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Got pics of your homemade front end alignment gauges?!?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Johnny1290, May 23, 2008.

  1. Johnny1290
    Joined: Apr 20, 2006
    Posts: 2,834


    After my last experience with an alignment shop, I refuse to ever go into one again with my shoebox Ford if I can help it. I've never aligned a car before, so I've been searching around the web for info and found a lot of different methods. Unfortunately, most don't have pics and without experience its just kinda hard for me to get a handle on what they look like., much less how to use them!

    The best articles I've seen are here:

    Setting Toe

    More Toe In explanation

    Homestyle frontend align


    DIY Caster/Camber Gauge

    I'm a cheap bast*rd and I really like the idea of DIY alignment gauges.

    So far I've liked the alignment plates:


    and this DIY camber/caster gauge, just a level with a couple holes drilled through it for bolts that will match up to the edge of your rim:


    The other toe in gauge I really like from Longacre racing is this:
    [FONT=Verdana,Arial,Times,sans-serif]"For a very precise reading you can scribe a line in each front tire. Use a tire scribe and spin each of the front tires to get your straight line. You can then measure between the two scribed lines with a tape measure or with a toe bar. As with toe plates, a smaller measurement at the backside of the tire indicates toe out."

    Seems easy enough to scribe your tire by jacking up the wheel and using a spare jackstand with a piece of chalk taped to the top for a wheel scribe. From how I read, you want the measurement for a shoebox Ford to be +1/16 to +1/8" toe in, so I take it to mean you want the front measurement to be that amount *less* than the rear measurement.

    Another method to do this would also be measuring from same tread lug to the opposite one on the other tire. I dunno if it's the best, but it ought to work in a pinch.

    So basically to set toe in I need to get the car leveled with wood under the tires or something, then roll it forward a bit to get the suspension to settle, measure, adjust the tie rod sleeve, then roll it back a little and back forward to re-settle the suspension before measuring again? That sounds right to me, but what do I know.

    Also, is there any way to improvise a tie rod adjusting tool? Is it easier to adjust with the wheels off the ground? It seems like it'd be hard to turn them. I've got the stock tie rods right now, and i'll shortly be installing some aftermarket ones that are basically just screwed into a threaded rod, so I'm not sure what tool(s) to buy to adjust.

    Anyway, as always, thanks in advance!

  2. The Hank
    Joined: Mar 18, 2008
    Posts: 779

    The Hank
    from CO

    I just take it down a dirt road really fast , seems to streighten it out.
  3. Goztrider
    Joined: Feb 17, 2007
    Posts: 3,066

    from Tulsa, OK

  4. C-1-PW
    Joined: Jun 11, 2006
    Posts: 357


    Bought a tire scribe to mark the tires.
    Now its just a matter of measuring and adjusting the toe according to the measurments on the line at the tire front and back.
    Toe is my only adjustment, so I'm lucky.

  5. #7....Toe in guage.
    Saw a big version of this for use on semi-trucks at work so I decided to copy it for my own use. It works great because on alot of rods you can measure the front of the tire but the engine or radiator interferes with the tape measure on the rear side of the tire. To use it the car would be jacked up just enough so the front wheels would rotate. Then you could mark the tire where the pointer points, roll the tires 180 degrees and measure between the marks. You would have to know the measurement between the pointers before you put it in place.


  6. patman
    Joined: Apr 30, 2007
    Posts: 564


    Not homemade, but I got it as a gift, so...was cheap for me at least! I think Eastwood sells 'em, but it would be simple enough to make one. The dial is on one end, the other end just has a 90* fixed bar on it.

  7. Johnny1290
    Joined: Apr 20, 2006
    Posts: 2,834


    Thanks you guys! I've had to really exercise the brain to understand all this stuff and how your gauges work! I think what I'm going to try is making a tire scribe and then measure with the conduit/stick Goztrider came up with!

    I just have a couple questions for him. 1, why do you have both ends of the conduit have a piece of wood in them when one end is fixed? Maybe I'm missing something and
    2, I got this from your post "With this measuring device, 1/8" is almost nothing. If you've gotten to the step above, you're looking at having the stick being tight in the back, and just barely moving between the front. (Vice versa on a front wheel drive)"
    Don't you mean you want the measurement to be tight in front and looser in the back for toe in?

