tb HalfDork
April 10, 2014 12:59 p.m.

Long story short... I have made some changes on my challenge e30 and I need some help getting the alignment back in order. I cannot take it to a shop and stay within budget. Even though I used to be able to do a decent job myself, health issues are slowing me down.

Is there anyone somewhat close to Philly that can lend a hand? I know I need to verify (maybe modify) front camber, properly align the steering wheel and check/set toe. It really shouldn't be too hard, but after spinal cord surgery a few months ago it is something I would really rather not do myself. Also, I am far from a suspension expert so I could probably learn something from a better wrench than I.

I could probably chip away at it slowly, but I really want to get out to the Solo National Tour event in NJ the first weekend of May... Maybe someone can let me piggyback onto a work weekend and I can lend as much help as possible with your project? Only about three weeks left for prep.

I do not usually reach out for help like this, but I am learning to live with my limitations and such. Thank you very much!

tb HalfDork
April 11, 2014 11:09 a.m.

Wow! I just noticed that with this ^ post I am officially up to HalfDork status! Only in the Mag a half a dozen times and already catching up to you all online...

The weather is too nice to play on the computer though, I am gonna go actually work on my car!

turboswede UltimaDork
April 11, 2014 11:25 a.m.

Not hard to do with a flat surface, some string, a good ruler, an angle gauge (or the Camber app for your smart phone) and a set of jack stands.

This should help:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjZUu_d08t8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZoL1gaWedA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJmRXlisnZ0

Basically, measure the track front and rear (if there is a difference in track width, you'll want to know to keep the string parallel).

Set the jack stands at the corners of the car, run the string between the stands so it is taught. Move the jack stands so the space between the string from the center of the wheel is even on both sides, taking into account any difference in track width.

Measure the distance from the string to the front and rear edge of the wheels, write it down on a sheet of paper to make it easier to know whether you have toe-in or toe-out.

Now, with the angle gauge or the camber app on your phone, measure the camber and write that down.

With that done, remove the jackstands, string, etc. and raise the car up to adjust the suspension. Start with the camber first since it tends to mess with the toe when it is adjusted (especially on strut equipped cars). Lock the adjustment down, put the car on the ground and roll it back and forth while jumping up and down to settle the suspension.

Re-setup the stands and strings using the same distance as before. RE-measure and see if further adjustment is needed (typically toe will now need to be adjusted). If you need to adjust further, repeat the above steps until you get it where you want it.

Take the car out for a drive and see if further adjustments are needed (more or less camber, adjust tie-rods to better center steering, reduce or increase toe, etc.)

tb HalfDork
April 11, 2014 12:23 p.m.

Thanks for the refresher course. I have done it before and really only need to fine tune things this time.

My plea is more of a geographical and physical issue. I live in a major urban area with no good place nearby to work in such a manor. Also, I am still struggling with mobility and motor control due to severe nerve damage. My manual dexterity sucks and getting up & down a million times is taxing.

I can get it done well enough myself in an entire day in a borrowed driveway; with an extra set of hands or two with decent equipment I imagine it could be wrapped up in an hour or so...

Vigo PowerDork
April 11, 2014 12:42 p.m.

For some stupid reason i read the thread title and thought of someone smacking their Dodge Challenger into a curb. COMMENCE FAT CAR JOKES!

This is better, though. Carry on.

JThw8 PowerDork
April 11, 2014 1:14 p.m.

Am I geographically convenient enough? (You've been to my place) You can have access to my driveway and tools and I'll assist where I can. If you have a good handle on the "how to" I can follow instruction. We can noodle over your final vinyl designs as well.

I think I have sunday kinda freeish or maybe saturday after 12.

tb HalfDork
April 11, 2014 2:29 p.m.

In reply to Vigo:

Yes, I suppose I could have worded it a bit better... but rest assured the next time I smack any of my cars into anything sizable I will be sure to post some pics!

tb HalfDork
April 11, 2014 2:31 p.m.
JThw8 wrote: Am I geographically convenient enough? (You've been to my place) You can have access to my driveway and tools and I'll assist where I can. If you have a good handle on the "how to" I can follow instruction. We can noodle over your final vinyl designs as well. I think I have sunday kinda freeish or maybe saturday after 12.

I think that you are the closest car guy near me (at least that I would actually allow to touch my car...)

Call me tonight? I hate to put you out any since I know you have your hands full these days.

JThw8 PowerDork
April 11, 2014 3:15 p.m.
tb wrote:
JThw8 wrote: Am I geographically convenient enough? (You've been to my place) You can have access to my driveway and tools and I'll assist where I can. If you have a good handle on the "how to" I can follow instruction. We can noodle over your final vinyl designs as well. I think I have sunday kinda freeish or maybe saturday after 12.

I think that you are the closest car guy near me (at least that I would actually allow to touch my car...)

Call me tonight? I hate to put you out any since I know you have your hands full these days.

Gonna be out and about tonite but if I get home at a reasonable hour I'll call, if not I'll holler tomorrow morning. Shouldn't take too long and I don't have a whole lot on the agenda this weekend for a change, just pulling the VW out of storage and cleaning it up.

And there are plenty of other good folks in the area who you could trust to touch your car too, I just don't think they've seen this thread yet. :)

tb HalfDork
April 14, 2014 2:07 p.m.

Update:

Jim and I made a valiant effort yesterday, but met with only moderate success. It seems like our measuring and math skills were just not up to the puzzle before us.

Current Status:

The camber all around is in good shape; close enough to -1 rear and -1.5 front and pretty much even each side. The steering wheel is pretty close to straight when driving on level ground in a direct path. The toe is set ever so slightly in on each wheel; exact number was actually never verified at the end of things.

