originally published as The Driveway Mechanic: Keeping the Tiger on the Straight and Narrow by Larry Paulick in the October 2000 RootesReview:
Hi Group. Well, I am finally getting my alignment on the Tiger to come into spec, which is 4 degrees positive caster, 1/2 degree negative camber, and 1/8″ negative toe-in. This is what I learned:
- First you will need to determine what you are going to do with the car, e.e. touring, autocrossing, whatever so you can decide on the appropriate specs.
- I settled on an alignment spec that will provide a reasonable touring car, but also allow autocrossing, while not getting so far out of spec to ruin your tires for daily driving.
- The alignment must be set up in the following sequence: caster, camber, and toe-in.
There are several web sites that explain this sequence and what each of the alignment specs is.
I purchased a Longacre caster/ camber alignment tool for about $160. This includes the alignment tool itself and an adapter that screws on the few threads of the spindle where the front wheel bearings are located.
You will need a reasonably level surface to put the four wheels of the car on but the Longacre gauge allows for a surface that is not completely level. When you sit in the car, the caster and camber settings change and therefore it is more accurate if you can have the car set up with you in it.
There are also very expensive turntables that allow the front wheels to move with the weight in the car (i.e. you) and when you turn the front wheels left and right. You can get very accurate readings by using plastic garbage bags under the front wheels. The surface allows a relatively slippery surface to move on. When setting up the car, bounce the front end up and down to settle the alignment. Set your tire pressure to specs, gas in tank at least 1/2 full and the normal stuff you would have in the car.
Always torque the bolts to spec, WITHOUT FAIL.
Setting up the caster can be accomplished in two ways. If the car is really out of spec, you can add shims under the cross member, between the alum wedge spacer and the frame rails. I found an aluminum ruler at Home Depot for $7 that was 1/8″ thick and 2″ wide, the same width as the aluminum spacer. I cut the ruler in 2″ long strips for the spacer. Bonus is that the measurement is right on the ruler.
The additional caster, or if your car is not that far out of spec, is set up at the rear bolt on the upper A arm, by adding single shims at this point. This is how you do it: Get various single shims from a body shop or good auto parts store. Use alignment shims, not body shims, because they have a tab with a hole in to grab. Much easier to work with when adding or subtracting shims.
Put a jack under the front A arm, jack up the car, take off the wheel, and use a 5/8″ socket with extension to loosen the two upper A arm bolts. Now jack up the car further, so that you take the tension of the spring off the upper A arms. What you want is enough space to add or subtract shims. If you need to get a positive caster, add a single shim to the rear bolt, tight both bolts to spec, i.e. 52 ft-lbs, put the tire on , bounce the car again and check the new caster.
Sounds like a lot, but after adding the first shim, you’ll get the hang of it.
Set the caster for both sides.
Setting the camber is next. The procedure is similar to setting the caster on the upper A arms, but you will be using a double shim that goes behind both bolts. Use the same general procedure as for caster. Now check your camber and then check the caster. It may have changed with the camber. Again, drive the car for a short distance and check the caster and camber in that order. If they’re still good, you move on to the toe.
Toe-in does not affect caster or camber and is adjusted by the adjusters at the end of the R&P and tie rods. The first thing is to make sure your steering is centered. With the car jacked up, turn your steering wheel from lock to lock, left and right. Mark each and cut in half to find the true center. If necessary, take off the steering wheel and realign it.
Next, using a long straight edge, like an electrical conduit, make sure your front tires are pointing straight ahead.
The next and final step is now easy. Jack up the front so that the tires are just off the ground and spin the tires; using a nail or sharp point, put a mark on the tires. Adjust the screws on the left and right tie rod ends to get your toe-in measuring the front and back of the tire at the same height off the ground on the scribed mark to get your toe-in.
Congratulations. You are now finished.