    From Longacre :[FONT=Verdana,Arial,Times,sans-serif] Toe is the pointing in or pointing out of the front wheels as viewed from the top of the car. If the front wheels point in, toward the engine, at the front edge of the wheels then you have toe in. If the front wheels point out at the front edge then you have toe out."

    I'm not trying to be flip, I really appreciate the heads up on the conduit, that's just soooo much easier than the tape measure!!!!!
  8. Goztrider
    Joined: Feb 17, 2007
    Posts: 3,066

    from Tulsa, OK

    Hey no problem. I'll answer your questions to the best of my ability.

    The conduit piece has wood dowels in both ends so that the overall length can be adjustable. I've used this same type measuring device on everything from a formerly wrecked Geo Metro all the way up to a 18 wheeler/tractor, and the adjustability allows it to contract and expand as far as I need it to be. Also, by having a wooden dowel on each end, I can round it down to where there is only a 1/4 or so diameter 'flat spot' at the tip of each dowel to use where it touches or moves past the rim when measuring.

    Yes, on a rear wheel drive car, it should be toed in just 1/16 to 1/8 inch, as the wheels will 'open up' a hair wider when in motion. On a front wheel drive, you'd want them toed out a bit as it will correct itself when under power. Don't know what I was thinking when I wrote that - musta been a brain fart!

    No problem. I've used that particular one several times around here since I built it. I grew up in a shop that had one, and it's where I learned to use it. My dad's got a '37 Ford Pickup that he set the toe on back in '76 or '77 using this, and he put the old truck up on his alignment rack a few years ago, and it was only 1/32" off.
  9. DrJ
    Joined: Mar 3, 2001
    Posts: 9,418


    You got a picture of this whole tool?

  10. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,221


    Glad you brought this up about home-done alignments.

    I've said on other forums that it comes out perfect. Then there are so many "arm chair experts" who say I am an ass. How about the shops that just spent as much as 40k for some a-hole "bells & whistles" unit...and then has a complete idiot running it, and makes the car worse?

    I use a swapmeet $5 tire scribe tool made by BEAR. All it is, is a spring loaded arm that has a needle that scribes a line on your tread. Then I use four 1-quart cans in front & back of the tires. I place a long 1"x1" wooden stick on top of the cans, then mark the stick with a pencil where the tire line is. Then move the stick to the backs of the tires and compare the difference....simple...and.. accurate. Yes, it would be better to go up the tire higher using the jig that KiwiKev built, but when I worked in a truck shop using those, I always managed to bump the uprights as I tried to get it under the car....then I'd have to start over. :(

    Caster/Camber: At swapmeets, you can find a single magnetic alignment head from ex'circle track guys. Spend a little and they do a great job. They stick to the exposed hub snout after you remove the grease cap. Next, you need a pair of swapmeet turntables so you can go from 20* out, to 20* in, to measure the caster.

    Plus, you need to mark four spots on your floor that have been checked for level.. The floor does not have to be level, because you can add appropriate wood spacer blocks under each tire, after you determine how much the 4 spots are off. I use a friends super long carpenter level on a long straightedge. Once you get that floor set up, then you can do all your friends cars :)
  11. TheMonkey
    Joined: May 11, 2008
    Posts: 314

    from MN

  12. Johnny1290
    Joined: Apr 20, 2006
    Posts: 2,834


    Thanks for all your help!

    I appreciate all the suggestions.

    Based on them, I ended up getting this longacre toe in gauge off ebay:
    I really liked the homemade conduit style one, and thought I'd make that and attach equal length chains to it so I could be sure I was holding it evenly/at the same height(the one in the shoebox ford book had them, not my idea), I just got lucky and got a good deal on the one above and I like that I won't have to try to hold anything up and read the measurement while making sure everything is even, and holdling the stick true while I slide underneath the car to the other side to read that measurement. It was just difficult to do with my broomstick that I used and hard to see if the end was precisely at the scribe line or not.

    With the longacre tool I won't have to be under the car to measure toe in, and it looks like it will give very repeatable measurements, not to mention just plain easier. And I got it for about $50 :)

    For camber/caster, I bought this gauge for $30 from

    Mainly I bought it because it was the cheapest available, but it's accurate up to 1/8" vs. the homemade one with the level that just wasn't very precise. I also like that this one doesn't rely on attaching to the rim.

