BoxheadTim (Generally Supportive)
BoxheadTim (Generally Supportive) MegaDork
6/13/20 7:50 p.m.

While I have used a local-ish race shop that does good alignments, they're a two hour round trip away from me and that's getting a bit old if you have to take at least half a day off work to get an alignment done. I still need some more experimentation with the alignment on the S2000, plus the 911 definitely needs an alignment once I sort out its various suspension ailments.

Is it worth doing alignments at home and if so, where do you start learning about them? I watched a YouTube video by Donut Media describing how they DIY'd the alignment on a Miata and it seemed fairly straightforward, albeit time consuming, and didn't seem to require that much in the way of tools (yes, I know about the Paco Motorsports stands that FM sells, and I'd probably get a set of them as they should cover all of my "hobby" car needs).

MrFancypants Reader
6/13/20 7:56 p.m.

Front toe is easy.  Buy or build your own set of toe plates.  Rear toe is a little trickier, but if you've had the car aligned on a rack and your thrust angle is good you likely don't need to mess with it unless you're adjusting something else that impacts toe.

There are some pretty decent and relatively inexpensive camber guages out there if you can adjust that on your car.

Doing the rear toe...  you can get creative with lasers or any number of other methods, but there's always the tried and true string method where you run strings down the sides of your car perfectly parallel with the center line of the car.  Then you measure the distance from the string to the forward part of the wheel and the rear.

BoxheadTim (Generally Supportive)
BoxheadTim (Generally Supportive) MegaDork
6/13/20 7:59 p.m.

The S2k is about as adjustable suspension wise as a Miata, so yes, camber is definitely adjustable and will have to be readjusted once I get around to installing subframe collars.

I'll need a good angle gauge that I can use for camber measurements to do the rear springplate on the 911 anyway, so being able to reuse that for other purposes would be great, too.

frenchyd PowerDork
6/13/20 8:52 p.m.

In reply to BoxheadTim (Generally Supportive) :

I've never used a professional. I started doing alignment's with the 1948 Buick hobby stocker. I'd noticed how the fast guys had their wheels pointing and followed them.  
Later when Jack Baker bought a Can Am car we  got it aligned using nothing but string and tire wear. 
Turns out string worked well enough to qualify for the Indy 500. Roger Rager bought an out of date Indy car and put a Chevy engine from a bus in it and wound up briefly leading the Indy 500  No, I didn't do that one. Roger lived in Mound Minnesota near me at the time and we spoke at various events 
By the 1990's I'd graduated to a set of scales ( and string). Later in the decade I  bought a camber gauge  from Snap on instead of adjusting based on tire temps. Turns out it's only the starting point. Still make adjustments based on tire temps. 

String, tire temps,  set of scales and a camber gauge as a starting point. 
By the way my scales are a set of levers on bathroom scales.  
You will need a flat spot in your garage. Guess what chances are pretty darn good  your floor is less than perfectly flat.  It's remarkably easy  to pick a spot to work on. Flood the floor with water. As it dries it shows low spots you can carefully measure how deep the water is. mark the spots where the your tires will  sit and use whatever to shim  the low spot to level. I've used a tile and some magazines. 13 pages of National Geographic under a piece of tile in the left  rear corner. Etc. 


Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/13/20 10:19 p.m.

In reply to BoxheadTim (Generally Supportive) :

I did my Miata a couple years ago & I hope to be doing the DSM soon.

With the Miata the most difficult & important part is finding the true centerline of the car to measure everything else from. What I ended up doing was measuring the distance between the unibody just inside of where the front fenders bolt on, then running the centerline from that down over the front bumper. I did something similar at the rear using the inside of the trunk lip. Using the suspension mounting points would have been better, but without a lift I couldn't get good measurements. 

From there I just made a box around the car with string, placed as close to hub centerline height as I could get, and measured from there. Keep in mind that as you adjust camber both front & rear, you're also changing the width of the car at the hubs slightly, and also when you adjust toe at the rear. I have no clue if the S2000 is similar in that regard. 

