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  #1  
Old 09-11-2007, 01:22 PM
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Front end alignment question: centering steering wheel

After doing a lot of work on my front end ('85 380SE), bushings mainly, I had the wife take it in for an alignment, as I was out of town and couldn't make the appointment.
When I got home, I took it for a highway drive and noticed the steering wheel was slightly off to the left, when it should have been pointing straight ahead. So I called the guy who did the work, and he says the steering box has too much play in it and he couldn't center the wheel accurately on the alignment apparatus. He more or less said that it was the best he could do and if I wanted to pay for it, by the hour, he would work to center it for me.
I guess it has to be set up on the alignment machine all over again to tweak the centering. The alignment cost me $70.00 and I can't see paying that again just for this adjustment. Grrrrrrr.....
My question is, if I turn the tie rod ends the same amount to change the position of the wheel, would this affect toe-in/out only? Or should I reposition the steering wheel on the splines?
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  #2  
Old 09-11-2007, 03:00 PM
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That is how you center a steering wheel,,,, just make sure you turn one end to take that wheel out or in and turn the other one to do the same. A quarter to a half turn should do the trick.
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  #3  
Old 09-11-2007, 03:12 PM
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Just do each tie rod equally and you should be good to go.
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Old 09-11-2007, 03:51 PM
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Hmm I am not an expert but, after 20 years ii the automotive service industry, I believe that centering the steering wheel is I REPEAT "IS" a part of the alignment.

After test drivin g the car he should have noticed the steering wheel and either made the adjustments you are considering or rehung the heads, measured the gearbox play and called you and offered to adjust the box and then center the steering wheel. I would ask him once again to correct the car or contact your credit card and stop payment on the repair.

Did he give you a printout? It should show what machine he used. and what the toe was set at. if no printou there is no proof that he set the alignment properly.

Did you ever consider the fact that he didn't like spending 2 hours aligning your Benz for a lousy $70 and therefore he just got ity close and went on with his day?

I sublet an alignment on a 126 body. A 2001 500S, after replacing the lower control arm bushings and the sway bar links, to three shops. 2 of them to start on the job and then stop and the other set the toe so it was well over the specified spec because they didn't have a toe rod and were compensating for it. When comparing the printouts one shop set the camer caster and quit and the other set the toe and drove the car and then rehung the heads to find that the toe was out of spec agan. The thrird shop just setr t the toe and did a poor job of it. May I ask where you took your car?
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  #5  
Old 09-11-2007, 04:10 PM
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Your steerig box has a lock center pin that gets installed before alignment. He did not do this ..
As others advise , turn the tierods equally 1/4 turn at a time until you have the SW centered..that will change the SW center w/o changing the toe spec.
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Old 09-11-2007, 04:22 PM
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I too was going to suggest what jeff (moose) did, but I feared the flames. Not all mechanics cut corners, but in this instance that appears to have been the case.
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  #7  
Old 09-11-2007, 04:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeff (moose) View Post
Did he give you a printout? It should show what machine he used. and what the toe was set at. if no printou there is no proof that he set the alignment properly.
No printout. He's an indy, operates out of a local tire shop, but he has done work for me before and is thought highly of locally. He uses a high end machine, and when I asked about the use of a spreader bar, he replied that he compensates by adding a small increment to the specified values (we didn't get into detail here, as I'm no guru on this anyway). Others on this forum have stated that the difference with and without the bar is negligible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeff (moose) View Post
Did you ever consider the fact that he didn't like spending 2 hours aligning your Benz for a lousy $70 and therefore he just got ity close and went on with his day?
Well, I don't consider $70.00 a cheap alignment, at least not here. Most shops charge $50.00 or so. His getting it close was, as I/he said, related to the slop in the steering box, which I'll have to take his word on. His position is that he had to set-up the car to adjust the centering, and doing a road test, then re-setting it up again, adjusting, then re-aligning, simply isn't offered or included in the standard alignment price.


Quote:
Originally Posted by jeff (moose) View Post
May I ask where you took your car?
We don't have a Mercedes dealer here, so most locals who own a Benz go to this guy.

I appreciate your comments though. I didn't consider adjusting the steering box play part of an alignment, unless the dealer or someone who works on Mercedes was also doing the work. I checked my service manual and it looks like there is a screw on the box that can be turned to take up play. Wish I'd done that first.

Oh, and after another road test today, the off-center amount is really small, maybe tolerable.....but if it's not, then 1 spline should do it, ....or a bit of a turn on each tie rod, which would be easier I guess considering the air-bag has to be removed to remove the steering wheel.
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  #8  
Old 09-11-2007, 04:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arthur Dalton View Post
Your steerig box has a lock center pin that gets installed before alignment. He did not do this ..
As others advise , turn the tierods equally 1/4 turn at a time until you have the SW centered..that will change the SW center w/o changing the toe spec.
OK, that explains part of the problem: he isn't the MB alignment pro that his local reputation gives him I guess. I'm gonna do the tie rod turning....now, the wheel is leaning a bit to the left of center, or in other words, going straight, it's as if I'm making a small left turn. Can anyone advise how to turn the tie rods to center the wheel, as I'm afraid to mess up my toe settings?
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  #9  
Old 09-11-2007, 05:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donbryce View Post
OK, that explains part of the problem: he isn't the MB alignment pro that his local reputation gives him I guess. I'm gonna do the tie rod turning....now, the wheel is leaning a bit to the left of center, or in other words, going straight, it's as if I'm making a small left turn. Can anyone advise how to turn the tie rods to center the wheel, as I'm afraid to mess up my toe settings?
Depends on the tie rods and the way they are threaded, left or right-hand. Best thing to do is just observe the movement as they are turned, carefully noting the amount of turns so that you can easily undo what you have done.
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  #10  
Old 09-11-2007, 06:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donbryce View Post
OK, that explains part of the problem: he isn't the MB alignment pro that his local reputation gives him I guess. I'm gonna do the tie rod turning....now, the wheel is leaning a bit to the left of center, or in other words, going straight, it's as if I'm making a small left turn. Can anyone advise how to turn the tie rods to center the wheel, as I'm afraid to mess up my toe settings?
You do not want to change the spline position on the SW b/c that also effects the directional cancel alignment. That is why the steering box has the lock feature.