    For caster I'm going to use the newspaper idea to turn the wheels.
  13. My homemade toe checking tool is made from two straight pieces of steel fuel or brake tubing from the parts store.

    I cut off the flaired ends, and slid one tube inside the other for a telescoping gauge.

    I measured where the smaller tube ended inside the bigger tube, added a couple inches to the measurement, and drilled a small hole in the big tube.

    After I inserted a cotter pin in the drilled hole, dropped a spring inside the pipe, and then slid the small tubing inside the big one, I had a telescoping rod that I slip in between the tires (or wheels if you wish).
    Make a mark with a felt pen where the two tubes meet, then carefully roll the car forward till the telescoping rod is at the rear of the tire (stuck between the two tires) and measure how much the tube moved from the mark.
    That is my toe in.

    I'll try to dig it out and post a pic, but it may take me a while to do that.

    For caster and camber I use a $15 bubble gauge I bought from WARSHAWSKI about 35 years ago. Known as JC WHITNEY today. They probably still have them. ?

    A bubble gauge is accurate to less than 1/2 degree, which is tighter than any published alignment tolerances, so it makes those $40 K machines a joke.

    One nice thing about having your own bubble level, aside from convenience and saving money is being able to greatly reduce tire wear on your own when a local shop confuses normal, tight kingpin play with a loose ball joint and refuses to even get you into the ballpark with a quick adjustment.
  14. JRouche
    Joined: May 28, 2010
    Posts: 1

    from So Cal.

    "Got pics of your homemade front end alignment gauges?!?"

    I do....

    I know, old thread huh. But I just made this caster/camber/toe gauge and thought someone might like to see it. So here are the pieces and steps.

    I have my front end all built now and need to align it. It has such a variety of parts that taking it to an alignment shop is outta the question. So I looked into some of the caster/camber gauges available. There are alot out there. They are simple and not too expensive. But most of them work with wheels that have a lip to capture the arms. My wheels dont have a lip. So I was gonna have to make one for my wheels. I though about making one that would set on the spokes of the wheels. That was gonna be my first choice. Then I saw a hub mounted one from Longacre.


    That looked like the sweet setup. Theirs is a magnet mounted one. No good for me, I have all aluminum. But I saw that my Wilwood brake hubs have a threaded dust cap. Perfect, the hub has a thread on the ID. So the measuring and building began...

    Oh, and their setup is just a toe gauge, but you can buy an adapter to use it with their digital camber/caster gauge. I had a couple of new SPI digital protractors hanging around waiting for a use. So here is the use. Long thread and many large pictures.

    So it started out with me measuring the thread of the brake hub cap. Once that was set I needed to make an adapter for the hub. All the stock used was on hand so I didnt make it as custom as it could be, just using material that was on the shelf in my house garage. And its just a tool, not jewelry :)

    I needed alot of clearance on the inside of the thread to clear the castle nut and spindle. So alot of aluminum got hogged out.

    Why the spacers? Back to material on hand. I happened to have a 2" bar that when split in half was just too short to clear the sidewall of the tires. So spacers were needed.


    Next was a housing for the digital protractors. There are alot of ways to do it. I do have a cnc milling machine. But to be honest, Im still learning to draw parts up in the cad program and Im not all that proficient. So welding up a box was an option. And again, welding aluminum is new to me. So I needed the practice. Glad I did. I need to get used to welding aluminum. Steel is so different and Im comfortable TIG welding steel, time to branch out.

    So I cut some plates of aluminum and clamped them up for welding. The beads weren't too bad. I HATE grinding welds down, it shows that the weld wasn't very nice. Well you get the idea, I ground down my welds LOL



    Next was the vertical bars for the toe gauge. Simple cutting, drilling and sanding.


    The lower cross bars for the toe gauge. My car has 26" diameter tires so the lower bars are 26" long for proper toe setup.


    All the bits and pieces done.


    This is how the protractors or digital levels set in the boxes. They are captured by small set screws that align with the Vee on the body of them. Keeps them from flopping out. The reference plane that is tight to the vertical plane is the bottom of the box. When I welded the box up I made sure the upper and lower plates of the box were perfectly square with the end plate that mates to the round spacer.


    Then when assembled off the car this is what the whole thing looks like.


    To mount it to the car the spud goes on first.


    Then the 3/4" bolt is put into the box before the protractor and thread the entire assembly to the car.

