Alignment (Part 1)

My car was in need of an alignment. I had not had one performed since replacing all the bushes and lowering the car last year. After lowering, it drove pretty well and tracked straight so I thought it was not urgent. Since I bought the car, I have paid for two professional alignments. I was not happy with either so this time I am doing it myself. 

I got the first alignment done when I bought new tires soon after buying the car because the front axle did not feel good at all. The guy was old school but knew how the 308 needs to be aligned and had good equipment so he got the job. Adjusting the geometry on the 308 is all shim-based and is a pain in the ass… no eccentric bolts here to change geometry quickly. Any alignment on a 308 is going to involve 2 to 4 hours of labour, more if any of those suspension bolts are frozen or tricky.

I handed the car and a bag of shims to the shop owner and left for the day. On return, the car was done… 

“It was quite a way out at the front but we got it nailed down to the factory specs eventually. The back was very close” 

$280 was the bill.

Three years on and I changed my steering rack which mandated a brand new alignment. I took it to the same place. Left the car, a bag of shims and instructions to check bolts, etc since I had changed some of the suspension components myself.

“All your work was perfect. It was quite a way out at the front but we got it nailed down to the factory specs eventually. The rear was way out. Whoever did that did not know what they were doing.” 

$325 was the bill.

The rear wheels had not been touched in the intervening 3 years and nor had the ride height so nothing should have affected the rear at all. So this guy was either lying or not able to do the alignment correctly, so this time I decided to do it myself and learn a new skill. I know the rear had too much negative camber now the car has been lowered an inch – that was plain to see in the squat stance. And I assume that since I was still a little dissatisfied with the front turn in, there was some work to do there as well.

I bought a toe plate and digital camber meter combination from Tenhulzen Automotive since that seemed to provide a good mix of value and functonality in a budget package. I paid $209 for two plates and a gauge. 

Tenhulzen 3300 alignment plates

Front camber was measured first since camber changes everything else. The digital gauge has a calibration button that takes into account the slope of the ground. However, exactly how should one zero the gauge? The Tenhulzen training video shows the operator zero it against the ground next to the wheel. That is fine if the ground is completely flat but not necessarily level. But my garage floor is definitely not that flat. The concrete next to one of the wheels might be at a different slope than the rest of the garage.

I thought more about this… if the ride height of the car is consistent left to right, the car will have the same slope as the floor below it. So if there is some part of the car that is horizontal, that can be used to zero the gauge more accurately than using a piece of concrete near the wheel. I measured the ride height at each corner of the bumper and found 0.5mm difference. That’s close enough for me so I proceeded to zero the gauge against the flat, horizontal bumper.

Calibrating the camber guage to ‘level’

The camber readings for the front end were -1.10° on the right and -1.95° on the left. The factory specs for 16″ wheels are between -0.33° and -0.66°. ( so both my front tires have too much negative camber. This is probably due to my lowering the car last year. So what camber numbers should I use? Factory spec or something more modern? After all, those factory specs are 40 years old and tires have changed alot since then. For one, the sidewalls deform less.

Opinions on the internet were varied. Some advice was to always use the 40-year old specs for 16″ wheels while other advice was for much more negative camber given modern tire construction. Time for some ore thought and research… 

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Disclaimer: describes the restoration work I perform on my car and only my car. I am not a professional mechanic. The website content is presented for entertainment purposes only and should not be seen as any kind of advice, information, instruction or guidance for working on any other car. The opinions stated here are my own and no-one else’s.

2 Responses

  1. I remind you that the user manual recommends adjusting the suspensions with 2 people on board and luggage. I have never seen it, but I have always wondered if it was not a good idea… it impresses me to see you doing it yourself!

    • David says:

      😀 I rarely drive with two adults in the car… let alone luggage, so I won’t be doing that. Putting a weight equivalent to me in the drivers seat makes some sense though.

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