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Wheel alignment-my guy retired- this sucks

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by 50dodge4x4, May 11, 2006.

  1. 50dodge4x4
    Joined: Aug 7, 2004
    Posts: 3,535


    So I got my 39 up and running. Cool. Now ready to move on to other important matters so we can cruise. Called the place where I have always gotten my wheel allignments done in the past. The guy was great. They tell me the guy that did the alignments retired and they no longer do wheel alignments! THIS SUCKS. Now I have to find another guy that can actually do a good job on the old cars.

    So I call this one place. Get to talk to the guy that does the alignments. Me "Can you do a wheel alignment on a 39 Plymouth?" Him, "A 39 Plymouth? Do you mean an 89 Plymouth?" Me, "No its a 39." Him, "Um yea, sure, no problem." Me, "Do you have specs on the 39?" Him, "No, maybe you can get them off the internet or something." Me, "How much do you charge for an alignment?" Him, "49.95." Me "Thanks, I'll see if I can find the specs."

    Called the second place. "Can you do a wheel alignment on a 39 Plymouth?" Him, " yep, sure can." Me, "Do you have the specs for the 39?" Him, "Nope." Me, "If you don't have the specs, how do you align it?" Him," If we don't have the specs, we just set it straight up." Me, " I see, how much do you charge for an alignment?" Him, "starts at $59.95, goes up from there, depending on what we gotta do to it." Me, "can you give me a better idea that that?" Him "Nope!" Me, "OK, I'll see if I can get some specs for it."

    So if they are going to "just set it straight up" for "starting at $59.95" I think I can do that in my garage wth a level. My garage floor is pretty flat. Think I can do that, or am I missing something? Gene
  2. Big-Olaf
    Joined: May 9, 2006
    Posts: 241


    If you set the car "straight up" it will wander all over the road..... You will want a slight ammount of positive caster. (it actually depends on the spindle configuration... Draw an imaginary line between the upper and lower ball joints... look at the spindle location.... if the spindle is in front of the line, you should make the upper ball joint sit a little back.. if the spindle is towards the rear, bring the upper joint foreward)That is what helps to return the wheel back to straight wen you are finished turning, and helps a lot with the tracking of the car..... You will also want a few degrees of toe in... This one is the most important in my book. Your front wheels end up being pulled by the suspension. if you have them set straight, when you start moving, the wheels will want to toe out a bit, and your ride will pull, and posibly track on all of the groves on the road.....(if you were doing a front wheel drive you would toe it out It is also necessary to add a little caster (tops of the tires in or out) you will want the tops of the wheels to be in slightly (think early VW bug rear end...) I would suggest setting evrything "straight up" then adding 1 or 1.5 degrees of each. Set the camber first, then the caster, then toe.... I would suggest calling around too find a shop that has the specs, and then give them to your local guys..... Don't take it to the guy that asked if you meant 89......

    check with these guys... they have CD's with all kinds of good technical info on them....
  3. RacerRick
    Joined: May 16, 2005
    Posts: 2,753


    I think you are thinking of camber - the tops of the tires leaning in or out is the camber setting. Caster different. Caster is closer to kingpin inclination angle. Set you camber to less than 1 degree negative. something like a half a degree negative works well. You want 3-5degrees of caster for the average street driven car - it will track well and the wheel will return to center with good road feel. For a drag race only car, go for 7-10 degrees caster.

    Toe should be minimal and always in at rest. Like above, put in something minimal like 1/8" toe in.
  4. Brad54
    Joined: Apr 15, 2004
    Posts: 6,008

    from Atl Ga

    Does it have the stock front suspension under it? Or is a late-model set-up.

    If it's stock, find yourself either a factory shop manual for it (which will have the specs) or a vintage Motors Manual--it'll also have the specs.

    To actually have the alignment done, I've had good luck going to places that deal with heavy trucks! Not Semi trucks, but big delivery vans, moving vans, etc. They're used to doing solid I-beam axles, king-pins, etc. I had to have one of them do my '54 Buick because I couldn't find anyone who would touch the front end.