    Why a large 3/4" bolt? Nuther screw up. When I was boring the threaded side of the spud I ran the drill bit all the way through. Knowing I would need a hole for the connector bolt. But dummy me, I went a couple sizes too large for what I needed. I was hogging out the OD threaded side and didnt want to have to bore alot. So I used a large drill bit to remove a major portion of material. I should have stopped at the major depth on the OD thread side and kept the other sides hole smaller to tap it for a 1/2" bolt. No loss for me. But just shows planning actually works. I didnt draw it up or plan it. I just went to town cutting metal.. Just showing, it is ALWAYS a good idea to put yer build on paper.



    Ok... Now the sweet part of this rig. The toe measuring. Thats why I made two of these fixtures. Hook a tape on the right side of the car and measure the left side. Its really nice. The lines are sharp enough that you can get a toe reading to within a 1/32" if you need to. And the lower arms dont flex during measuring. Its pretty stout.




    So Im gonna go ahead and do an alignment. You see the turn plates under there. They are a must IMO. Those are full floaters. Meaning they will slide fore and aft and in and out (sideways) along with rotation all on a BIG bearing. Some Bear plates I picked up on the cheap.

    Anyway, this alignment tool can be made by anyone with some simple tools. And even easier if you have a lipped wheel. No need to go with a hub mount. Hope you enjoy the pics as much as I enjoyed making this tool. JR
  15. aaggie
    Joined: Nov 21, 2009
    Posts: 2,531


    I bought a nice caster and camber guage from Speedway for $100 that is magnetic and sticks to the hub. Pop off the dust cap over the wheel bearing and attach the tool. It has built in level bubbles and works as good as any I ever used.

    Just remember to bounce the front suspension after making any adjustments and recheck.

    Toe in is easy if you have a helper to hold one end of a tape measure, remember to center the steering wheel first.
  16. DaveVM
    Joined: Jul 22, 2012
    Posts: 2


    Late bump I know - this follows our way of doing things.

    Found this link at Stock Car Racing Magazine;

    and it has a very simple set of tools, particularly the simplicity of checking caster.

    And you could use a digital level or angle finder.

    My thoughts on this are you might be able to use it as well on a slightly sloped driveway. How? Use a long straight board/angle iron put the digital level/angle finder on it and zero it on the slope. Zero front to back for caster, then zero left to right for camber. Since it was zeroed for the slope the readings would be the actual angles.

    And if you were to measure the height from the ground to the center of the wheel hub, (mark the hub to find the spot again) write down the height, (use chalk on the driveway) then jack the car, remove the wheels, and using two small bottle jacks with pads put them somewhere around each lower ball joint, then lower the car to the measurement. You would not need the grease/slip plates.

    Camber could be easily read off the brake disc/wheel mount pad. Or as this site shows;

    VERY IMPORTANT - remember to keep the frame supported (though there shouldn't be any weight on the supports as it will all be on the bottle jacks) because you will have hands feet arms legs head in a bad place should the vehicle slip.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2012
  17. drptop70ss
    Joined: May 31, 2010
    Posts: 1,186

    from NY

    I use a fastrax gauge for caster and camber, tape measure for toe. I was going to make my own turning plates but found a pair of older BEAR units for $40 at a swap meet, best deal of the day. So far I have not burned up any front tires yet.
    Of couse a modern machine would be better but I like the option of doing things myself and keeping the $75.
  18. Bud's F1
    Joined: Sep 7, 2014
    Posts: 2

    Bud's F1

    Do you still have your scribe?
  19. Merlin
    Joined: Apr 9, 2005
    Posts: 2,546

    from Inman, SC

    I made a toe in gauge like the one Kiwi Kev made. IMG_0001 (Medium).JPG
  20. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 9,613

    Rusty O'Toole

    Do you know how to check toe in with 2 steel plates? You need 2 smooth steel plates about a foot square with grease in between. Line up the edges perfect and drive over them with your front tire. If your toe is perfect they won't move. If the top plate twists right or left you know you have to adjust accordingly.

    This is an old method used on race cars as far back as the thirties if not earlier.
  21. TagMan
    Joined: Dec 12, 2002
    Posts: 6,199


    How I bent the straight tube axle to correct camber on my buddy's '60 Falcon gasser.....

  22. Thanks for the posts I learned a lot. Kiwi I am copying your gauge.

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