98 Dakota alignment

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  #1  
Old 11-07-09, 07:21 AM
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98 Dakota alignment

Hello all...back again. As written in my previous posts I did a lot of front end work on my Dakota in recent months. Anyway I had it aligned at a local shop although I still needed tires and a box (somewhat loose and LEAKING). Was not ready for tires yet and just wanted it useable in the mean time (one disaster at a time) Anyway he did it and told me the "right side was way out". OK can't argue with that it makes sense. Truck rode OK but with a little tire pull as expected. Got my hands on a P/S box and bolted it in. Centerline was slightly, very slightly off which is understandable. Anyway the other day I had 4 tires installed and told him the story and had him "set it up again". When I returned he told me the "right side was way out" HUH? Something wrong here. Anyway I can't keep it straight. I am fighting the wheel and it doesn't want to return to center. Seems to dive into turns. I took it back and the owner drove it and told me the box was bad - too tight not letting it return. It returned when I came in there (at least as close as it was to center) I just don't believe it. Anyone have any ideas? I went back to the first place who did it first and he will check it again. He agrees something is fishy
 
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  #2  
Old 11-07-09, 07:42 AM
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did he/they give you a 'print out' sheet ,with specs/before-& after readings?
 
  #3  
Old 11-07-09, 08:41 AM
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alignment

no but we are going to Thursday when we check. He thought he did when he did it last time but I didn't get it.He is going to look to see if by chance he has it laying around
 
  #4  
Old 11-07-09, 04:50 PM
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only thing that comes to mind-(with out having the vehicle)
the steering gear is too tight, but you stated -that was corrected!
other possibility- the alignment head clamps to the wheel- then a compensation procees is done.-Possible the clamp-slipped-after the compensation process.
that causes wildy incorrect-readings-& adjustments.
it happens all the time-(especialy with custom wheels that do not have the needed wheel lip-where the wheel weights are attatched)
 
  #5  
Old 11-07-09, 05:20 PM
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The first thing you need to do is to get 4 Campbells soup cans.

Park the truck on a flat and level paved parking lot. A flat piece of cement will also work.

Get two pieces of steel or aluminum of the same length, you might even be able to use a contractors level - as long as you have two identical levels.

The reason for the soup cans is to put the flat piece of metal above the bulge in the tires.

You also want to make sure that all tires have the same amount of air in them.

Take two identical tape rules and run them from the one piece of metal to the other one on the other side in front of the wheel and put the other tape rule behind the wheel and measure both distances and write them down.

A normal amount of toe in would be about 1/4 of a inch.

That means that the front measurement has 1/4 of a inch less then the other one on the rear.

If the tow is more or less then 1/4 of a inch, you need to measure the length of the tie rods from a known point to the greaser point on the end of the tie rod end.

If one is longer or shorter then the other, then you need to try to make both the same length so that the steering box is centered in the geometry of the steering parts.

One more thing to do is to take the steering wheel and turn it all in one direction and then measure how many turns it takes for the front wheels to go back to center and then turn it all in the other direction and see how many turns it takes to put the wheels back to center. If one side turns further then the other, then the geometry is all out of whack.

There is several ways to put the steering wheel back to center.

One is to physically remove the steering wheel off the shaft and move it until it is centered. That would not solve your problem due to the fact that the steering column is designed to shut off the turn signals when it returns to center.

The second way - if it had a adjustable drag link is to change the length of the drag link until the steering wheel returns to center.

The third way is to change the lengths of the tie rod ends until both ends are the same length and at the same time - is the right distance between the front and rear of the wheels and then make sure that the steering is centered by adjusting one or the other side until the steering wheel is centered and yet the toe is correct.

There is three things to consider when doing a alignment job, Caster, Camber and Toe.

Camber is how the tire leans in towards the direction you wish the vehicle to turn. The way that it works is that when the steering wheel is straight and the front wheels are straight, the front tires leans in towards the middle of the vehicle so many degrees.