For the actual measuring I used a drywall square, that i clamped another L-square to at 90*, so it would free stand perpendicular to the floor. I'd then hold it gently against the string & measure to the wheel to determine toe.

Stefan (Forum Supporter)
Stefan (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/13/20 10:58 p.m.

Hell, there's camber apps for most phones.

That said, Dad taught me how to do alignments at home using some jack stands, a good ruler and a camber gauge.

Set the camber first.  Point the wheel so it is straight and adjust the camber using the gauge to where you want it.  Bounce the car/roll it in/out.  Use toe plates if you have them (a pair of thin melamine scraps with the faces sides together, works well for toe plates.

now adjust the toe.  jack stands go around the car.  String runs between the stands front to rear.  Adjust the stands until the string is equal distant from the centers of the front and rear tires on both sides.  Pick a distance that is easiest for the tools you're using.  Measure the distances from the string to the front and rear edge of the wheel.  Write the difference down.  Adjust toe until it is where you want it.

 Double check the camber and adjust it if necessary, then recheck the toe.  Repeat until you get it right.

Not long ago we added a set of wooden stands for the car to set on, makes reaching the adjustments easier and we can still bounce the car to settle suspension after a change.  Combined with thin melamine pieces it makes for a decent setup that doesn't require rolling the car in/out.  A set of hub stands would make camber adjustments faster and easier.

we also made a set of bars that attached to the front and rear of the car that took the place of the jack stands.  In either case, they hold the strings at a known distance from the center of the wheels.  Using bars mounted to the car meant that moving the car in/out or bouncing it around didn't change that distance, shortened the process up a noticeable amount since you didn't have to move the dang stands every time.



accordionfolder Dork
6/14/20 10:14 a.m.

Use clear hose and water to make a water level to find a flat spot in the garage. I use Paco stands, expensive, but worth it.


amg_rx7 (Forum Supporter)
amg_rx7 (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
6/14/20 11:03 a.m.

I use a strings system for toe and thrust angle and a camber gauge

works great on the Miata. I've used it at the track for track side repairs as well as in the garage on a set of scales and hub stands. Takes a bit of time to get squared up at the start but very effective. 
I don't bother trying to measure caster. I just have the eccentrics set at similar settings. I could put more effort into caster but haven't thus far 

frenchyd PowerDork
6/14/20 11:23 a.m.

In reply to accordionfolder :

The hard and expensive. I'm sure it works but a coat of water let to dry and it will reveal any low spots and how low they are. 

MrFancypants Reader
6/14/20 11:42 a.m.

My technique for finding the centerline of the car is to hang plum bobs from key suspension or subframe hookups on either side of the vehicle at the front and rear, mark the center between right and left sides of the car, then draw a straight line connecting the center points between the front and rear.

Then you can just set your strings parallel to that line. My thinking is that unless there's frame damage, points where the suspension connects or where the subframe connects should be reliable ways to determine true center.

accordionfolder Dork
6/14/20 11:47 a.m.

In reply to frenchyd :

The stands are expensive, but the water level is like 5 bucks of clear tubing - I'm not sure which part you're referring to as difficult. I guarantee I can do as accurate alignment as strings. And definitely do it faster (and on any car in the same amount of time). There's a reason many of the good teams I know of use Paco or the other more expensive alignment stands. Neither the water level nor the hub stands are difficult though.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/14/20 8:26 p.m.

I have done several using strings and a level.  The first few times I decided to get it as close as possible, then take it to an alignment machine for "laser precision."  I was dead on those first few times, so I stopped paying the money and I do it myself.

Watch all the googles and you'll be fine.  Toe is pretty easily done with chalk, although I've never tried that method.  I do the strings on jackstands method.  I have also done it with a straightedge clamped to the tires and measured across, although that requires clear line of sight from one side to the other.  Works on many trucks, but not very well on a Civic.

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