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Alignment Woes


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Can anyone tell me if I'm getting "smoked" or getting honest info?<BR>My 1989 had perfect alignment until last week when I had the front struts and mounts replaced. Took it to the GM dealer for alignment afterwards because none of the local shops could do it. (It has Konig Monsoon wheels) Now it leads hard to the right on the highway and to the left on local roads. I took it back to the GM service manager and was told that the engine and transmission mounts were done for and that was causing the problem. I understand the effect, but it sure seems strange that I didn't have the problem before I changed the struts. This is calling out for about $400 worth of parts. Aftermarket ones are only $79 but they tell at the dealer the aftermarkets do not fit correctly and would not be warranted.<BR>What do you think?

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a) Why not just put the stock wheels back on for alignment ? Do these aftermarket wheels have a really strange offset or something ? (They do look nice)<P>Heck could even align on the spare or better with two.<P>B) Never say never but would consider it unlikely that engine mounts would cause erratic steering.<P>What mounts usually do since all are captive these days is to make the car feel like the engine is about to fall out - great clunks and vibrations but more perception than function. They are not going anywhere, GM got stung so bad with mounts jamming accellerators wide open - had it happen once - in '67-'68 that they made sure it would never happen again.<P>c) "Now it leads hard to the right on the highway and to the left on local roads."<P>That would really concern me because it sounds like something is loose/ moving around. Would suspect the camber/caster adjustment which is the two big through bolts and nuts at the bottom of the strut - do not know if 89 still has the one adjustment bolt - my 88 has it but the 90 Bonne doesn't.<P>Caster being waaay out could cause strange hunting also but real danger is if the strut is not installed correctly so check quickly.<P>That said would make some personal observations (Usual Disclaimers Apply, Notary Sojack):<P>Can still do a good job of realignment with a level garage floor, a six foot piece of white plastic lawn sprinkler pipe, and my Tri-ang-u-liner from the Tric-kee Tool Company (essentially a graduated level that snubs up to the wheel hub).<P>Just had to replace a strut mount bearing to cure a squeak so know techniques are still sound.<P>Besides all you should need to do is caster/camber since should have not changed toe to replce struts. Test is if steering wheel is aligned properly when done<BR>So sounds like someone just doesn't want to do it (or maybe their computer doesn't know how and they just push the buttons) or maybe they looked at how you align the front struts (are supposed to have this special J- tool) and didn't want to bother.<P>What ever the reason the excuses you have been given do not make a lot of sense.<P>As to aftermarket, there are a lot of good SEMA member manufacturers out there, some even do OEM work for the majors. Would not have any problem with parts from Monroe or Gabriel myself (though often the AC parts are competitive if you don't mind visiting unsavory parts of town and are not in a hurry, professional parts houses are rarely in garden spots).<P>However, they are correct, the factory will not warrent aftermarket parts. The factory does not warrent tires or batteries either (ever read the small print), they are warrented by the aftermarket manufacturer.

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The most obvious thing that came up to Me is that You did not mention if the car was leading when You took it in. So I am assuming it was not, then My question to the service manager would be, Why did it not do this when it was brought in? <BR> Now if it was doing it when You took it in and that is the reason You had it aligned then They have a bit of an argument. But as much as I can see how the mounts could cause problems, there would have to be a lot of other conditions such as bad cv joints and loose wheel bearings to make it happen, that I say hogwash!

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If I read the first post right, it sounded like the strut replacement was done elsewhere, problem arose, took it to several alignment shops, they told to take to dealer, and dealer may need a new service writer.<P>Not being there, it hard to tell but is what I inferred. Problem is that it looks easy to R&R struts particularly if not done before and is easy to miss the fact that the two lower bolts adjust camber and can affect toe if not adjusted properly.<P>One side off can result in steering wheel being on a 30 degree tilt and noticable pull. Both sides off can do almost anything.<P>My concern is the way it is shifting around which sounds like the lower strut bolts may not be tight (spec. is 144 lb-ft & takes a good torque wrench). I would not drive a car like that.<P>If loose, I would want to recheck the entire strut installation (is easy to misalign the spring mounts/bearing and takes special tools to properly tighten the top strut nut) before realignment.<p>[ 09-01-2001: Message edited by: padgett ]

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Great thoughts, guys. Thanks. Here's the follow-up. The engine & trans mounts made a huge difference. I still have a lead, but it is to the left, and worse at lower speeds. I dropped it off at the dealers tonight for them to correct tomorrow. I even put the stock wheels in the trunk for them to use if they have to. (Good luck, no tires on them!) <BR>The lead is not as bad now as it was when I was driving it home, I wonder if it may have something to do with the weight of the wheels in the trunk?<BR>Here's the kicker - they gave me the alignment sheet. The rear toe and caster is way out. They appeared dumbfounded when I told them I thought the purpose of an alignment was to put it in spec rather than take it out of spec. Sheeesh!<BR>I also griped about the charge. I dropped the parts off at 8:00 AM. They called me at 10:45 and said it was ready. My math tells me 2 3/4 hours. They charged me the book rate of 6.7 hours. My simple alignment is now almost a thousand dollar nightmare.

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Problem with the top of the front strut is that unless there is a secret trick I do not know about, you cannot just use an impact unless very lucky & there is no corrosion on the threads. Suspect if you spin fast enough with an impact you would be looking at a new strut mount.<P>The nut fits a 15/16" socket (23 mm ?) but it is sunk into the strut mount (under the boot cover) so you cannot get at it with a normal open end or box wrench. You cannot use a rachet/socket because you need a T-50 torx in the top of the strut to keep it from spinning.<P>This leaves two choices: either a short socket secured by vicegrips (and you need the oddball one with the V & ball - e.g. type 7LW - <A HREF="http://store3.yimg.com/I/autotoolexpress_1649_1596310)" TARGET=_blank>http://store3.yimg.com/I/autotoolexpress_1649_1596310)</A> so you can drop the Torx through the square opening or a deep offset box wrench (Sears has a set on sale this month but you have to hunt - 44349 SAE - the metric set maxed at 22 mm).<P>Oh and the FSM calls out a special J-tool to make precise adjustments for camber if you don't have the bolt like the '88 but I just use a big screwdriver. Hard part is knowing where to stop 8*)<p>[ 09-10-2001: Message edited by: padgett ]

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