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Author Topic: Alignment tools and options
Frank Todaro
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Year : 1999
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I am going to invest in the necessary alignment tools and I have a few options on different designs that I wanted to throw out for comment. I am going to take this a step at a time and I am not going to buy the scales yet, that's the costly one, but I am going to buy a camber and toe gauge.

Here is the choices
1) I am thinking of spending the money on the smart strings set up vs. using the jack stand method. Yes its more costly at 400.00 but once you set up the strings on the car and make adjustments, its static you do not have to start over calibrating jack stands.

2) The Smart Camber/Caster digital Gauge is the same price as the longacre product I am leaning towards the Smart product.
Longacre: http://www.saferacer.com/longacre-digital-cc-gauge...dapter.html?productid=485
Smart: http://www.smartracingproducts.com/catalog/alignment.htm

3) lastly, toe plates two types; the Longacre plates that they provide measuring tapes and you just measure the front and rear of the wheel or the Dream plate system that you take the measurement off of the string alignment. http://www.saferacer.com/a.r.t.-dream-stick-string-toe-gauge.html?productid=1815

Comments. I an looking for your suggestions of one over the other and why or other equipment that I have not considered. Speed and the ability to do this at the track if necessary is a consideration. Thanks for your help and comments.

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Frank
Member: No Pain Racing

MPR22
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Shop Iron Canyon Motorsports, for about the same $400, you get Miata specific string set (= faster setup), Camber and Caster guage and wheel plates (= faster and more accurate setup).

Customer Service ++++++ outstanding.

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Michael Ross

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Toe strings: Get the Iron Canyon Motorsports setup for less than half the price of the Smart Strings. It's designed for the Miata.

I look at toe plates as a fast and dirty way of checking toe, and to double check my string measurements, but strings are always used for the formal setting of toe. The inherent flaw of toe plates is they only give you total toe which doesn't take into account thrust alignment. This isn't that big of a deal on the front, but on the rear this could cause crabbing.

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Rob Gibson
RJ Racing
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rjracing.net
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Frank Todaro
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I need to make a clarification on #3 I meant to say Toe measurement (to measure toe) not the plates you roll the tire on to. for that I will use tiles oar some other option. I am looking at the Iron canyon site now Wow the prices are right. the digital caster camber gauge does not look at that sophisticated, does it work well? I like the Miata specific parts, Looks like a good way to go. so you recommend the entire system??

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Frank
Member: No Pain Racing

MPR22
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I am still on the fence about the camber/caster gauge because my daugter is starting in Karts so I was leaning towards the Longacre product since it has a mount for Karts sold seperately. If i was only using for the Miata, yes I would definatley go with the Iron Canyon product.

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Michael Ross

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I also use the Iron Canyon string device. Just as good and half the price of the Smart unit. There is a short learning curve to get the feel of it, and if you're going to raise and lower the car you'll need to tape the frame in place due to car-body twist. Otherwise I find it moves an 1/8" or so.

As far as toe, I set it measuring off of the strings and then double check with the toe plates. As stated above I wouldn't use only the plates because they can't tell which way the tires are pointing, just the gross toe in/out.

For camber I use a digital level held against an I-beam cut to rim diameter. Works for me and is cheap. Also kart friendly

I rarely bother with caster 'cause it's such a pain in the ass. (Sorry Jon)

Every couple years I'll pay someone to scale the car cause owning a set just isn't in the budget. -- and that's when the caster gets done!

Viet-Tam Luu
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I recently got the Iron Canyon kit for my '99 and love it.

Re: caster, I start out by setting the alignment bolts for maximum caster, then I set the camber to what I want (backing out caster if I need to), and then set the toe. Very easy in front because camber and toe are adjusted independently (camber via the alignment bolts, toe via the steering tie rods). I'm still finding adjusting the rear to be a minor PITA as the same set of alignment bolts control both camber and toe so it's an incremental process, making repeated adjustments to get camber and toe closer and closer to what I want.

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Viet-Tam Luu (a.k.a. "Tam")
SFR-SCCA #14 ITS
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Keith in WA Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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Check out the Miatacage combo on the Iron Canyon string setup and toe stick. It's a pretty good deal compared to buying them separately from Iron Canyon directly.

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Keith Novak
(Will work for tires)

Frank Todaro
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quote:
Originally posted by Viet-Tam Luu:
I recently got the Iron Canyon kit for my '99 and love it.

