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Alignment issue -- any thoughts?

Discussion in 'Wheels & Tires' started by BenWA, Feb 12, 2011.

  1. Feb 12, 2011 at 12:09 PM
    #1
    BenWA

    BenWA [OP] Well-Known Member

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    EDIT: scroll down and see my update post below


    I just had an alignment done yesterday after lifting my front to 1.75". The alignment shop where I had it done is about 20 miles from my house. The truck drove great at first, but on the way home I hit a fairly decent sized bump (nothing hugely jarring though) and my alignment went straight to crap. I have to hold my steering wheel about 30 degrees to the left for the wheels to track straight. I'm guessing they forgot to tighten something :mad:

    Sooo that particular alignment shop is closed on weekends, and I NEED my truck tomorrow.

    There are closer alignment shops to where I live, but I'd guess most would be booked solid on a weekend (if they are even open).

    What would most do? Should I try to find another shop to fix it this weekend, and then give the bill to the first alignment shop? I obviously don't want to pay for another alignment out of pocket.
     
  2. Feb 12, 2011 at 12:11 PM
    #2
    Brunes

    Brunes abides.

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    That sucks. If you need to drive the truck before you can get back to the shop- That kinda answers the question...Gotta get it done.

    Is there a firestone or chain type place that offers lifetime or 3 year alignments plans??
     
  3. Feb 12, 2011 at 12:15 PM
    #3
    BenWA

    BenWA [OP] Well-Known Member

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    I'm guessing that it's just the toe that is out. Is this something I could adjust fairly easily to get it "good enough" to get me thru the weekend? I know absolutely nothing about DIY alignment adjustments...
     
  4. Feb 12, 2011 at 12:17 PM
    #4
    Brunes

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    You'd have to look at the wheels. Set the steering wheel "straight" and see where the wheels are pointed. It's possible that they didn't tighten the steering wheel adjustment back up so the steering tracks straight but the wheel is off center....
     
  5. Feb 12, 2011 at 12:18 PM
    #5
    Tacomanator

    Tacomanator Boiling denim and bangin whores

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    that sucks. my truck seems to get knocked out of alignment fairly easy as well. i wish our Firestone offered a lifetime alignment :mad:
     
  6. Feb 12, 2011 at 2:46 PM
    #6
    BenWA

    BenWA [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Yeah its the drivers side wheel that is out... I can see it. I found a Firestone with availability today so I just took it in and will get my money back from the first place. Got a lifetime in case I knock it out frequently from wheeling, etc. Thanx for the advice.
     
  7. Feb 12, 2011 at 8:06 PM
    #7
    BenWA

    BenWA [OP] Well-Known Member

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    The saga continues...

    So I had alignment #1 done yesterday at alignment shop A. Everything aligned within spec and the truck drove fine when I left the shop. Drove it home and somewhere along the way I hit a bump/pothole and the alignment went way out (see OP above).

    Alignment shop A is closed on weekends, so I brought it to alignment shop B (Firestone). They said that there was no way they could even get it close to spec on the drivers side front, because the eccentrics were maxxed out and they had nothing left to work with. They said the eccentrics were maxxed because my frame is bent where the LCA attaches on the driver's side. They showed me where they thought the frame is "bent" and I couldn't see what they were talking about. They told me I need to go to a body shop to have my frame worked on so that the eccentrics have more room for adjustment.

    I told them I had it aligned to spec just fine yesterday. They told me that they guy at alignment shop A must have fudged the numbers to make it look like it aligned to spec, because they said it was impossible. I came back by saying that it drove perfectly fine after yesterdays alignment, until I hit the pothole on the way home.

    So I don't know who to believe. There is absolutely no reason why the frame would be bent (never had an accident, never hit anything hard on the underside). I only have 1.75" lift so it should align to spec.

    Here are the numbers (red means out of spec):

    Yesterday...

    Alignment #1 from shop A:

    Front left:
    Camber before: 1.9*
    Camber after: 0.6*
    (Camber Spec range: -0.3* to 1.2*)

    Caster before: 0.8*
    Caster after: 1.6*
    (Caster Spec range: 1.3* to 2.8*)

    Toe before: 0.06*
    Toe after: 0.01*
    (Toe Spec range: -0.04* to 0.07*)

    Front right:
    Camber before: 0.8*
    Camber after: 0.6*
    (Camber Spec range: -0.3* to 1.2*)

    Caster before: 0.9*
    Caster after: 2.0*
    (Caster Spec range: 1.3* to 2.8*)

    Toe before: 0.05*
    Toe after: 0.02*
    (Toe Spec range: -0.04* to 0.07*)

    Thrust angle before: -0.33*
    Thrust angle after: -0.23*


    Then today...

    Alignment #2 from shop B:

    Front left:
    Camber before: -0.3*
    Camber after: -0.2*
    (Camber Spec range: -0.3* to 1.2*)

    Caster before: 0.9*
    Caster after: -1.2* <----(!)
    (Caster Spec range: 1.3* to 2.8*)

    Toe before: 0.61*
    Toe after: 0.03*
    (Toe Spec range: -0.04* to 0.07*)

    Front right:
    Camber before: 0.5*
    Camber after: -0.2*
    (Camber Spec range: -0.3* to 1.2*)

    Caster before: 2.3*
    Caster after: 1.4*
    (Caster Spec range: 1.3* to 2.8*)

    Toe before: 0.23*
    Toe after: 0.02*
    (Toe Spec range: -0.04* to 0.07*)

    Thrust angle before: -0.22*
    Thrust angle after: -0.12*


    Any thoughts as to what is going on here with the "before" of today's alignment being so different from the "after" from yesterday's alignment, and with the driver's front side caster being so far out of spec??? Between the two shops, somebody seems to be full of shit and I'm not sure who.
     
  8. Feb 12, 2011 at 8:24 PM
    #8
    Yamaha Dave

    Yamaha Dave Well-Known Member

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    ^Take it to shop C? :confused:
     
  9. Feb 12, 2011 at 8:26 PM
    #9
    BenWA

    BenWA [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, that's kind of where my mind is headed right now... :(

    Then i will have paid for 3 alignments within a week, and then potentially STILL have an alignment that's out of whack. Epic fail.


    I guess I could take it to a different Firestone since I now have the lifetime...
     
  10. Feb 12, 2011 at 8:28 PM
    #10
    BenWA

    BenWA [OP] Well-Known Member

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    So how bad is it to have caster that far out? It pulls to the left, which is annoying, but will it significantly wear my tire faster/unevenly?
     
  11. Feb 12, 2011 at 8:55 PM
    #11
    TacoBow

    TacoBow Intentionally cosmetically incorrect.

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    1.75" lifts up front on 2nd gens can require an aftermarket UCA to correct your alignment. Not always, sometimes it comes down to factory assembly variables. Damage sure can play into it... but unless your truck was hit, pulled or just plain hard core abused, damage isn't the only reason.

    Caster seems to be the most effected when these trucks are lifted, in that the stock UCA's just don't offer much caster to begin with. The higher you lift, the more caster you lose.

    My 08 DC 4x4 Sport was within spec after a 2" increase, but on the negative edge of where the caster needed to be. The steering was light due to the 1.7 caster as opposed to the targeted 2.4 setting.

    My 06 AC 4x4 TRD was no where close to spec after the same 2" increase. There was nothing wrong with the frame, no crash history, nothing bent, (on either truck), just the way it was from the factory.

    Prior to lifting, each truck was spot on aligned in stock form. Getting a 0 toe, 0 camber and well into the mid 2's degree of positive caster for both. Just the nature of two different vehicles of the same model / generation. I dunno, perhaps that old saying one was built on Friday and the other mid week?

    Camber and caster settings are controlled by the cam bolts on the LCA's, which means gaining on one setting will take away from the other.

    Most will strive to get close to a 0 degree camber, since caster does not wear tires. The problem is, with less than a 2 degree positive caster, your steering will be light. Your straight-line "driveability" suffers with negative caster.

    The less caster you have, the more flighty your steering becomes.

    Some drivers just get used to it. Or they buy aftermarket UCA sets. I didn't like the caster set below 2 degrees... even though my specs were within what Toyota called "specs". It made steering the truck seem twitchy... especially if the road was poor or driving in a stiff cross wind.

    Since both caster and camber rely on your cam bolt adjustments in the LCA's, creeping up on the caster, without an aftermarket UCA, will scrub off camber... and camber is what will wear tires on their edge.

    A good alignment tech can play one against the other to get optimal settings, but I doubt he / she will get them close to what you had before the lift, regardless of how interested they are in spinning the wrenches.

    The steering wheel center is dependent on the tie rod ends. That's your toe setting. Unless that was one hellava pot hole, capable of bending something, I'm wondering if the cam bolt retainers may have folded back under stress of being maxed.