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  5. tommy
    Joined: Mar 3, 2001
    Posts: 14,758

    Member Emeritus

    Stock 1939 P-7 or P-8 specs. as per Motors manual 1948

    caster -1 to +1
    camber 0 to +3/4
    toe in 1/8"
    king pin inclination 5 1/4 to 6 1/2
  6. Why not align it yourself?

    I've done it with a tape measure and digital level.

    The digital level to check camber.
    Tape measure to set toe-in - although later on I built a toe-in alignment device.

    Some guys use string stretched along the tires for toe-in checks, other guys use angle aluminum or steel to measure from.

    The angle al or steel a better way to set toe than measuring from center as I did.

    If your digital level is a short one you can use it to set caster, but one of the Sears - and other places - under ten bucks angle finder will set caster just fine.

    If you do the alignment in your home garage be aware the floor may tilt outward 1-2 degrees so water etc. will drain out under the door.
    You can make a judgement call here or set caster then reverse the car in the garage and check caster again.
    Averaging it out will give you true caster.

    Monitor tire wear and re-check toe if necessary.

    It ain't Rocket Science....
  7. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 46,485


    How did you end up doing the steering on the car?

    pics???? please?????

    I agree, see if you can get the caster the same on both sides, the actual value isn't very critical. You should be able to find a place on the upright that you can put a level or angle finder on; I think the 39 Chevys actually have two machined surfaces just for this, not sure about the mopars.

    Set the camber by using a level on the wheels, have the top of the wheels out perhaps 1/8" further than the bottom, again get both sides the same.

    set toe using some method of measuring the front and back of the tires, set the front distance 1/8" to 1/4" closer together than the rear.

    this should do it...and as C9 says, check for tire wear and maybe play with it to fix any problems.

    If the steering is modified, you might possibly get some bump steer, which can screw things up, so watch for that too.

    Pics? please???????
  8. 50dodge4x4
    Joined: Aug 7, 2004
    Posts: 3,535


    Thanks guys. Way back when, I used to race cars on our local dirt track. I used to do a lot of camber and toe setting. So this should not be a big deal. Hell, I've done everything else on this front end, might as well do the wheel allignment too. :rolleyes: By the specs posted, looks like if I set the camber straight up and don't mess with the caster I should be good. I have alrady set trhe toe in, so its not a big deal, just need to recheck it after the camber is set. I have driven this thing at highway speeds already and it drives real good, I think my camber is only off because of the disc brake conversion.

    The car has the stock independent suspension. I have added a disc brake conversion, so the bottom of the spindles are 3/8" farther out then they were originally. I have also done a rack and pinoin steering on this car. I used a rack from a 88-93 Chevy Corsicia. The Corsicia rack has the inner tie rods at the center of the steering rack giving very long tie rods, like the car originally had. (22 1/2" tie rod stud to center of mounting hole, on one side and 21 1/2" long on the other side.) A Corsicia rack is a rear steer rack, meaning the tie rods are behind the spindles. A rack from a 93-96 Dodge Intrepid is the same style rack but it is a front steer rack, meaning the tie rods are in front of the spindles. The tie rods are interchangable between the two racks if you use one style or the other on both sides. I used the Intrepid tie rods because I had them. There is a differance between the way the steering column attaches to the rack. The GM rack has a special size shaft on the rack and you have to use the GM intermediate shaft ($100 from GM) I got one from a junk yard for $5. The column end of the GM intermediate shaft is a standard 3/4" DD shaft femal end. The Mopar rack has a standard 3/4" DD shaft. The rack is just about the perfect width for the frame. I made simple angle brackets from 1/8" plate with a gusset on each bracket and welded the brackets, centered, on the frame. The rack is held onto the brackets with factory style clamps and 3/8" bolts. I used a power steering rack, Its a little tight to get the hoses ran through the holes, and I had to shorten the hoses I had on hand from the Intrepid rack, but it works well.

    I had to heat the Intrepid tie rod shaft and bend it about 10 degrees about 4" from the center to clear everything under the car. I also shortened the tie rod shaft about 2" on each side (outward from the bend). I cut the shaft with my sawzall and ground an angle on both sides of the cut and welded them back together. (I own a welding shop, I am a qualified welder.) There is about an inch of useable adjustment in each tie rod assembly, plenty of room for fine tuning.

