Allignment shop for lifted van?

#1
I have lifetime allignment at Firestone for the van. It are they just gonna scratch there heads when I show up next week?im more concerned with them not knowing how to properly do the job than whether or not I have to pay extra.

Should I try to find a specialty lift shop?

Thanks
 

shenrie

^^^ hates cars
#2
Id call around and ask if they have any techs old enough to know how to align a vehicle without an alignment rack. Those guys will understand what needs to be done. Seems like most techs these days only understand how to run an alignment rack, not how to actually align a vehicle.
 

brianjwilson

Some sort of lost...
#3
For the next person, he’s installed a d60 and ujoint, since i have to read through his build thread for the info.

Just my opinion, paying for the alignment is basically a waste. Best case, you ask them to align it based on an f series or excursion specs. All they will adjust is toe and straighten the wheel. Regardless, the toe spec is for a stock rig with stock tires and isn’t really relevant to your situation. Every straight axle rig I had with bigger tires (ujoint equipped van included) handled best when I set it up with a little trial and error. When the shops used stock specs it didn’t feel as good as it could have.

So here is what I do. Make sure tires are equal at a proper pressure. Bounce the rig around a bit and try to let the springs settle (without track bar attached). Attach the track bar and bolt in where it sits. I found that if I centered the axle perfectly and it was pushing laterally against the leafs it created odd handling, as they were fighting each other. TORQUE the track bar down.
Next, set the toe so there is just a little bit of toe in. There are a number of ways to do this, but an easy way it to pick a spot on the treads that is a good reference, measure the distance between that spot on the left and right tire (front and rear most points) and adjust until the front measurement is 1/8” shorter than the rear. Set the tires straight ahead, adjust the drag link until the steering wheel is centered.
Go for a short drive. Adjust the drag link again, probably.
Drive a bit more, high speeds, hit a few small bumps and get on the brakes a few times. If you find that when you brake or hit bumps, the van sort of randomly pulls one way or another, toe in just a LITTLE more.
Setting up with some toe in will increase straight line stability. Basically just toe in enough to keep in stable, don’t over do it more than needed.
 
#4
IMO, find a real shop to do the job.
I'm kinda cheap and I've tried Firestone, Brakes Plus, Peerless tire...... they all SUCK! Pull, horrible tire wear, caster waaay off. They don't know the basics, and at $10hr, I don't expect them to do a good job. Quality costs $$$. Period.
I live in Denver, 3,000,000+ people, hundreds of auto shops, and there is only one shop that actually knows how to do an alignment. Only 1. Kennedy Alignment. Their shop has NO computers, no flashy lights, no printers. They do alignments on everything from Ferrari's to Freightliners, lifted vans to school buses. They never give you a quote, they just tell you, "we'll call when it's done.". I've had vans cost me $150, and some $260, but all have been perfect.
I've p!ssed away a lot of money trying to save a buck. Only to cost me later.
 
#5
I had a free alignment at the regional tire chain where i bought my tires. I had them align it based on the front suspension not the vehicle. It was aligned as a 2006 Ford F250 and not as a 2006 3500 express van.
 
#7
Good post Brian. A straight edge across each wheel mounting surface that is the same diameter as the tire takes the guess work out of the tape measure method. Maybe Chris will post a picture of the clever jig they use in the shop.
 

Raul

Adventurer
#8
Alignment was a source of frustration with my 2000 E150 2wd. I had the Firestone lifetime alignment and they were never able to figured out how to use the compound alignment cams. I ended doing the final adjustment myself.

Toe-in: two jack stands, umbrella base or the like, place in front and back of the vehicle, on each side. Run a tight string between them at the level it to the center of the wheels. Move the stands so the string is parallel to the rear wheels. Measure the distance between the string and the 9 o'clock and the 3 o'clock.

Camber: download an angle measuring app for your phone (I use Angle Pro). Depending on the design of your rims you may be able to find a flat spot on the hub or you may have to build a "U" shape rig to contact two flat spots on your rim at 12 and 6 o'clock. Measure on a flat even surface.

Caster: I haven't dealt with this too much, just put new alignment cambers and set them to give me as much caster as possible.

I am considering using Firestone again for my MG 4x4 conversion but just to provide me the measurements as a baseline. I think they even offer checking the alignment for free.
 

ujoint

Supporting Sponsor
#9
Neil told me its our swap. 1/8" toe in is what you want, all they need to do.

I don't care how accurate you can get with a tape measure, even with our jig that we made to set toe while the axles are still on the cart they always need adjustment once the computer is hooked up.
 

Raul

Adventurer
#10
I don't care how accurate you can get with a tape measure, even with our jig that we made to set toe while the axles are still on the cart they always need adjustment once the computer is hooked up.
There is no doubt about it. If you are lucky to have a shop with the right personnel using the computer. I tried 5 different Firestone stores with my old van (2wd) and always had to do re-adjustments as it was off center, pulling to one side or wearing tires.
 
#11
I have had good success taking my rigs to commercial truck shops. I have them align like they would any medium sized commercial rig using the factory specs as reference only. These guys usually don't screw around, as heavy trucks are a higher risk, and higher cost to operate. The tires are not cheap either.
 
#12
Good post Brian. A straight edge across each wheel mounting surface that is the same diameter as the tire takes the guess work out of the tape measure method. Maybe Chris will post a picture of the clever jig they use in the shop.
All well and good, But front propellershaft gets in the way measuring across the backside of tyres. Otherwise, I used similar method. Using a straightedge and carpenter square transferring points directly to the floor, then measuring across that.
 

Bikersmurf

Expedition Leader
#13
Best of luck. Even with a stock E350 the Ford dealership couldn’t figure out how to get the alignment right. When I brought it in, telling them it had new springs, shocks, and ball joints... and where the spare bushings were, they were surprised it needed a bushing. They told me I should have also let them know it needed a bushing.

Long story short, I put in a 3.5 deg to fix the one I paid a fortune to have them install. They only know how to read the rack... and through blind trial and error might get it right for $800.
 

ujoint

Supporting Sponsor
#14
I have had good success taking my rigs to commercial truck shops. I have them align like they would any medium sized commercial rig using the factory specs as reference only. These guys usually don't screw around, as heavy trucks are a higher risk, and higher cost to operate. The tires are not cheap either.
Thats what we do.
 
#15
All the alignment places in my neck of the woods are staffed by window lickers. If you have any knowledge buying some alignment tools and doing it yourself is the way I would go.

A good 4x4 shop or commercial or place that can align trailers would be my second choice, but be prepared to spend the $$$.
 
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