When the tie rods pulls on the spindles, it causes the wheel to tilt while it is also turning. That is one of the main reasons for the ball joints. King Pins and bushings - did not allow for any adjustment - unless you heated up the parts with a torch and physically bent them in the direction you needed them to go until you got the geometry you needed to get the car to steer.

Caster is the relationship between the front wheels and the center of the suspension and chassis. If you look at a Dodge Stratus - you will see that the wheels are forward of the center of the front end, that allows the car to handle better, but makes the steering harder to turn when you go into a turn.

On some other vehicles the front wheels are behind the center of the front end / chassis, that was done back in the day when cars all had manual steering because it made the wheel easier to turn.

Most pick up trucks are in a neutral position.

On a older auto like a G Body Chassis Monte Carlo - which shared the same suspension with the S 10 / 2 wheel drive chassis and also the Astro Van, the way that you adjusted the caster / camber was by adding and subtracting shims between the upper A arms.

One newer Chevrolet trucks there is a actual mechanical adjustment that can be turned to put the upper A arms into the right geometry.

What your problem amounts to is that you have some type of damage to the front end of your vehicle. Front ends do not go out of wack - just because the ball joints or tie rod ends wore out.

Usually there is a accident involved that bent something.

Either some of the front end chassis parts or the steering parts or the frame of the vehicle.

Your problem is - I am here and you are there and there is no way for me to confirm that the part you took off is the same as the new part that you put on. I do not have a Hollander Interchange manual in front of me and there is no way for me to tell you that the box you put on is a direct replacement for the one you took off and that the Pitman arm is the same size and length. So again, we are back to the philosophy of the guy that calls the doctor on the phone and tells him - I am sick, what is wrong with me.

Until he see's you and physically checks you out, there is no way for him to know what is wrong with you.

Your problem is - you do not need a alignment shop, you need a good frame shop. Take the vehicle in and have them check the spec's of the frame and make sure that nothing is bent.

One more thing to check is to take a string and go from the back of the vehicle to the front of the vehicle - half way up the tires and measure what the distance is between the front tire and the string. If you ever watched a NASCAR race where the car was in a accident, you will see them get the tape measures out and the string and measure how much difference there is between the rear tire - which will always be straight and the front wheels which will be sticking out in the back and in in the front - because the wheel should be toed in.

If the rear end is angled in on one side and angled out on the other, either the rear end is bent or the frame is bent.

The other thing is to measure from the center of the rear axle to the center of the front spindles - with all 4 tires off the truck. Both measurements should be the same within 1/8th of a inch.

All this information might sound like as if I am writing a book, when in all actuality it is what you pay to learn when you go to a auto mechanic's school to become a mechanic.

Just because someone has a set of wrenches and a socket set and a hammer, that doesn't make them a mechanic.

You have to have some practical experience and knowledge of what you are doing - before you do it, and not just wrench the old parts off and put the new parts on and expect it to work!

There is no shame in asking questions, that is one way that we learn. The other is by doing it wrong and then having to pay someone to straighten out our messes.

I have been where you are at right now at one point in my life, so don't feel as if I am picking on you. It's all a part of learning. Some people are teachers and other people are doer's. Where the one person doesn't really know how to do it, but can explain how to do it, and the other person knows how to do it, but for some reason does not want to teach you how to do it.

Sometimes it is easier to just do it then to explain how it works and what to do and how to do it.
 
  #6  
Old 11-08-09, 09:14 AM
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alignment

You lost me with the soup cans. When I installed box and pitman arm I laid them out and they are identical. I made sure box was at "center" of travel and wheel was straight. Both the input shaft and the pitman arm are "notched" so it can only go in one way. I have not done any adjustment on box as I don't believe there is a problem. The shop that is going to realign (someone I know works there) thinks the 2nd guy "blew the alignment" or has a "head" out of calibration. The reason I had the "2nd" guy align and not the original is just because they are a "tire" shop. The other is a "all repair" shop. I know what you are saying about the tie rods being at center while box isn't quite there but I don't think the box knows center other than being able to turn one way while limited the other.
P.S. When I installed tie rods I measured from a fixed point on link to a point on spindle and also counted turns as a starting point. The guy actually told me I was actually "in spec" on the toe although he did tweak. We are going to spend some time Thursday on it as my friend there knows the background of this thing. (He did my heater core back in July)
He thinks I have a caster/camber problem)
P.S. #2 When I say the wheel doesn't return I don't mean when I make a hard left or right it stays there. It just doesn't return to center the last bit - say the 1 o'clock position or so. This isn't really my big complaint, when I am going straight I am "fighting" the wheel. When I let go there does seem to be a tendency to pull slightly left but sometimes it will want to just kind of pull the wheel one way or the other
 