    Take a look at their contact points on the drivers and passenger side LCA, (4) total points, where the cam bolts large graduated washer rests against the welded on index stops. Sometimes these will rotate, most often when a bushing is seized, (they are dry assembled from Toyota), which is fairly common, allowing the cycling of the suspension to constantly change your settings. The pressure applied can bend the index stops. Not something that would change your steering wheel center as far as you originally posted, but have an effect nonetheless.

    My thoughts on a fix?

    I'd make sure you don't have bent steering components first.

    Then decide if you can live with light caster.

    Zero'ing toe should be no problem.

    Getting close to a 0 camber is within reach.

    Getting close to a 2 degree positive caster is unlikely, based on what specs you posted.

    If you can't adjust your driving for the lighter than normal steering, buy some quality aftermarket UCA's and your specs will be spot on again, just like new.

    The UCA's are still a good investment either way after adding a lift... allowing much needed stress relief for you ball joint / stock suspension components.

    Hope that helps ya.
     
  12. Feb 12, 2011 at 9:50 PM
    #12
    BenWA

    BenWA [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Thanks TacoBow for the thorough and highly educational explanation...that helped immensely.

    The tech who did the second alignment (the one who said my frame must be bent) did mention that he thought that the bushing was seized on the driver's side LCA, and that one of the stops was bent and that he had to bend it back. I had no idea what he was talking about at the time, but you have helped me understand the issue here.

    You are absolutely spot on about the steering quality -- very floaty feeling, it drives me nuts.


    Any thoughts as to why/how the numbers from the first alignment were all within spec? I can assure you the bump/pothole did no bending of metal :p It was a very ordinary, light hit...but it happened to be a catalyst for the alignment to fall back out.

    Thanks again for explaining all this to me.
     
  13. Feb 13, 2011 at 8:35 AM
    #13
    TacoBow

    TacoBow Intentionally cosmetically incorrect.

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    You are welcome. :D

    Ah ha! There in lies a problem. A seized bushing is not hard to diagnose. Either the cam bolt will turn 360 degrees in the bushing sleeve or it won't. The fact that one or more of the index stops was bent suggests it. Your tech should know if it's seized AND the severity of the seizure. :mad:

    Some partially seized cam bushings can be saved with the proper application of lubricants... or heat... or pneumatic tools... while others, like mine, simply needed replaced.

    Have a looky see here - http://www.tacomaworld.com/forum/2n...neck-lower-control-arm-lca-bushing-press.html

    Lalalalalalalalalalalalalalala... done reading? Good.

    Ok, back to your truck.

    Some local techs in my area employ methods using a ratchet strap to pull on a LCA to gain degree. I'll venture a guess that other techs in other states have done this as well, even though the slots in the frame mounts that hold the LCA limit this activity.

    My guess is that you have a stuck / seized bushing(s) and the cycling of the suspension is rolling the graduated washer into the LCA stop, causing it to bend away. This is not uncommon, especially when a tech is forced to take the adjustment to its max while trying to get spec he needs. Why is he maxing your cam bots? He has to, directly related to the lifts effect on the stock UCAs. They just do not have enough caster "built in" from the factory to allow a wider range of adjustment that is often needed to achieve the proper alignment of your truck after a lift is installed.

    Yep, and I'm definitely not the only one. I guess my wife was partially right... I'm particular about things. When it comes to vehicles, (cars, bikes, trucks), I'm near the point of OCD. Having my truck steer like its got 2 tons of coal in the bed, (when the bed is empty), drives me nuts too. Being a former PA inspection mechanic who doesn't go for marked up bolt heads doesn't help much either. Fixing things right is what I like to do. "Close enough" even if it's within what Toyota calls spec, for me, just ain't gunna cut it. Caster... damn you caster! How you do vex me!

    Sure, based on what we know so far, the techs comment regarding the "possibly seized bushing on the drivers side" speaks volumes for your evil front left caster readings. Your posted alignment numbers mean this to me:

    Tech number 1 worked with everything in mind. He gave up a little camber in order to keep your caster readings in the game. He did a good job with what he had to work with. The stuck bushing and the stock upper UCAs were saying, "nope, you aren't getting it any better than this."

    Tech number 2 worked with keeping your tire contact surface in mind. He focused on camber, knowing that leaning away from a 0 degree camber setting was going to wear your tires. Doing so made your caster too weak, wicked caster... that setting that will makes your particular truck steer like a lightweight. Again, that seized cam bushing and the stock UCAs were playing the give and take game with him too... which makes perfect sense looking at your drivers side numbers.

