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How Reliable is non-Dealer/factory alignment?


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17 replies to this topic

#1 jcniest5

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 01:29 PM

Hi all. About to have my car aligned at a tires store. How reliable is that compare to when I take it to a Subaru dealer (or factory trained tech) alignment? Any input will greatly be appreciated. Thanks in advance!

#2 MorganM

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 03:13 PM

Howdy from the TwinCities, I'm in Burnsville :drunk:

Just make sure its not some kid with some string and masking tape! The only real difference I've seen is some places have a fancy lazer guided weapon of mass alignment and some places just have some string and tape. I prefer the LGWOMA :)

If you are worried about it find a shop that does just alignment, suspension and tires. They will be more focused on this and have the proper equipment to do a good alignment.

#3 Commuter

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 08:12 PM

It depends. There is no way to really answer you.

I had 2 or 3 alignments done by the dealer. At their old location, they use to send them down the street to some other shop because they didn't have their own equipment. Result - I always had a "slight" pull to the left. I was beginning to think it was endemic to the car.

Then... bought a set of tires from a specialty tire shop. I had them do an alignment. No pull. Best so far. I think they did a second one too, but not sure.

Recently, I had the dealer change my rear struts. I let them talk me into an alignment, as they are now in a new location and have their own, brand new, SOTA equipment. Result - a "hint" of pull to the left. *shrug*

YMMV.

Commuter

#4 powderhound

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 09:41 PM

We've had our subarus done at White Bear Acura Subaru and at Tires Plus. The only difference is the price. BTW Tires Plus is the only shop I trust around here as opposed to meineke or carx. Look for a coupon and get it done at Tires Plus for $39.99.

#5 jcniest5

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 02:16 AM

....Look for a coupon and get it done at Tires Plus for $39.99.


Exactly why I will be going there. By the way, is the Legacy a 4-wheel or 2-wheel alignment? The 4-wheel alignment seems a little more so I wonder if mine is which one.

#6 applegump

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 04:59 AM

I had mine done at the dealer with their brand new 4 wheel fully computerized laser....etc..... I even got a print out of before and after. I was out 2mm on one and 1mm on another and the rest was spot on.

#7 NOMAD327

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 05:29 AM

Two wheel alignment is for rear wheel drive cars with solid rear axle and trucks with solid rear axle where there is no adjustment between the two rear wheels as they are all one piece. Most modern cars and your Subaru have independent motion of the two rear wheels and a four wheel alignment is required.

#8 uniberp

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Posted 15 February 2005 - 09:46 AM

Alignment to spec can result in terrible handling, ride and wear to the gear.

Make sure you tell them that if it pulls during driving or braking, you will want your money back. They may tell you that they can only align it to factory specs, but that is a bullsh** excuse for not actually doing what is required to make the car drive right. Seriously, I would say that the ratio of alignment shops that DON't know what they are dong to those that do has to be nearly 100:1.

Spec is not sufficient.

See: http://www.familycar.com/alignment.htm
Or if you are interested in performance alignment:
http://www.hadamotor...-alignment.html

mpergiel99foresterlelmhurstil

#9 calebz

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Posted 15 February 2005 - 07:35 PM

Two wheel alignment is for rear wheel drive cars with solid rear axle and trucks with solid rear axle where there is no adjustment between the two rear wheels as they are all one piece. Most modern cars and your Subaru have independent motion of the two rear wheels and a four wheel alignment is required.



Check out an older soob some time. No adjustment in the rear.. 2 wheel alignment;)

#10 blitz

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Posted 16 February 2005 - 09:04 AM

It depends. There is no way to really answer you.

I had 2 or 3 alignments done by the dealer. At their old location, they use to send them down the street to some other shop because they didn't have their own equipment. Result - I always had a "slight" pull to the left. I was beginning to think it was endemic to the car.

Then... bought a set of tires from a specialty tire shop. I had them do an alignment. No pull. Best so far. I think they did a second one too, but not sure.

Recently, I had the dealer change my rear struts. I let them talk me into an alignment, as they are now in a new location and have their own, brand new, SOTA equipment. Result - a "hint" of pull to the left. *shrug*

YMMV.

Commuter, the tires themselves can cause it. There's some production variance between individual tires that'll make the car to pull one way or the other. I wish tires sold in sets would be matched for this parameter (whatever it is).

#11 unverviking

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Posted 16 February 2005 - 09:40 AM

It mostly depends on the tech and their equipment. Most computerized equipment need to be calibrated frequently. I would mostly say that if a small inde shop has a rack, they tend to keep it calibrated, since it is a fairly large expense to have the rack in the first place, and they need to get their $$$ out of it by doing good alignments. The "BIG" tire stores, would have more "hands" on the equipment and could lose track of when it was last calibrated.

When I was an apprentice, my journeyman (small inde shop owner) had an OLD Snap On rack. It was the best around because it used bubble levels, not computerized. He was in the process of training me on it when I decided to change career fields... (Darn Computers)

My most recent 4 wheel alignment was done at a HD truck shop locally. They did a great job, rides true and only cost $69.95 + Uncle Sam's take... I would return there again.

#12 Setright

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Posted 16 February 2005 - 11:40 AM

It's a four wheel job. Toe in/out adjusts on all four wheels, and the front has some camber adjustment.

Toe all round should be as close to zero as possible.

Rear camber is likely to be around -1.0 degree. If it's very far off, you may have some worn suspension bushings to contend with.

FRONT camber factory spec is 0.0

I would STRONGLY recommend going for some negative camber at the front. The factory tolerance is -0.5 degrees, I would suggest getting as close as possible to this value.
The reason being that it virtually eliminates the play-it-safe understeer that the factory spec calls for. Half a degree negative camber will not make the car twitchy or tail happy, it will just balance front and rear cornering grip.

Go for a place with laser equipment, and tell them you want 0 toe all round, and half a degree negative camber at the front. Nevermind the protests from the computer!

#13 ron917

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Posted 16 February 2005 - 12:41 PM

Commuter, the tires themselves can cause it. There's some production variance between individual tires that'll make the car to pull one way or the other. I wish tires sold in sets would be matched for this parameter (whatever it is).


I've heard that it's caused by belts in the tire(s) that aren't in the correct position. That can happen from the factory, or the belts can "slip" later in the tire's life. I'm not an expert, just passing on what I've been told.

FWIW, I've had pulling problems from Bridgestone and Firestone tires, but never Michelin.

#14 friendly_jacek

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Posted 16 February 2005 - 12:45 PM

It's a four wheel job. Toe in/out adjusts on all four wheels, and the front has some camber adjustment.

Toe all round should be as close to zero as possible.

Rear camber is likely to be around -1.0 degree. If it's very far off, you may have some worn suspension bushings to contend with.

FRONT camber factory spec is 0.0

I would STRONGLY recommend going for some negative camber at the front. The factory tolerance is -0.5 degrees, I would suggest getting as close as possible to this value.
The reason being that it virtually eliminates the play-it-safe understeer that the factory spec calls for. Half a degree negative camber will not make the car twitchy or tail happy, it will just balance front and rear cornering grip.

Go for a place with laser equipment, and tell them you want 0 toe all round, and half a degree negative camber at the front. Nevermind the protests from the computer!


Thanks for this excellent advice. I purchased a "lifetime" alignment from a tire shop and the tires are not wearing right. At some point I suspected a conspiracy to sell more tires, but it may be that the setting are on one side of the tolerance range (within specs), I need to check.
Would heavy load in rear by itself (family trips with lots of gear, towing, etc) explain abnormal wear pattern with more wear on inner side rear and outer front?
Yes, I rotate the tires but they are trashed by 25000 miles.

#15 NoahDL88

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Posted 16 February 2005 - 05:13 PM

Cars will usually pull to the left after an alignment, albeit very slightly, this is to compensate for road crown, so when you're going down a two lane blacktop the wheel is straight.

BTW, if any of you need an alignment in the Seattle area, I'd reccomend University Ford Quality Care on 45th and Roosevelt, and ask for Brian, this guy does all the GT's and Corvettes in the PNW. if you're real nice, he might weigh you and put that weight in sandbags on your seat so that the alignment is speciffically tuned for you. Mention that Noah sent you and you won't sound so crazy. Really though, he's probably the best alignment guy in the north west.

#16 jbslalom

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Posted 16 February 2005 - 11:56 PM

I take my car to Firestone to get it aligned. They usually seem to do pretty well with the alignment, some stores are better than others. The main reason I go there is they have some lifetime alignment plan dealie where you pay $120 or so and you get lifetime alignments at no charge after that. Consdering the amount they charge for each one, it basically paid for itself now. I don't know if it was a limited time offer or what, but if you have a reputable Firestone shop in your area it might be worth looking into. So far i haven't had any unusual wear problems and my tires (Khumo Ecsta HP4) have about 30,000 miles on them.

#17 Setright

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Posted 17 February 2005 - 02:07 AM

Jacek, more rear inside wear can result from two things:

Too much toe-in, and the tyre drags. This usually gives small but visible ridges on the tread blocks.

Too much negative camber: Stock at no load is -1.0 in the rear. Heavy loads will lower the rear and increase inner wear. Wear will be smooth.


Front outer wear can also be a toe problem, but it often stems from compensating for wrong rear toe!
The manual I had for my 1990 Legacy also stated the outer front wear could be caused by "excessive speed in turns". A small amount of negavtive camber will compensate nicely for this.

#18 friendly_jacek

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Posted 17 February 2005 - 01:30 PM

Jacek, more rear inside wear can result from two things:

Too much toe-in, and the tyre drags. This usually gives small but visible ridges on the tread blocks.

Too much negative camber: Stock at no load is -1.0 in the rear. Heavy loads will lower the rear and increase inner wear. Wear will be smooth.


Front outer wear can also be a toe problem, but it often stems from compensating for wrong rear toe!
The manual I had for my 1990 Legacy also stated the outer front wear could be caused by "excessive speed in turns". A small amount of negavtive camber will compensate nicely for this.


Thanks!
I was aware about the turns, that explains the front
wear pattern I experienced in all the cars I drove.
The inner wear puzzled me a lot and the alignment guys were swearing everything was within specs. I tried to compensate by increasing pressure a bit but I never saw any benefit of that in terms of thread wear.




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