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Old 01-09-2013, 09:47 AM   #1
Insomniator
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Default Can you get a crappy alignment?

The place I usually go to has good reviews but is kind of out of the way and charges $100+ for one.

There are plenty of places closer to home and work that charge less, but have terrible reviews, at least for auto repair.

I guess I'm asking if idiot kids that work at a Tires Plus or Good Year can screw up an alignment or is it just a computer that tells em what to do?
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Old 01-09-2013, 09:48 AM   #2
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They can easily screw up by not knowing what to set the alignments to.
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Old 01-09-2013, 09:51 AM   #3
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Usually a computer. Unless you've wrecked or hit some curbs it should be a simple put on machine and adjust toe.
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Old 01-09-2013, 09:52 AM   #4
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They can easily screw up by not knowing what to set the alignments to.
The quality machines have factory specs in the computer or he could easily google it and take it to them.
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Old 01-09-2013, 09:55 AM   #5
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What does a normal alignment run, out of curiosity?
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Old 01-09-2013, 09:57 AM   #6
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It'll be in spec per the manufacturer unless their equipment is bad or the just don't care. Either way $100+ seems like daylight robbery to me. I got a full 4-wheel alignment on my Miata, with me in the car, to my requested specs, and they guy made it perfect (both sides matched perfectly to within +/- 0.05deg) for $80. That's what I would expect to get unless they have a 'lifetime promise' or 'lifetime readjustment' policy. In that case I'd spend a lot more than $80 on an alignment.
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Old 01-09-2013, 10:00 AM   #7
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Yeah the places I've seen charge $60-80. A lifetime policy would be nice as alignments don't last for shit when driving in north jersey/NYC quite often. My last was 10k miles ago and my car has been pulling to the left for like a month.
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Old 01-09-2013, 10:02 AM   #8
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What kind of car? Some are harder to adjust than others.

The problem is either having a hard car with a lazy tech or a place that will tell you that parts are bad when not. I skip most national chains as they are known to always find bad tierods (easy to replace but book pays well).


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Yeah the places I've seen charge $60-80. A lifetime policy would be nice as alignments don't last for shit when driving in north jersey/NYC quite often. My last was 10k miles ago and my car has been pulling to the left for like a month.
Have you swapped the tires from left to right yet? Alignments on modern cars hold very well. I have seen cars with over 100k and still be in spec.
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Old 01-09-2013, 10:08 AM   #9
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04 Mini Cooper S, I have had the tires rotated. I don't know much about how alignments actually work/hold but I do know I've hit a few massive potholes.
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Old 01-09-2013, 10:12 AM   #10
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Should be pretty simple to check for tierod play.
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Old 01-09-2013, 10:17 AM   #11
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04 Mini Cooper S, I have had the tires rotated. I don't know much about how alignments actually work/hold but I do know I've hit a few massive potholes.

If they only did a back to front then it still could be the tires. You need to swap them from left to right to see if the pull goes with the tires.

Also how are the tires wearing?
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Old 01-09-2013, 10:30 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Insomniator View Post
The place I usually go to has good reviews but is kind of out of the way and charges $100+ for one.

There are plenty of places closer to home and work that charge less, but have terrible reviews, at least for auto repair.

I guess I'm asking if idiot kids that work at a Tires Plus or Good Year can screw up an alignment or is it just a computer that tells em what to do?

There is a lot of variation in what is involved in an alignment from one car model to another. In terms of cost, it is probably best to compare your cost with the alignment cost of similar model cars.

No matter what car, the quality of the alignment will be in some part dependent upon the person that does the alignment.

Best of luck,
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Old 01-09-2013, 10:51 AM   #13
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Another thing to consider is, how does it drive when it is "in spec"?
A good alignment tech knows that setting a value at 3 when the range is 2~4 will work, but 4 works better. It is vehicle specific and really only comes with experience. The difference can be dramatic.
I had the tech push my truck as far as he could toward positive caster, and it drives much better. Middle of the range sucked.
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Old 01-09-2013, 01:28 PM   #14
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Just because they have the machine doesn't mean they'll take the time to do it right. If you know of a reputable shop stick with it even if its inconvenient.

Much like JCH13, the shop I use sets it to my specs with no complaints. $80 well spent.
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Old 01-09-2013, 02:11 PM   #15
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The person making the adjustments is the important part. The computer only tells them the settings and if they are on target or not. I've paid $80 for a computer aided one and it was fine.

