It’s not that I don’t trust my alignment shop, it’s just that I can’t pay $75 bucks and take time off work every time I touch my front end. That and I like to do as much of the work on my car as I possibly can. If you are in the same boat read on. Page 1, important things to know before you start:
Even though I do my alignments with cheap easy to find tools I assure you I take no chances at all with my $275 a piece tires. If I didn’t know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wasn’t going to wreck anything I would not be doing this. That being said if you get to the end of this post and are at all unsure or feel uncomfortable then do not attempt this. It’s very easy to kill your tires if you mess it up!
The first time you do this figure at least 4 hours. After you do it a few times you will be much faster but pick a day with plenty of time so you can be relaxed and enjoy the process.
This assumes you know what Caster, Camber and Toe are and know your way around an F body well enough to adjust them. In a nutshell pushing the lower control arms out gives my more positive caster and more negative camber.
This is only for camber and toe. You can measure caster using a level, tape measure 4 jack stands and some string but it is a very time consuming PITA and I don’t think it’s worth the effort. Caster is not a tire wearing angle anyway so I usually just crank the rear adjusters all the way out for max positive caster and call it a day. However as much as possible you want to be sure you move your caster adjustments the same on both sides because it will cause a pull if you are very different side to side.
In case you are wondering I’m an autocrosser and track day guy so I usually shoot for about 1.3 negative camber 4.5 positive caster and 0 toe. All the photos you see here are at -1.5 camber. I would NOT recommend that much negative camber on a street or strip car because it WILL wear the inside of your tires. Due to GM build slop most cars would take some grinding on at least one side to get that much negative camber anyway.
Finally this assumes you have basic hand tools, decent ramps, a jack and jack stands.
(side note, my ramps are awesome DIY ramps and if you have a lowered car with wide tires these are a must have to do alignments) Page 2, equipment needed you probably don’t already have:
2 tape measures preferably identical.
1 digital level
I got mine here: http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_1...0Levelingmv=rr
15 feet of plastic tubing. Mine is too small and I would get at least ľ ID if I was doing it again.
2 inches of shims to put under the tires. (1/8” LuAnn plywood works great or pressed chip like I use.)
2 turn plates. The turn plates can be 2 pieces of your shim material with a little grease in between them. Don’t get carried away with the grease though or it will squish out all over the place and make a mess. (Yep I did that). I used 2 pieces of flat PVC plastic for my plates and they work great.
Now a word of caution here. These turn plates make a very slippery surface for your car to be on and if you give the car a good shove side ways you can push it right off your ramps. I almost dropped a 70 mustang trying to break a bolt loose when it was on my plates. I don’t think you will have any trouble but it is something to be aware of.
2 optional toe brackets to hold your tape measures. These are handy and, if you make them right, probably more accurate for setting toe, but you can just use another person and measure off the tires too. If you go the tire route it is helpful to have tires with a straight line in the tread to measure from and a non lowered car.
1 or 2 optional hunks of box metal the length of your wheel size. This is handy too and probably more accurate for measuring camber, but I have done many with out it.
You ABSOLUTELY DO NOT NEED the special OTC alignment tool at the books say is needed for F bodies. What it does is push or pull the control arm but it’s no problem at all move the arms without the tool. To move the control arm out you loosen the adjustor and pry it out with a pry bar. To move the arm in you loosen the adjustor and jack the car up from the K member. Gravity will move the control arm in just fine for you.
All the other equipment you’ll need you should have lying around. OK on to the show. Page 3, leveling the car:
It pays to start with a level floor because the first thing you do is get the car up in the air and get it level. So before you put your car on the ramps put a stick across them and use your shims to get the ramps as close to level as possible. A little care here saves a lot of time later on.
I put my turn plates down before I drive up but if you do that be very careful when you get to the top of the ramps because you will have NO FRONT BRAKES at all. Those turn plates will slide you right off the end of your ramps if you let them.
As much as possible leave the suspension loaded like it is going down the road. So put your stands under the rear end and when jacking up the front always bounce the car and turn the wheels to settle the suspension.
With the car up in the air the first thing I do is grab a can of light colored spray paint and paint my adjusters. That way I know where I started and about where the stock alignment should be. That is important so you know how far moving the caster. It is also handy if you ever want to put it back stock. If you don’t want to paint it you can mark them with a scribe later but if you are going to paint them do it now so it can dry.
Next up check the tire pressure in your front tires to be sure they are the same. If the car is sitting on the rears do that in the back too.
Now take that 15’ of tubing and fill it with liquid. I used antifreeze so it is easy to see and I don’t have to drain it in the winter. Your hose is now officially a water level. Hold both ends of the hose up to one wheel so the water stops at the edge of the wheel lip in both hoses. Tape one of the hoses in place.
Keep the hose level as you move to the other side and tape the other end on the other wheel in the same place. Now go grab a cold one. With anti freeze in my undersized hose it takes about 20 seconds for it to find its level. If you use a larger hose or a lighter viscosity liquid it levels faster and you can skip the cold one. After they settle start adding shims until the water is exactly at the lip on both wheels. If you did a good job leveling your ramps you won’t have to mess with this much. Remember if you jack up the car to put shims under be sure and turn the wheels and bounce the front end to settle the suspension.
OK with the front level from side to side do the exact same thing in the back. The good news here is you don’t need to settle the suspension in the back after you shim it.
Next take a reading from front to back on both sides of the car. Since we are not messing with Caster this is not a super critical measurement but I like to have it with in about a half inch or so and the same on both sides. If you do need to adjust do it from the back. (Note my first few alignments I leveled it from corner to corner too. It certainly would not hurt you to check that but I really don’t see the need and don’t do it anymore.)
Lastly go back and measure the front side to side again. It should not have changed but I always double check it to be sure. The front is critical that you get it as close as possible to level.
And now you see why it pays to start with a level floor. This leveling process can be annoying and slow but after you do it a few times you will be able to do it in just a few minutes.