Mercedes DIY Wheel Alignment
Why?? I purchased one of those life time alignments from Firestone back in 2007. The first time, the alignment is perfect. Car was running straight, nice print out of specs, no problems. Then, I replaced my ball joints and lower control arm. I brought the car back to the local Firestone. 2 hours later, no print out, car was pulling to the right. Worst then when I first installed the lower control arm without an alignment. A week later, I brought my car to a second Firestone. The guy aligned it again, told me it was way off. Another 2 hours, he was done. He drove it around the block, told me it was still pulling, then proceeded to adjust my tie rods WITHOUT the machine. WTF!?!?!?!!? He told me his eyeballs were more accurate then the machine. I drove home, car was still pulling. I decided if I wanted this to be done right, I need to do it myself.
Of all my alignments, I don’t think they have ever adjusted the camber or caster, only toe.
This method, is a combination of all the different DIY articles I’ve seen on the web. I believe, is the least expensive, most accurate and easiest method out there. I spent less than $10.
Straight wood Stick 8 feet long ($1.89)
Two 2x4 wood blocks (Already have)
Metallic Sharpie ($2.89 – packet of 2)
13 MM Open end and an adjustable wrench (Already have)
4 vinyl Floor Tiles ($.89 each)
Bearing Grease (Already have)
Jack (Already have)
1) Put the 8 foot stick in front of the tires and select a spot on the tire that has the best contact.
2) Jack up the car, and using a metallic Sharpie, draw a line around the tire while it is rotating. I used a drill vice to hold the Sharpie to make a perfect line.
3) Loosened the tie rod ends’ lock nuts
4) I have a long drive way, so I drove it back and forth twice, then rolled into my garage
5) Just before stopping, I placed homemade turn plates in front of the tires, proceeded to drive on to them. (Homemade turn plates –Bearing Grease sandwich using 12x12 vinyl non-adhesive floor tiles. I was able to turn the wheels with my hand. Be sure to leave the keys in the ignition to prevent the steering lock from engaging)
6) Make sure your steering wheel is straight
7) I placed a 8 foot 1x2 stick in BACK of the front tires. Using two 2x4 blocks, I placed the stick as high as I can without touching the car.
8) I made exact matching marks on both sides of the stick as the two sharp lines on the tires
9) Now, I moved the stick to the front of the front tires using the same blocks. Be sure to match one of the marks to the tire line. I chose to match the driver side tire because I have more space in my garage on that side. (you will only need to make one additional mark)
10) On the passenger side tire, you see the difference between the measurements of the marks and the lines on the tires (my car had a toe out condition, almost ½ inch).
11) If your car is out of alignment, you will see the difference between the two marks.
12) Your perfect alignment will be the mid-point between the two marks.
13) Proceed to adjust your tie rod ends – I recommend moving both rod ends in small increments until the tire lines match with the correct alignment marks on the stick. (Remember, you only need to adjust half that distance since the rear of the wheel will also move as you adjust the tie rod end)
14) Tighten your rod ends, turn your steering a few times, and re-measure front and back. Make sure the alignment is perfect.
15) Now you have perfect alignment.
I truly believe this toe alignment is more accurate than any machine can achieve.
Note: This method is usually better then string methods since the string method is not accurate if every one of your measurements are not perfectly squared with what you are measuring. With this technique, measurement errors are not introduced into the alignment process.
Note: Also, you can put a slight toe in (front of the wheels are slightly pointed in) on your alignment, which helps with high speed stability.
“Toe is always adjustable in production automobiles, even though caster angle and camber angle are often not adjustable. Maintenance of front end alignment, which used to involve all three adjustments, currently involves only setting the toe; in most cases, even for a car in which caster or camber are adjustable, only the toe will need adjustment.”
Also, here is my blog on DIY Mercedes Ball Joint Change: