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Old 04-02-2012, 08:11 AM   #1
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Default Who has tried the "string method"?

I attempted an alignment over the weekend using the string method. For those unfamiliar, you set up strings along the side of the car, carefully measured, as a reference so you can check toe, and you use a level and micrometer to check camber.

I have no way to verify my measurements, but all of my data supports this method working. I have no way to check caster, but I started with it maxed out, then adjusted camber using the bolt that affected caster the least. This worked well for the left wheel, but the right wheel didn't have enough adjustment so I had to move the other one just a little bit. By my measurements, camber and toe are spot on, though.

It took me about 6 hours, by the time I got the car on blocks, put weight in the driver's seat, set up the strings, made the level tool, and figured out what all the alignment bolts do. Next time I think I could do it a lot faster. I would also try to find some way to get the car up a little higher. 3" blocks were just not quite high enough to get under the car.
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Old 04-02-2012, 09:44 AM   #2
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I have friends that do this all the time on what seems like a weekly basis. I've also done it with strings once which took at least 3 hours. It's $60 to have an alignment done here, I'd rather spend the $60 to save hours of frustration.
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Old 04-02-2012, 09:47 AM   #3
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I've tried it before, spent about 3 afternoons fooling around with it just to finally decide that I don't have access to a level enough floor. I tried shimming under each wheel, and it still wasn't quite right.

I still use this method to get a quick rough alignment when making suspension changes just to be driveable to make sure everything working before I get an alignment. Although instead of making a string "box" I just tie one end of a string to the rear wheel, then run it along the front wheel and adjust toe so it touches the front wheel at 3 & 9 o'clock at the same time. Then tie the string to the front wheel and repeat to set the rear. I also just use a digital level instead of a micrometer. You can get close to 0 toe and reasonable camber in about 20 minutes that way.
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Old 04-02-2012, 10:07 AM   #4
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I used for a rough alignment when putting in new suspension. Got it pretty close just by eye. I'd still take it in someplace, but at least you won't be way off, so you can drive it.
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Old 04-02-2012, 10:19 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Handy Man View Post
I've tried it before, spent about 3 afternoons fooling around with it just to finally decide that I don't have access to a level enough floor. I tried shimming under each wheel, and it still wasn't quite right.

I still use this method to get a quick rough alignment when making suspension changes just to be driveable to make sure everything working before I get an alignment. Although instead of making a string "box" I just tie one end of a string to the rear wheel, then run it along the front wheel and adjust toe so it touches the front wheel at 3 & 9 o'clock at the same time. Then tie the string to the front wheel and repeat to set the rear. I also just use a digital level instead of a micrometer. You can get close to 0 toe and reasonable camber in about 20 minutes that way.
How can you get zero toe that way, with the front and rear having different track widths?

I did mine in my garage, so the floor was pretty level. It was at least good enough so my measurements should be within my acceptable range.

The reason I decided to try it myself instead of take it somewhere is that i have trouble finding a place that will align to my specs and let me sit in the car. Those are both requirements.
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Old 04-02-2012, 10:29 AM   #6
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For toe, what you to is take chalk for a marker and jack the car up, spin the tire and draw a line on both tires close to center. Then measure the front side and back side. That is how we measure toe on big rigs, same deal on a miata.
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Old 04-02-2012, 10:30 AM   #7
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I use that method with great success. It took me about 2-3 times to finally get accurate enough in reasonable time. I have to slight modifications (not really unique or anything):

1) use cheap floor tile from lowes and even out the garage floor. Mine is 18mm lower in the rear than the front. Not significant, but not all garage floors are equal (hahaha). (I used the ruler and water bucket method as shown on youtubez).
2) I square up one side and toe plate the fronts for toe. This makes it a bit easier for me since i don't have 4 floor jacks to square all around.
3) get a camber/caster gauge. Digital will be easier to use, but they can be expensive. Long acre has a non-digital one for <$150 I think.
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Old 04-02-2012, 12:26 PM   #8
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I have probably done it over 100 times. I use some board called masonite (thin mdf) with grease sandwich in between two squares as slider plates. I bust the camber bolts loose and the tighten to a point that they're easy enough break loose once on the sliders. I "draw" my box measuring off the wheel face near the hub center (wheels all equal) with consideration to the track difference. Once I've got it aligned, I put the car up on stands and then load the each wheel with a jack, THEN torque camber bolts.

I don't see how you can make a square box tied to the wheels when they're what are moving during adjustment.
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Old 04-02-2012, 12:34 PM   #9
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I have probably done it over 100 times. I use some board called masonite (thin mdf) with grease sandwich in between two squares as slider plates. I bust the camber bolts loose and the tighten to a point that they're easy enough break loose once on the sliders. I "draw" my box measuring off the wheel face near the hub center (wheels all equal) with consideration to the track difference. Once I've got it aligned, I put the car up on stands and then load the each wheel with a jack, THEN torque camber bolts.

I don't see how you can make a square box tied to the wheels when they're what are moving during adjustment.
I'm going to do this method next time. That would make things SO much easier. I would jack one corner up, take the wheel off, adjust the camber bolts, put the wheel back on, lower the car, take measurments, rinse and repeat and jesus that was a pain in the ***.
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Old 04-02-2012, 02:43 PM   #10
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It's also a huge help to have more eyes watching the car so it does move when the adjuster is tugging on the bolts- slider plates work too well sometimes, so I'm always verifying the squareness of the car in the box.
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Old 04-02-2012, 05:38 PM   #11
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I have done it before on the shop truck. I use string tied to jack stand and use some old cafeteria style trays that are greased up under the wheels
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Old 04-02-2012, 09:17 PM   #12
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Haven't tried it myself, but from what I can gather it's good for the track, but not great. For the street, it's not too good. Little errors with the string method will still be better than a poor alignment, but on the street those little errors will eat your tires eventually.

Duuno how much street driving you're doing though.
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Old 04-03-2012, 10:21 AM   #13
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It's like anything else, it's as perfect as you make it- and practice makes perfect. I've used this on both race and street cars. It's ideal for race cars since you inevitably need to make changes at the track in the midst of competition over the weekend. For a street car it's just way easier to spend $60 and let somebody else do the work (IMO) but I did do this on my 190e 3k miles ago and the tire wear looks perfect. Actually I only need to adjust the rear, the front was OK per verifying on the box.

I did use a Miata-specific tool that was WAY easier for DIY alignment- a toe frame that hung on the (front or back) car centered, so you didn't have to square up a string box and then resquare after adjusting. There was a local ATL guying making and selling them at $150, which IMO is an absolute steal given the time it takes to build the string box. Though I believe it was a copy of others on the market.
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Old 04-03-2012, 07:53 PM   #14
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I did a bunch of alignments with strings and a few with strings and mirrors. They are damn accurate. A poor laser alignment for 80-100 bucks where I live is a waste of money. My alignment guy does it with me sitting in the car and zeroes the numbers instead of green banding them (acceptable factory tolerances). He also rocks the car and rolls it back and forth after each adjustment. It takes him about 1.5 hours and the shop charges 110 bucks. When I do front end work in my friend's shop I string align the car (you do need accurate track dimensions and you need to use strings to check if car is square first (diagonal measurements between suspension mount points). It costs nothing but time.
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Old 04-03-2012, 09:48 PM   #15
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Emilio is the King of String... never tried it myself, but as much as it cost me last time on a laser rack, I think I'm gonna give it a try.


Last edited by GeneSplicer; 04-03-2012 at 10:23 PM.
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Old 04-03-2012, 11:46 PM   #16
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ARGGGGG ---- me...I wish I had setups like that. With the scales, hub stands, string mounts, all those friction reducing devices, wow. Me want.
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Old 04-04-2012, 02:10 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeneSplicer View Post
Emilio is the King of String... never tried it myself, but as much as it cost me last time on a laser rack, I think I'm gonna give it a try.


ME WANT!
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Old 04-04-2012, 06:40 AM   #18
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I had once built a DIY alignment setup with modified lazy susans, wires and collapsible rods with adjustable 90 degree protrusions, and it worked well.

Then, I moved to Turkey, where a complete 4 wheel alignment to whatever specs I may ask for runs just about 20 bucks. They even balance my wheels, and order tea for me.

So, I just go there and enjoy my tea a few times a year, just to be on the safe side.
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