    I'm not throwing rocks at either tech. They each took slightly different approach to correct the problems. Fact of the matter is, no tech is going to be able to get your numbers where you need to be as the truck sits right now. Paying for alignment number 3 is going to waste dollars that could, and should be applied to making it right. Wanna fix it right? I know you do. This is my advice...

    Address that bushing. Free it up if you can or replace it.

    Check the other (3) bushings as well. Make SURE their cam bolts will rotate freely 360 degrees within their bushings. This will take only minutes. More time will be spent pulling your skid plate to access them.

    Choose a quality UCA set and buy them. They provide the much needed built in caster that you require, not afforded by the stock Toyota UCAs.

    There are many good ones to choose from. Pick the ones that suit your driving needs. If you are an off roader and want maximum travel, look to the uni-ball design. If you are like me, mostly pavement with some basic off road work in the hunting season, then a UCA set that uses the OEM upper ball joint or a "OEM style" upper ball joint will be just fine. The price point goes way up as your move toward the off road inspired uni-ball designs. OEM variants require next to no maintenance, unlike the uni-balls, that require occasional service / cleaning.

    I live in PA and harsh road grime - salt in the winter time flat out sux. I like the OEM style for that reason alone. I wanted a UCA that used a Toyota factory ball joint, (even though ball joints last a LONG time), 'cuz I know I'll always be able to buy them local if need be.

    Once your bushing(s) are verified to work as intended, install your aftermarket UCA's. Take your truck back in for the alignment and have your tech shoot for these numbers:

    Camber: 0 degrees.
    Caster: + 2 degrees. (A positive 2.4 degree setting is the agreed upon happy place for 2nd generation Tacomas)
    Toe: 0 degrees.

    You'll love your trucks handling again, just like you did prior to the lift installation.

    Be glad to give you some suggestions on UCA vs UCA as well, but I'll refrain if you'd rather search that out for yourself.

    Again, hope that helps ya bud.

    :thumbsup:
     
    K.Ray likes this.
  14. Feb 13, 2011 at 8:27 PM
    #14
    BenWA

    BenWA [OP] Well-Known Member

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    ^^^

    Man. What a lot of great info. THANKS. This has been a great education.

    Unfortunately, UCA's are out of my budget for the time being (unless I can find some used for cheap)... so I will have to deal with the floaty steering for a while.

    As for the seized bushings, I may have to think about taking a crack at using your replacement method. Something about taking a sawzall to my LCAs though.....that would take some serious commitment (not to mention balls for a wrench rookie like me).

    Could I ask you to elaborate on the diagnosis of seized bushings? I'm fairly certain one is seized, but what exactly do I need to do to diagnose others that are potentially seized? Is it just a matter of loosening the thru bolt and trying to spin the accentrics (or how ever ya spell it) 360 degrees?

    Also, I read another thread about someone who had a similar problem with flattened stops and tried to bend the stops back from flat to their original bend. He mentioned that he was worried that bending them back would fatigue the steel, and cause them to crack. Some folks chimed in and said that the bent stops aren't subject to load and don't need to be strong. Well if that were the case, then would they have flattened to begin with??

    Really appreciate your help here. Not only for my specific truck issue, but also as a general education about how this stuff works.
     
  15. Feb 14, 2011 at 9:03 AM
    #15
    TacoBow

    TacoBow Intentionally cosmetically incorrect.

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    Bingo.

    The force applied to your stops when the cam bolt cycles with the suspension, aka - seized bushing condition, is substantial and is what bends the stops.

    Tap it straight, & run a small bead of weld down the outside contact area of the stop where it meets the LCA.

    These stops are more for indexing the cam bolt and were not designed to carry load.

    30 seconds on the Mig and the stop is as good as new.

    No problem bud, glad to help.

    :cheers:
     
  16. Feb 14, 2011 at 10:45 PM
    #16
    BenWA

    BenWA [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Here's an update: took it back to alignment shop A today and told the guy the whole saga. He was perplexed at first when I showed him the data sheet from alignment shop B... but said he'd have a look.

    He said that he must have just not tightened things down enough the first time. He also said that none of the bushings were totally seizedm but that they had been well on their way to becoming seized ... but that he was able to work them loose and clean them up (out?) somehow get them all loose and free. He had no problem aligning it back to spec after that, and got the caster on both sides to 2.0*, which isn't perfect...but a lot better than it was.

    It drives great now! Just hope it stays. He pretty much promised that it wouldn't fall back out of alignment again. Time will tell.
     
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