Anyway....

The problem you have is the car will steer right if you hold the SW in central position ...correct??

so...you want the right tie rod to be lengthened and the left one to be shortened.
So..., simply turn them both the EXACT same amout [ start with 1/4 turn].
You will turn them both the same direction b/c one side has rh threads and the other has lh threads..so when you lengthen the right, you will shorten the left...the toe is not effected..see ??
I use a white chalk mark on each link, facing straight down , so you know when a 1/4, 1/2 .3/4 , etc. turn is made to each.
The reason for them to be turned the same amount is b/c that will not change the toe, but it will change the sw position in reference to the staright ahead tire alignment. That is what the box lock tool does automatically.
As far as the bar goes . if the front end is tight , it is not needed..the bar takes any slop out before alignment adjustments are made...
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  #11  
Old 09-11-2007, 06:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmercoleza View Post
Depends on the tie rods and the way they are threaded, left or right-hand. Best thing to do is just observe the movement as they are turned, carefully noting the amount of turns so that you can easily undo what you have done.
And it should only take a 1/4 to 1/2 turn. Make a chalk line on the threads so you can keep track of how far you go. I always center the steering wheel first, then bring the wheels into line.
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  #12  
Old 09-11-2007, 11:26 PM
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Keep in mind roads usually slope one way or the other for drainage, so that will often result in the wheel not being centered. I assume you are aware of this but you need to drive on some different roads to make sure it is always off center.

If so then as everyone said just tweak the tie rod nuts a bit and you will be fine. Quite easy to do.

Mike
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  #13  
Old 09-12-2007, 03:31 PM
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Excuse me but isn't the first thing an alignment tech does to to check to find out if the car is able to be aligned? Iif parts are found to be loose they are to be addressed before starting the alignment. If the customer declines the repairs or adjustments then it should be stated on the work order.

Checking for gearbox play is not only to insure the steering wheel is able to be straight but also is considered a saftey inspection item in most states!!!

I think you should first check the steering play and see how bad it is. Just measure the distance the wheel moves without the tire moving both in a running and non running position.

Please note: High end machines have been printing out the before and after specs since 1980 I still stink this guy "Bonused" you because you DIY and he got stuck with the grunt work and not the gravy.

Also. the average price for an alignment is $70 dollars here in Kansas City and if the alignment does not have enough toe in, the car will wander at speed and too much it will wear the tires as toe is the most major reason for tire wear.

Yes I am thankful that I was not flamed as I considered it before posting but I hate to hear of Bbonusing" in an industry that has such a bad reputation caused by a few that affect the majority of reputable shops
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Last edited by jeff (moose); 09-12-2007 at 03:32 PM. Reason: typo
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  #14  
Old 09-12-2007, 07:16 PM
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Well, I followed the directions given and the steering wheel is now noticeably more centered than turned slightly left when driving straight ahead. (or as A. Dalton noted, the car now goes straight rather than to the right with the wheel centered). I will need more time and some varied roads to assess if it's as good as can be expected.

I did the following:

- First, I made a white mark on the threaded inner ends of both rod ball joints, directly opposite the slot in the rod tube. This was my reference, as received from the alignment job.

- I marked each rod tube with a white metal marker pen at 1/4 and 1/2 turn positions, relative to the slot.

- I turned both rods in a forward direction (as the road wheels would turn going forward)(easier to explain than 'clockwise from the right' or whatever) to the marked 1/4 turn position, and did a road test. No change. So I returned and advanced both forward to the 1/2 turn position. Road tested, again no change.

- I then turned both rods backward to the initial position, and rotated both backwards this time, to the already marked 1/2 turn position. The road test indicated a noticeable change in the wheel position, very nearly centered. I rotated both an additional 1/4 turn, and the wheel is now as centered as I can get it.

What I find mind boggling about this exercise is this left and right thread business. The service manual describes the trackrods (tie rods) as follows:

"Pitman arm side, lefthand threads mounted at the left in driving direction", and "Intermediate steering arm side, lefthand threads mounted at the left in driving direction". This is verbatum from the book, 46.5 - 540/1. Misprint? Or is the left rod thread on both sides left threaded, the rightmost rod thread right threaded?

More importantly, DID I DO THIS CORRECTLY? I now have no way to verify my toe settings, short of another alignment.

Lastly, with the engine running, wheels on the ground, there is less than 1/2" of movement at the rim before you can see the tire/wheel start to move. Doesn't feel 'loose' to me at all. And, I really couldn't see where any wrench or socket had been on the big nuts for the camber adjustment, the eccentric bolts on each side. Maybe the setting was within spec and didn't need to be touched? I think I got ripped off on this alignment job.... .....But if the correction has been done right, I'm happy for the learning experience.
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  #15  
Old 09-12-2007, 09:56 PM
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Arrrrrrrrrrrrghhhhh !!!!!
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Old 09-12-2007, 09:56 PM
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