I'm all for customer satisfaction. I work retail, too. But catering to obsessive-compulsive disorder is another story. That irriates me... and I hate to do that to some good folks that give me good service. That's why I thought I could maybe just adjust it myself.

    Anyone else experience this? What do you do?

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    Veteran 0rion's Avatar
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    I see where you're coming from and it's not a matter of being a dissatisfied customer. Just stop in when you think they'd be kinda slow and explain to them what you just put in the thread and I bet they'll do it no problem. It's not like you're complaining really, just being a car guy that likes to take car of his car ( except for the hitting curbs thing ). I see no problem with stopping in to have them fix it. It'll only take a few minutes and then you won't obsess over it everytime you drive the car for the next 6 months.

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    6 Speed / Spice Red
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    Good points, thanks.

    Anyone else feel the same way... just hate it when that steering wheel is off center? ... ok, well not that bad, but just not happy with it?

    Or am I the only OCD victim here when it comes to my car?

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    Senior Member 02z28ls1's Avatar
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    Like I was saying-I am an alignment tech. I get some OCD car owners when it comes to wheel centering. It's difficult with some vehicles to tell where the center is-do you center it with the dashboard or the horizon line? And yes-to answer your question-the alignment itself can be perfect, and you can put the wheel where ever you want-no affect on the alignment angles themselves. To the guy that told you to pull the steering wheel off and put it back on straight--get out of the stone ages. Back 20-30+ years ago that might have been the accepted method for some-but that's not even feasable any more. And to tell you to do it yourself is down right negligence. I wouldn't get my alignment done at that shop anymore-who ever told you that is just not doing their job. Yeah you can wait for the next time if you want-do your tape thing if they need help finding your center line-just to keep you happy. It's not really OCD, you just got a new car and your baby got hurt. It's a beautiful car and a big chunk o change-take care of it.

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    6 Speed / Spice Red
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    I like it centered on the horizon line, little Pontiac logo straight up and down. The dash on the GTO is a little off center from the wheel.

    I have a good eye for straight and level. Recently, hung the wife's curtain rods. (Always use a laser level). When I was done hanging one recently, I got down and looked... not level. My wife couldn't see it, but sure enough... about 1/4" low on one side.

    Anyway, I know it's hard to see by eye for some people. That's why I usually mark with tape. But, if I can make that centering adjustment myself, I'd just rather. It would take me less time than going down there and waiting and it's done the way I like it. I'm just not sure if the tie rod ends... each moved exactly the same distance and direction... will throw anything else off.

    For me it's a distraction driving, too, if it's off by more than just a little. When I come out of a turn, I move the wheel back to center intuitively, but then over or under shoot slightly. Not a catastrophe, because I steer like everyone else... eyes on the road. But a distraction.

    Yeah, that guy who told me that (pull the wheel off and put it back on) was a dolt. It was about 10 years ago. I didn't go back there after that.

    One time I had one place show me the printout and that it couldn't be wrong. I couldn't seem to get them to understand that I know all the angles are right... it's just not right in relation to the steering wheel and we just need the tie rod ends adjusted.

    It seems too many alignment professionals don't understand this wheel centering thing like you do. Wish you were here in Orlando. I'm no pro, but the underlying geometry involved doesn't seem hard to understand.

    Appreciate the professional points and advice.

    Who's those guys dancing in your avitar? Or is it some form of marshall arts?

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    6 Speed / Spice Red
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    PS

    Quote Originally Posted by 02z28ls1 View Post
    It's a beautiful car and a big chunk o change-take care of it.
    Thanks!

    I took the wife out last night and driving home I told her that this was the nicest car I ever owned... even nicer than my 99 SS, which was sweet. I'm real happy to be back to the 6 speed too.

    Those high school and college dreams do come true eventually (I'm 42 now). I just kept working hard, growing the paycheck and saving.

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    Senior Member 02z28ls1's Avatar
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    The dancing super heroes? It's kind of small on here to make out but it's spiderman and other Marvel comics guys doing a dance. It's my way of saying that even super heroes look silly from time to time. And yeah-I can relate to the slow moving dreams thing. I still get goose bumps from the 02 Z-28 I bought new. Almost got it paid off ...........

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    6 Speed / Spice Red
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    Quote Originally Posted by 02z28ls1 View Post
    The dancing super heroes? It's kind of small on here to make out but it's spiderman and other Marvel comics guys doing a dance. It's my way of saying that even super heroes look silly from time to time.
    That's what I was thinking. Couldn't see the relevance... makes sense now.

    Quote Originally Posted by 02z28ls1 View Post
    And yeah-I can relate to the slow moving dreams thing. I still get goose bumps from the 02 Z-28 I bought new. Almost got it paid off ...........
    Paid off??? Popped my bubble on that one. I have only 36 payments to go, $896 per month. (Took the 3 year, 0% deal).

    Once I get the Camaro sold, which is paid off, that will cover my payments for 10-12 months.