Re: caster, I start out by setting the alignment bolts for maximum caster, then I set the camber to what I want (backing out caster if I need to), and then set the toe. Very easy in front because camber and toe are adjusted independently (camber via the alignment bolts, toe via the steering tie rods). I'm still finding adjusting the rear to be a minor PITA as the same set of alignment bolts control both camber and toe so it's an incremental process, making repeated adjustments to get camber and toe closer and closer to what I want.

On the camber caster gauges I mentioned above they have a feature that you can use then in an non level environment after you calibrate them for it, does the Iron mountain unit permit that, this sounds like it would be a good feature?

--------------------
Frank
Member: No Pain Racing

Viet-Tam Luu
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quote:
Originally posted by Frank Todaro:
On the camber caster gauges I mentioned above they have a feature that you can use then in an non level environment after you calibrate them for it, does the Iron mountain unit permit that, this sounds like it would be a good feature?

While you'll never be able align your Miata when it's parked on the side of a hill, if it's sitting on a flat surface that's close to level it will probably work okay. You can get a reference "horizontal" for measuring camber by zeroing the camber gauge on the horizontal string bar as long as you have the string bar brackets set up correctly. What I did was adjust the brackets to make sure both ends of each string bar are exactly the same distance off the ground; basically I used a pair of identical jack stands and tightened up the bracket adjustments with each end of the string bar resting lightly on a jack stand.

Keep in mind you're unlikely to find a flat surface that's not also level (no slope) since a typical flat surface is a concrete pad which is going to be level as well.

[ 07-01-2010, 11:21 AM: Message edited by: Viet-Tam Luu ]

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Viet-Tam Luu (a.k.a. "Tam")
SFR-SCCA #14 ITS
Director, SCCA San Francisco Region

Viet-Tam Luu
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Should also mention I usually just bring a set of Longacre toe plates with me to the track for quickly checking and resetting toe. I also have a Craftsman digital level I use to approximately measure camber. It's about as accurate as any other camber measuring tool, but the tricky part is finding a good reference horizontal on the car which tends to be slightly curvy everywhere. With an IT car I run a shock tower bar which might be good reference, except the one I received from Mazda Motorsports is ever so slightly bent.

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Viet-Tam Luu (a.k.a. "Tam")
SFR-SCCA #14 ITS
Director, SCCA San Francisco Region

Chris70 Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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Iron Canyon all the way

--------------------
"Talent is often perseverance in disguise"

Viet-Tam Luu
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Whoops above I had said "toe stick" when I meant "string bar". Fixed. Sorry for any confusion.

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Viet-Tam Luu (a.k.a. "Tam")
SFR-SCCA #14 ITS
Director, SCCA San Francisco Region

Drago Verified Driver Made Donation to Website Series Champ
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The best setup I came up with was a magnetic laser level attached to a 1 in square tube that had pegs on it to put up against my wheels. I can do the same thing as a string box in 1/4 the time and more accurately as you are measuring the difference of an angle 6 ft away rather than Trying to measure a 1/164 or 1/32 over a 15 in wheel.
The Iron canyon string box is great I have two sets. I just have settled into this method instead.

--------------------
Jim Drago
East Street Auto Salvage
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2006-2007 Mid-West Division
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Viet-Tam Luu
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Jim, re: laser I think I partly understand what you meant, but don't you still need a reference centerline to measure toe against (i.e. a reference line parallel to the centerline, which is what the strings provide)?

The other trick I use is balance a bubble level on the top of my Sparco P310 steering wheel so I know the wheel is absolutely straight when I adjust the front toe. Yeah I know it doesn't really matter but it annoys me if I have to turn the wheel a little to drive straight. [Big Grin]

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Viet-Tam Luu (a.k.a. "Tam")
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not really..

Think of laser level and toe plate to make easy...

Checking front spoke for being straight...

Use toe plates to set toe, then set spoke straight and attach laser level to toe plate shooting back to the rear wheel. Find a common spot on both rears at the center,( I use flat spot between lugs) It will tell you which wheel is toed and in which direction.

Setting rear toe and rear thrust the same way...
Just reverse procedure. It is more accurate as I am meauring typically 1/2 difference or more, vs trying to read a 1/16 in difference with strings. The difference is you are measuring teh same angle, just taht the leg on my angle is anout 8 ft long and yours is 15 inches. So it is very easy to get closer to perfect this way IMO. You also never get a saggy laser line [Big Grin]

Flip the laser level vertical and you have a digital camber gauge. It is the fastest,easiest and most accurate way I have come up with less an alignment rack.
Jim

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Jim Drago
East Street Auto Salvage
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Brian Ghidinelli Verified Driver
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Jim - how are you converting the distance at the rear hub to "regular" toe measurements like "1/16th out"?