I've also paid $50 to have new tires I brought with me mounted and balanced as well as a non-computer aided alignment. That one is out of the way though, 3 hour round trip.
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Old 01-09-2013, 02:12 PM   #16
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http://www.lonestarbavarian.com/align.htm

Some cars require more work....
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Old 01-09-2013, 03:04 PM   #17
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Best alignments are done the old school string and level way . Amazed at how out of whack my miata was after havine a computer alignment and then going to the autox guy that does his own.
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Old 01-09-2013, 03:31 PM   #18
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The tire wear looks OK but i'm no expert. The rear tires look more worn than the front but that doesn't make any sense...
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Old 01-09-2013, 04:11 PM   #19
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Sure it does. Rear toe is probably out of alignment. Has the same effect regardless of FWD, RWD or AWD.
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Old 01-09-2013, 05:52 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by franksta View Post
The person making the adjustments is the important part.
This. The more they rely on the computer, the less I would trust them. I've always gone 'by the numbers.' People who use 'Wintoe' are usually just winging it and not actually understanding what they're doing well enough. I've seen way too many people who just 'get it green,' even if one side is one end of the allowed tolerance, and the other is at the opposite. 'Welp, it's green, that means aligned...'

Also, the steering wheel being straight (and no pull) does not always mean 'in spec.'

And know which angles are adjustable on your car...some people will only set toe, even if caster and/or camber is adjustable (and out of spec).

If in doubt after an alignment, post the printout (always get a printout, and make sure it at least lists your year/make/model at the top). The most common scam is the 'I fixed your alignment by turning the steering wheel' ruse.

e.g. - say front toe has a target number (middle of 'in spec' range) of 0. The 'before' numbers read: left -.25 right +.25 (total toe- zero). The after numbers read left: -.01 right +.01 (total toe- zero).

99% chance, all the guy did was bump the steering wheel a little to make the initial readings go into the red, and hit 'save' on the computer. Then he straightened the wheel back up and hit print. Congrats, you paid for nothing. This shit happens WAY too often.
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Old 01-09-2013, 07:12 PM   #21
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Last time I got tires they actually declined to do my alignment and sent me to a actual alignment shop, saying that they would do a much better job. But, I drive a SRT8 with factory 20's and 45 series rubber, and the LX platform is known to be difficult to optimize an alignment on.
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Old 01-09-2013, 07:24 PM   #22
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Last time I got tires they actually declined to do my alignment and sent me to a actual alignment shop, saying that they would do a much better job. But, I drive a SRT8 with factory 20's and 45 series rubber, and the LX platform is known to be difficult to optimize an alignment on.
my tire shop did much the same, and sent to the best in town. The key thing I'd look for is a tech who talks to you, finds out what it is doing, then takes it for a test drive before and after. Those guys are usually not satisfied with "good enough" and have figured out what it takes to make a nice driving rig.
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Old 01-09-2013, 07:45 PM   #23
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They may not have had the equipment for your wheels. Older alignment targets (the octagonal checkered thing that gets put on the wheel) won't clamp on the outside of 20's without adapters. Hard to find a shop with new equipment; I've seen them spend more on repairs to keep old crap going.

And yeah, someone who can actually link numbers with behavior is a good sign. Like I said, some guys just know how to use the computer to adjust until the little indicator goes green; sometimes that turns out okay, sometimes it doesn't.

Some basics to remember regarding front-end angles:

Toe does not cause a pull. And total toe is the number that is important regarding tire wear. If one side is out on the positive, and the other is the same amount out on the negative, the car will drive and wear tires normally- the steering wheel just won't be perfectly straight when the car is pointed dead straight ahead.

Camber causes a pull torward the side with the 'most positive' value. Meaning if both sides are negative, that's the lower number; if positive, the higher number.

Caster pulls towards the side with the 'least positive' number.

Slight differences can cancel each other out. A little more negative camber and a little less caster (caster is always positive) on one side may still result in a car that tracks straight. Also, road crown causes a tendency to pull right. So a little less camber or more caster on that side is often beneficial. In fact, some makes used to specify slightly different camber numbers for each side (GM trucks come to mind).

And alignments should always get a test drive.

Tires, too, really. If baffles me sometimes to see the extent to which some people will not check their work.

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Old 01-10-2013, 08:52 AM   #24
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Quote:
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Best alignments are done the old school string and level way . Amazed at how out of whack my miata was after havine a computer alignment and then going to the autox guy that does his own.
Not to threadjack too much... have you upgraded your camber bolts to the newer fine thread pitch bolts? I've read that Miatas can lose their alignment quickly from aggressive driving without these newer camber bolts.
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Old 01-10-2013, 03:16 PM   #25
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Quote:
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Not to threadjack too much... have you upgraded your camber bolts to the newer fine thread pitch bolts? I've read that Miatas can lose their alignment quickly from aggressive driving without these newer camber bolts.
Nope. Never heard of that.
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