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    Senior Member 02z28ls1's Avatar
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    Yeah-5 years @ 3.9%--$300 a month. No way could I afford the payments you got going on there! I paid ahead every month -had a couple of setbacks during the past 5 years and had to let the loan catch back up-GMAC will let you have a free month off from payments with no penalty-and they will allow the loan to be stretched out also as long as you stay in good standing with them. Yep-the past 5 years have been a long journey for me. Glad somebody somewhere is doing better.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 02z28ls1 View Post
    Yeah-5 years @ 3.9%--$300 a month. No way could I afford the payments you got going on there! I paid ahead every month -had a couple of setbacks during the past 5 years and had to let the loan catch back up-GMAC will let you have a free month off from payments with no penalty-and they will allow the loan to be stretched out also as long as you stay in good standing with them. Yep-the past 5 years have been a long journey for me. Glad somebody somewhere is doing better.
    Congrats on getting it paid for.

    Setbacks... know what you mean. Been there in some ways myself. Hang in there, worth it to plow through them.

    No way can I afford the $900 on it's own. The 0% made it a smart move, though. I'm counting on the cash from my 02 Z28 to cover the payments for a while. Then I'll tap my home equity line to help.

    That will stretch the payments some, but I saved several thousand in interest doing it this way and taking advantage of the 0%. I had the whole Excel thing going with several different scenarios.

    It would have been $500 a month if I traded in and like $350 a month if I did the trade and 5 years, which was 4.9%. But they offered me only $9000 for the trade. I thought I could do better on my own or at Car Max.

    So... a little fancy, finacial footwork going on. That's all.

    GMAC is pretty good. They are there to help GM move cars, not necessarily make a profit on loans like a bank would. If they're good to you, they think you'll be back for more. In my case, like a junkie going back to the drug dealer... more than is better for my own good, I think. .... .

    Here's to smooth sailing and strong tail winds for the next 5 years.

    Later,

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    Senior Member mrr23's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom 06 GTO View Post
    Good info... thanks!

    I think the alignment is dead on perfect (except for this)... camber, caster and toe seem exactly right.

    The car has no pull or drift, handles perfectly. Just the steering wheel's a little off center.

    Do I understand correctly?... that the wheels can be set perfectly aligned on the 3 axis, but not centered with the steering wheel via the tie rod end adjustments?

    Thanks again!

    Tom.

    yes, the car can be aligned correctly and have the steering wheel off. just a lazy alignment tech set the individual toe, but didn't go back and recenter the steering wheel a second, third, forth, however many times it takes to ensure steering wheel is centered. this assumes the alignment machine is calibrated correctly.

    to fix it yourself, turn the left tire outward 1/2 turn and the right tire inward 1/2 turn. if too far, then back off 1/4 turn.

    and i am in orlando. so, if they can't get it right, give me a call.

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    6 Speed / Spice Red
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    Good info and advice. Thanks.

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    6 Speed / Spice Red
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    Update... decided to try this myself. Pretty easy actually. I raised the front up using the spare floor jack (just a few inches, wheels still on the ground).

    Losened the lock nut, turned the tie rod ends 1/2 turn, then another 1/2... oops, too far (test drive between each setting), then back 1/4 turn, then back another 1/8 turn the other way... it's golden.

    I turned each tie rod end in the opposite direction since they are facing opposite, it's really the same direction when you're laying under the car.

    That is, one side pushed the wheel out, the other in. (keeping the toe angle exactly the same). But... if you are laying under the car, you move the wrench forward for each side to move the wheels left, wrench toward the back to move the wheels right.

    So, once I figured out how to fix this, it was pretty easy. Actually took less time than bringing it back to the shop doing it myself... maybe at least about the same. Next time I'll be able to do it much easier if I need to.

    Maybe I won't. I think I'll put a piece of blue painter's tape over the wheel and steering column with a line on it so the alignment guy can line it up before locking it in. But, in case it moves a little, it's easy as pie to fine tune it to my liking.

    Any thoughts or comments?

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    6 Speed / Spice Red
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    signature missing?

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    Senior Member mrr23's Avatar
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    for signature, you have to check the box that says show your signature.

    all seems fine assuming the toe is set correctly to begin with. toe will not cause a pull. you can have too much toe in/out and wear the tires and have no pull.

    as i said in an earlier post, my alignment shop is in orlando. if you want, swing by and we'll put it on my machine and take a look at it to make sure all is well.

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    6 Speed / Spice Red
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    I don't think I messed up the toe angle at all. I was very careful to adjust each side exactly the same... and the car coasts (in neutral or clutch in) as well as it did before.

    (I assume if the toe is messed up, that would give more tire drag as well as and resulting in faster tire wear... kind of like 'plowing' when you snow ski or ice skate).

    I did check the signature box. I think I had a bad link in there, though. I just updated it (got my GTO pics up on a website). I'll see if it works.

    Thanks for the offer to check it for me. Maybe I'll take you up on that. Can I "private message" you for your shop locale? Only condition... I buy the pizza or whatever for lunch, ok?

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