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quote:
Originally posted by Brian Ghidinelli:
Jim - how are you converting the distance at the rear hub to "regular" toe measurements like "1/16th out"?

USING TOE PLATES FRONT AND REAR...
The laser establishes thrust and insures spoke is straight.. You would be amazed how many cars rear toe is "correct" on overall toe, but the thrust is jacked in one direction or the other substantially

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Jim Drago
East Street Auto Salvage
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Brian Ghidinelli Verified Driver
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So the laser only tells you which way and the toe plates actually measure? Assuming you're doing this one side at a time, how do you account for the fact that there is toe in the front which impacts where the laser points in the rear? Sorry, thick headed today, want to draw me a picture? [rolling on floor laughin]

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I never really do one at time? But basically what you would do is measure both.. you will get numbers like 2.5 to 3.5 inches from side to side, it give you a very clear indication of how far off you are, 1/4 difference at the front wheel when checking is actually very close.
There is a little back and forth and side to side I guess to get it right.
Jim

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Jim Drago
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Toe plates are all you need for rear toe. You can eyeball for thrust (i.e. different toe between sides) very accurately. Sight along the rear wheels to see how much of the front tires are visible. As you make your rear toe adjustments (using the toe plates,) make sure the amount of front tire visible is equal left to right.

Note front wheels must be pointed straight. You get that by similarly sighting along the front wheels, and turning the steering wheel until the amount of rear tire visible is same left to right.

Make sure you get your eye down to the level of the axle, so you are sighting parallel to the ground at axle level.

For camber, don't bother with those fancy camber gauges. All you need is a digital level and a 6' length of 1" square aluminum tube. Cut a length of tube that will fit across your wheel. Put your car on a flat (planar,) but not necessarily level, piece of pavement. Place the long tube between your wheels, and zero your digital level to it. To measure camber, place the shorter length of tube against the wheel, and measure the angle with the digital level that you just zeroed.

Short and sweet.

-Juan

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This is a good choice for a digital level:


http://www.use-enco.com/CGI/INSRIT?PMAKA=317-0585


All four sides are machined in aluminum, so they provide a very accurate surface to measure with. Also allows the level to be zeroed standing on end, so vertical reads as zero. And they are very reasonably priced.

-Juan

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www.ArtOfRoadRacing.com Race Craft Clinic - Thunderhill - 30 Jan 2011

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Juan
That sounds like Delgenio with his stick and leg measurement he uses [Big Grin] I would never feel comfortable eye balling rear thrust. But thats just me...

--------------------
Jim Drago
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Jim,

With strings, you are using your eye to read the measurement from the ruler. There is some error that visual measurement. You are taking two measurements which you are subtracting, that's twice as much error in the difference. There is some error in the positioning of the string box. That contributes too.

Any instrument has errors, the more steps in arriving at the final measurement, the greater the measurement error and chance of mistaken measurement.

I started eyeballing as a sanity check. What I soon realized was that eyeballing for thrust is as accurate as any string type measurement. We aren't talking eyeballing an amount of toe. We are talking eyeballing to see that left and right are equal. The human visual system is very accurate for that type of comparison.

Give it a try before you make fun of it.

-Juan

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www.ArtOfRoadRacing.com Race Craft Clinic - Thunderhill - 30 Jan 2011

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Not making fun...but know I can't draw stick people and when using my eye, I pick the wrong wheel to adjust 9 out of 10 times... So for me, I prefer to know for sure and more comfortable with laser and tape measure [Big Grin]

--------------------
Jim Drago
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Juan Pineda Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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quote:
Originally posted by Drago:
Not making fun...but know I can't draw stick people and when using my eye, I pick the wrong wheel to adjust 9 out of 10 times...

Well then I'm not sure you should be playing unsupervised with lasers. [Razz]

Seriously, your wheels and tires make awesome alignment instruments all by themselves without adding any lasers and tape measures. This is not true for all cars, it's just a happy accident of the Miata geometry.

-Juan

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www.ArtOfRoadRacing.com Race Craft Clinic - Thunderhill - 30 Jan 2011

Jeff Lyon Verified Driver
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Frank,
I have the Smart String setup and have used it at least it a zillion times. And even though it is not made specifically for the Miata it works very well and you never know you may want to align something besides a Miata. [yep] I have aligned a few other vehicles like 911's, Gen 3 RX-7's and a Corvette and the Smart Strings worked great on all of them.

--------------------
Jeff
NorCal/SFR
OneStopRaceShop

   

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