Remaining issue:

This car just wants to wander all over the road; almost seemingly at random sometime. It tramlines and follows slight slopes or crowns rapidly if you remove your hand from the wheel. It is dramatic how quickly it moves off straight when left to its own accord.

Overview:

We are not idiots, but not suspension gurus either... It all seems like everything should be right. Tire pressures are set, all components are in good shape and nothing is obviously bent or misaligned. I still would not mind another set of hands and working brain to look at things. The car actually drives well and handles great, it just will not quite behave itself all of the time...

Any and all thoughts are greatly appreciated.

tuna55 PowerDork
April 14, 2014 2:12 p.m.

Could be many things, bumpsteer, caster, kpi etc depending on what you actually did to it between then and now.

Check bumpsteer first. Pull the springs and jack the front through its suspension travel and watch for toe changes.

GameboyRMH MegaDork
April 14, 2014 2:13 p.m.

^That's a nasty condition that could be caused by a few different things:

  • Toe out (not in this case, since you're running some toe-in)
  • Unequal caster (or too much/too little)
  • Steering rack not centered when the car's driving straight - make sure your lock angle is the same in both directions
turboswede UltimaDork
April 14, 2014 2:19 p.m.

How's the steering shaft joints? Does the car use a rag joint or rubber damping donut?

How are the rear subframe mounts?

tb HalfDork
April 14, 2014 2:22 p.m.

In reply to tuna55:

Those are some good ideas and I will certainly check them out at the next opportunity. Bumpsteer seems like a highly suspicious condition.

Thanks!

tb HalfDork
April 14, 2014 2:24 p.m.

In reply to GameboyRMH:

More good thoughts; much appreciated. Checking the caster should be easy enough, although I am not sure that it has changed.

The steering rack is something that I should triple check just to make sure everything is even and I will put it on my list of suspects.

Thanks!

tb HalfDork
April 14, 2014 2:29 p.m.

In reply to turboswede:

It does use a rubber damping doughnut; but it appears to be in really good shape. There is very minimal play anywhere in the overly complicated setup that BMW uses and I have made double sure that everything is tight there... great minds think alike!

The rear subframe mounts and everything back there also appears to be in good condition. Nothing obvious to note and I have had several sets of good eyes look at it up on a lift.

This car was actually very well maintained over most of its life and had dealer service for any little defect up until about 6 years ago. The stack of receipts is pretty impressive. I have found very little of anything to suspect in any of the wear items.

Thanks!

tuna55 PowerDork
April 14, 2014 2:32 p.m.

What did you change from the last known-good condition?

Vigo PowerDork
April 14, 2014 2:32 p.m.
Yes, I suppose I could have worded it a bit better... but rest assured the next time I smack any of my cars into anything sizable I will be sure to post some pics!

I wasnt trying to critique your wording, sorry! Just pointlessly ruminating on the strange inner workings of my brain.

tb HalfDork
April 14, 2014 2:36 p.m.

In reply to Vigo: It is all good! I realize that I need to be more careful with my wording on the internet though; I do not write enough here to stay in good practice.

Example: There are in fact many people on this board that I would throw my keys to anytime or let them wrench away on their own; I misspoke earlier when I indicated to the contrary.

Too bad we can never really express emotion or make up for slang and regional dialect properly on a computer yet... but I digress..

tb HalfDork
April 14, 2014 2:43 p.m.

In reply to tuna55:

Their in lies the rub... It has pretty much done this to some extent since I got it. Truthfully, it seems to be better some days than others. I notice it very least when going fast on relatively flat highways. The wife seems to think it gets better as it warms up after driving a while.

I do not have a really solid baseline to return to; which makes my thoughts go all over the place.

It has newish tires in stock width, newish shocks/struts all around, and newish stock steering components throughout from rack & lines to tie rod ends... like less than 5k miles on anything at most. The rear spring pads are gone both top and bottom and a thick spacer lives in the rear springs between coils to stop some compression and weight transfer. The front springs have been cut down by two coils and it sits very well. A conservative lowering but nothing out of the ordinary.

I know that this would be easier to figure out if I can think of a time this never happened at all, but in the year I have owned it this has been a constant problem. The last previous owner was kind of an idiot, but it seems like he never hurt anything too badly...

tuna55 PowerDork
April 14, 2014 2:47 p.m.

If PO did the rack, and he was an idiot, I'd bet on the rack being installed wrong... somehow. Bumpsteer is a good place to check. Ackermann may also show you something.

Hal SuperDork
April 14, 2014 2:51 p.m.

Definitely sounds like a caster problem to me. I would check that first before going to more drastic measures.

tb HalfDork
April 14, 2014 2:54 p.m.

In reply to tuna55:

Agreed! I think I have some good direction as to what to check out in more depth now. I can probably get to it sometime soon and will update here if I find anything interesting or have more questions.

Sadly, I am still borrowing driveways to work in and learning to work around my new disabilities so nothing happens fast with me. Also, I am trying my best to remain under challenge budget for now so any new parts will really hurt the balance sheet...

Thanks again for the ideas. It really is more at an inconvenience level right now but I keep telling myself that this should not be so hard to figure out!

tb HalfDork
April 14, 2014 2:57 p.m.

In reply to Hal:

Will do! I think that there are some relatively simple aftermarket items to change caster for the e30 and I will research to try to find where it wants to be versus what I find that it is.

I have no real hopes of fixing it completely in the next two weeks but I will keep working on it and I appreciate all of the feedback here!

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