    The biggest problem I ran into was the Intrepid tie rods were a lot smaller diameter then the original tie rod ends. After spending a couple weeks persueing bushings to fill the holes, with no luck, I ended up welding the holes shut in my spindle arms. The spindle arms were good forged pieces. After welding the holes shut and grinding them flat again, I redrilled the holes to a smaller diameter drill bit that matched the tie rod end stud size (small end). Then I took a deburing rotory file on my die grinder and hand fit the tapper. A reamer would have probably worked faster and better, but I didn't have one or the $70 to buy one. Once the tie rod was in the tapper and the nut was tightened, it wasn't like it could fall out.

    I'll try to do some pictures tomorrow.
  9. 4 2 GO
    Joined: Sep 16, 2005
    Posts: 128

    4 2 GO

    For a quick and accurate way of measuring toe-in, lift the front wheels just off the floor. Hold a long, fine point Phillips screwdriver or similar stiff, pointy thing on top of something solid with a flat top and bottom, like a gallon paint tin. Touch the point of the driver to the center of the tire tread pattern and rotate the wheel once, making a mark on the tire. Do the same to the other tire then drop the car back on the floor. Roll it forward and back a foot or so to set the wheels in their natural position.
    Now use a steel tape measure to measure the distance between the marks on the front and back of the tires. The distance at the back should be the recommended toe-in distance more than the distance at the front. In most case 1/8 to 3/16 inch.
    The Bear wheel alingment pit I worked in as a teenager used exactly this method, only the measuring device was a scaled bar with movable pointers fitted to a stand.
  10. Retrorod
    Joined: Jan 25, 2006
    Posts: 2,020


  12. Stick Shift
    Joined: Oct 2, 2005
    Posts: 2,558

    Stick Shift
    from LENA IL

    Hey Gene if you want some help, I would be able to help next week. You will probably have it done by the weekend so you can cruise, if the crappy weather holds off.
  13. 50dodge4x4
    Joined: Aug 7, 2004
    Posts: 3,535


    I will probably be out in the shop this weekend, but I'm working on the "millon useless little shit" list (cowl vent opener/closer, heater controles & blower motor wiring, windshield wiper motor & wiring, the stuff that just sucks up time) so I can get all the crap done and can cruise. If I start cruising before the little shit gets done, it probably won't get done.

    Stupid question time, I was looking at the front suspension today, are there ecentric bushings at the top of the kingpins that get adjusted??? Would save me some head scratching if someone could tell me exactly how you adjust this thing...never done one like this one before.

    Sorry, forgot to take the pictures today. I'll see if I can remember tomorrow...
  14. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 46,485


    yeah, there's an eccentric in the upper bushing,

    "caster is not adjustable but the proper setting is obtained when assembling the camber eccentric bushing

    to adjust camber, loosen the eccentric clamp screw at the upper end of the knuckle supporta nd turn the bushing to obtain the correct setting. The camber adjustment must be made within a half revolution from the point where the caster setting is correct. On 1939 cars, at least a thread or two should be exposed beyond the face of teh bushing after the setting is made."

    What they mean, is that you have to assemble the upper bushing with the front/back position of the upright in the correct position to set caster properly. Then you can turn the eccentric part of a turn to set camber angle.
  15. DrJ
    Joined: Mar 3, 2001
    Posts: 9,422


    Here's your specs:

    Motors Repair Manual
    39 Plymouth alignment specs

    Caster - ZEROº - straight up is correct!
    Camber - +3/8º - virtually straight up!
    Toe in - 1/16"

    You can set it with a carpenter's level and a tape measure.
    +3/8º is about a quarter bubble off plumb.
  16. 50dodge4x4
    Joined: Aug 7, 2004
    Posts: 3,535


    Thanks Guys.
  17. Bugman
    Joined: Nov 17, 2001
    Posts: 3,483


    If your in good with the guy, maybe you could have him come over and help you do it. Give him a few bucks and some beers. You can do it on your own just fine, but having hime help might give you an in just in case you ever come across something that isn't so easy.

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