  #7  
Old 11-08-09, 09:15 PM
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The soup cans would hold the steel / aluminum above the bulge in the tires and would allow you to accurately measure the amount of toe in the alignment.

If the vehicle is pulling to one side, switch the front tires from side to side and take it for a ride and see if it all of a sudden pulls to the other side.

You might have a broken belt in one or more of the tires.

I knew I posted it right the first time

"The reason for the soup cans is to put the flat piece of metal above the bulge in the tires."

When you put weight on a tire - where is the bulge? On the bottom of the tire.....
 
  #8  
Old 11-08-09, 09:18 PM
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When a tire goes flat, it is only flat on the bottom!
 
  #9  
Old 11-09-09, 03:31 PM
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alignment

Well I will find out in a couple of days. My friend said we will take a few extra minutes on the rack to "troubleshoot". the situation. We are going to check and recheck everything BEFORE AND AFTER!! He thinks the second guy just blew it. The key is that when this guy aligned it just to get me around before I sprung for a new box and tires he said the "right side was way out" . I get the box and bolt it in. Now the second guy puts on new tires and throws on the rack and says "right side was out"
NOPE... not in 30 days or so. The new box I put in will only affect centerline or toe so I didn't mess it up. We shall see
 
  #10  
Old 11-09-09, 03:37 PM
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alignment FYI

Just FYI... Went food shopping and the dealership is practically next door so I stopped in. Just by chance the guy who is their "front end" hotshot was at the desk and I told him the story. He smiled along with the service manager. he told me the Dodge trucks are VERY picky on caster/camber and my description is exactly what happens. (Their rig was down for repair)
 
  #11  
Old 11-09-09, 03:47 PM
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Don't doubt that at all. Had a pulling problem when I had mine...the stock tires are [email protected]#P (not that I think you still have those) and when I had it in NEW for a warranty problem they broke something trying to adjust it. What tires are on it now?

Hope you don't have the bad head problem I had with mine, or the CatCon issue, or the heater core issue, or the wiring issue, or..or..or...

This is just my personal opinion.....
 
  #12  
Old 11-09-09, 04:26 PM
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dakota issues

188,000 miles. tires are several sets from original...LOL Now have brand new BFG Radial TA P25570R15. Heater core and evap core done in July. Cat was done several years ago under warranty - OK since. No head problems (at least on the truck) only wiring problem was last year. Wire was broke to the rear o2 sensor (blows a PO138 code) Don't ask me how I found it
I am one of those guys who #1 cant have a light on that isn't supposed to be and #2 if there is a button that is supposed to do something it needs TO DO IT!!
 
  #13  
Old 11-09-09, 08:11 PM
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'i-am-out'possiblly you do not know the baics,of diagnosing- a-mechanical adjustmet.of the steering gear.
if that is the case-i/we'cant help you
 
  #14  
Old 11-10-09, 04:17 PM
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alignment

well I'm sorry to disappoint you:never really messed with boxes before(. BTW I stopped in to confirm appointment today and we both by chance happened to be looking directly at front of truck from 30 feet or so and guess what?....WOW you can actually SEE something is wrong with front wheels (I never really looked) For all interested I will repost afterwards
 
  #15  
Old 12-04-09, 01:22 PM
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alignment update

Went back to shop and he told me the box was way too tight, Replace while still under warranty. I did and went back. Every adjustment was way,way out of spec. Everything in spec now and feels like a whole new truck
 
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