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Old 03-25-2013, 11:41 AM   #1
bones33
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String alignment, totally worth it.

Just after purchasing the well used car, the local shop I occasionally use did an alignment. I knew the alignment was way off and the shop confirmed and "fixed" it. Then the car would do the goofy rear end dance on tar strips and bumps. Thinking it was a bushing problem, one thing led to another and I end up doing the whole suspension refresh.

So at 123,000 miles the ST got the SVT kit from Ford, a Poly Total Kit, Moog greasable ball joints and tie rod ends. It was a long, drawn out pain to put in the total kit in hopes of better road feel if I could get it. Also a 25mm rear bar to help balance the handling. A string toe alignment in my garage to set the toe took about an hour to do, not including accumulating the scrap materials.

Result, the car is firm but not harsh, handling is really great and it goes dead straight with no rear end dancing. The poly bushings are not at all as firm feeling as I was expecting, but since the whole suspension was changed it's difficult to isolate. Maybe the stock bushings are not all that bad.

Learning more about the car and inspecting each bushing upon removal, the bushings all looked good. Possibly one rear trailing arm is suspect as it was just starting to delaminate from the trailing arm. I really wonder about the accuracy of the shop alignment. Looking back, I should have checked the shop toe alignment with a string set-up in the first place.

Having done it once, I can't believe I haven't done it until now. It's really pretty easy and straightforward - and apparently, from my experience anyway - accurate. The car feels perfect. Even more fun in the corners too.

Next, I'll need to make a simple gauge to check camber. Not that it's adjustable, but it would be nice to know.


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Old 03-25-2013, 12:10 PM   #2
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Welcome to the party pal, I lined up 200 mph race cars exactly like that. I use a cheap Home Depot angle finder to do the camber, a little small but works fine. I have never paid ever for alignment, been doing my own for 40+ years. Back when caster was more adjustable I simply used the machine flats usually present on the sides of knuckles, angle finder there too, or machinist's level. You can deduce caster somewhat from the right/left relative pulling force of steering wheel centering too.

If you carefully align it, no alignment shop on the planet can outdo the job noticeably, regardless of how many millions their computer cost. Of course they will say otherwise...............
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Old 03-25-2013, 12:11 PM   #3
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Is there a how-to for doing your own alignment?
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Old 03-25-2013, 12:35 PM   #4
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In my view something you learn for yourself, simply too much liability there. Some idiot (not referring to you of course) does it incompetently and then the lawyer after accident comes looking for the person to sue. Attention to detail there important, ADD persons need to not be going there.................

The self-push to learn all the angles involved and effects pretty much guarantees only competent persons will do it.
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Old 03-25-2013, 02:57 PM   #5
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I've upgraded from strings to the laser that's on my level............
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Old 03-25-2013, 03:40 PM   #6
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Thought about it. You can't see the laser where it simply passes close to things though can you? I don't smoke.
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Old 03-25-2013, 03:52 PM   #7
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You can see the laser when it it's the ruler that I use to measure the distance from the beam to the wheel.
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Old 03-26-2013, 02:35 AM   #8
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Gotcha............
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Old 03-26-2013, 03:20 AM   #9
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Never had the chance to do it yet, but it works. I know that used to be Saab's recommended alignment method awhile back.
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Old 03-28-2013, 09:27 AM   #10
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Thanks all for the comments. Now, after driving the car for a few more days, I'm even more impressed. It really drives great. No more alignment shops for me! I still can't believe I hadn't learned how to do this until now, it is really quite simple for our Focus. For those that are unfamiliar with it, do some searching. There are lots of how-to's out there.

Alignment is one of those things like changing brake fluid and other maintenance, it scares many people. It's also easy to do and can save you a good bit of cash. If you are nervous have a friend or relative check your work to find any obvious mistakes.

By the way I have ADD, and Asbergers. The great thing about Asbergers is the intense concentration available when one is interested in something.
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