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Old 01-11-2008, 11:16 AM   #1
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curbs and alignment NEED HELP

unfortunately, i was driving in the snow last night and rocked a curb at about 20 mph. I checked the control arms, and tie rods, wheels +tires, nothing appears to be damaged. However, my steering wheel is off center. car drives just fine, turns without unpredictability, and straightlines without vibration. my steering wheel is just cocked about 15 degrees off center.

So i'm taking it to a local alignment shop to have it aligned, but i don't want to walk in there not knowing whats up. Anybody else have similar problems in the past? whats the likelihood that this issue can be fixed with a $50 alignment job?

any info would be helpful, i hate getting jerked around by shady mechanics.


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Old 01-11-2008, 11:35 AM   #2
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also, what settings should i ask for?
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Old 01-11-2008, 12:32 PM   #3
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curb woes

unfortunately, i was driving in the snow last night and rocked a curb at about 20 mph. I checked the control arms, and tie rods, wheels +tires, nothing appears to be damaged. However, my steering wheel is off center. car drives just fine, turns without unpredictability, and straightlines without vibration. my steering wheel is just cocked about 15 degrees off center.

So i'm taking it to a local alignment shop to have it aligned, but i don't want to walk in there not knowing whats up. Anybody else have similar problems in the past? whats the likelihood that this issue can be fixed with a $50 alignment job?

any info would be helpful, i hate getting jerked around by shady mechanics.
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Old 01-11-2008, 12:37 PM   #4
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yes, I did the same thing in the rain in a miata I used to have... I spun out and slammed my front driver rim into the curb. The car drove straight minus the steering wheel being off center by about 60 degrees. I took it in to have it aligned and everything was back to normal afterwards.
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Old 01-11-2008, 12:43 PM   #5
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Merged duplicate threads.

As far as alignment settings, have them set the toe to the minimum settings as shown in the specs.
Camber is virtually non-adjustable on these cars.
What little is available, again, have them set it at the minimum as shown in the specs.
The above is primarily to eliminate any tire wear issues, while preserving the excellent handling capabilities of the car.
Though...as you found out, take it easy in the snow.

But...First...have them do a decent check on all vital front end components to make sure nothing is bent or damaged.
You may also pull your wheel off and have it checked to see if it's bent or not.
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Old 01-11-2008, 12:47 PM   #6
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It's conceivable that you bent a tie rod or worse yet a control arm. Unfortunately it doesn't take much of a hit to do it and it won't be visible until its up on the alignment rack.

I have had good luck with Brakes Plus here in Westminster, I'm pretty sure there is one in the Fort as well. They might be worth looking into for the alignment. Check their web site for a print-off coupon, last time I went it cost $43.00 with the coupon.

The only real setting that can be done is toe on a Focus. There's a little wiggle room for camber but not a lot. Ask for front toe as close to zero as possible. A little toe-out up front (about -0.03 (aprox. 1/32) on each side is OK, but don't go too much more). Not much more can be done up front.

In the rear, ask for toe to be set to as close to 0.04" IN on each side. This will reduce chances of inside edge tire wear caused by too much negative camber. You don't want to much toe-in as it can exasperate tire wear. If rear camber is over -1.5 degrees you may want to think about getting camber bolts. We couldn't get our ZX3 below -1.9 degrees and that caused a fair amount of tire wear. With camber bolts I easily got it down into the -1.3 to -1.4 degree range. For now, get that front problem taken car of and worry about the rear later.
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Old 01-11-2008, 03:26 PM   #7
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fixed

so i took it to straight line alignment in fort collins, and the owner was a really friendly and helpful guy. Once we had it up you could clearly see that the tierod was slightly bent. He grabbed a giant prybar and bend the sucker back almost to perfection. Once aligned, the car once again drives like its on rails. he only charged me 50 bucks!

however, the alignment showed that the caster on the opposite side was well out of position-- 2.16 degrees. the right is at .54. the car doesn't pull or wiggle, but should i be concerned about this?

front toe is right at 0 on both.

could probly use some camber bolts for the back with -1.45 on left and -2.29 on the right. tire wear seems ok tho so i'll put it off

thanks for the help amigos!
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Old 01-12-2008, 03:31 AM   #8
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Good deal on getting things back in alignment, but be wary of the tie rod.
Bent metal is never as strong after it's bent back into shape.
When convenient, I'd swap in a new tie rod to be safe.

That Caster on the right is bad.
I don't remember the exact spec off hand, but generally caster should be +2.0° and greater.

And, you guessed right on needing a camber bolt for the right rear at least.
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Old 01-12-2008, 02:14 PM   #9
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Front caster range is 2.0 to 4.1 degrees for an SVT. My guess is that the control arm got bent back just a little as well. That would explain the lower caster spec on that side. You hit on the right side correct? Caster affects straight line stability. It in and of itself won't cause damage to the tire. You might want to take it out on I-25 and run it up to the speed limit and see how it handles. If it doesn't wander (drift between lanes), doesn't feel overly quick and you can hold it steady without a lot of constant steering input or muscle things may be OK. If, however it does wander or requires considerable effort, you will need to replace that lower control arm. They aren't terribly expensive but you'll have to follow up with another alignment so it does start to add up cost wise.

I agree with WD40 to spring for the camber bolts. That amount of camber on the right side combined with too much toe and you'll eat that tire up quickly. Do you have a toe setting you could share for that side. Hopefully its close to the 0.04 setting I gave you previously. If you need to replace the front control arm (or decide to replace the tie rod) do the bolts at the same time so the one extra alignment will cover everything.
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Old 01-14-2008, 04:13 PM   #10
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thanks for the help again guys. wd40, i was worried about that tie rod being weak-- they're weak enough stock let alone bent and rebent! thanks for the tip! camber bolts are something i should do in the future.

---all measurements in degreeS---
geezer, the toe in the rear is .27 on the left and .31 on the right. I can probly hold off for a few more months on the bolts, provided i don't nail anymore curbs. I mistyped, and i hit the curb on the left side(driver's)- thats where the bent rod was. the right front (passenger) caster is off- probly from something else. im not concerned tho, the car seems to handle just fine. I don't even have to hold the wheel at 80mph on a straightaway.

Few more things i failed to mention-- i have a strut tower brace, and the car has over 70,000 miles on it. mileage considered, i think im doing pretty average on alignment specs. Being a poor college student, my income doesn't allow for a suspension rebuild-- and the car handles well as is. maybe once i get a job i can afford to maintain my car properly!!! Thanks again for the tips and help
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