Results 1 to 20 of 20

Thread: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

  1. #1
    Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    San Francisco
    Posts
    88

    Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    I am due for a wheel alignment. From reading past threads many recommend using a dealer for this work. I am in the Bay Area and was going to use Custom Alignment in Mountain View. They are a highly regarded independent shop. Is there anything peculiar to a '94 E500 they may not be aware of?

  2. #2
    Senior Member IslandMon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Rhode Island
    Posts
    100

    Re: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    I have always gone to dealer and ensured they were using the temporary “spreader bar” for lack of exact term, and associated procedure listed in the FSM.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    1992 500E - 215k miles

  3. #3
    E500E Guru maw1124's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    FL & MI, USA
    Posts
    1,651

    Re: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    They should be fine. I've never heard special mention made of mine. Looks like a good shop. My car hasn't seen a dealer in 20years and 3 owners. All the invoices are from German Cars of Sarasota, except for specialty audio work and TireRack.

    maw

    P.S. Reading this thread has been an education. I never knew that thing was called a “spreader bar”, or why they always had someone sit in the car, although I could tell what both were meant to do. I know that they know that most of the time only a driver is in my car. I was always more fascinated with the Hunter machine and tire plates.
    Last edited by maw1124; 2 Weeks Ago at 08:32 AM. Reason: P.S.

  4. #4
    .036 Hoonigan™
    E500E Boffin
    gsxr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Boise, ID, USA
    Posts
    22,072

    Re: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    If you go anywhere besides the dealer, ask if they use a spreader bar when aligning old Mercedes, as IslandMon said. I'd also ask if they verify the steering box is centered as well (they SHOULD do this, there are marks on the box itself). If they don't know what you're talking about, I'd go elsewhere. If you go to the dealer, ask the tech who will do the work the same questions - don't ask the service advisor.

    Also, check the price at both places... if there's not a significant savings, why not go to the dealer?

    Finally, request a printout that shows before & after data.

    Dave M.
    1997 E420 (Bugeyes)
    1994 E420 (Blondie)
    1994 E500 (Q-ship)
    1992 500E (Mach 5)
    1987 300D (Sportline Stage 2)
    Click here for my website
    Click here for my YouTube channel

  5. #5
    Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    San Francisco
    Posts
    88

    Re: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    Thanks for the responses.

    Dave, what is the significance of using a spreader bar?

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    Norcal
    Posts
    209

    Re: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    The spreader bar preloads the wheels to simulate the road force that pushes the tires out as you drive. You'll get a more accurate toe measurement with it.

    I've just found a shop in San Carlos that is willing to use my spreader bar. I was surprised to learn they also load the seats with weight to simulate driver and passenger.

    I'll try to report back after my car is done. Having the 560SEL aligned.

  7. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to luckymike For This Useful Post:

    gsxr (2 Weeks Ago), Jlaa (2 Weeks Ago)

  8. #7
    .036 Hoonigan™
    E500E Boffin
    gsxr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Boise, ID, USA
    Posts
    22,072

    Re: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    Luckymike is correct. The factory specs assume the front wheels are pre-loaded with the spreader bar. If the spreader bar is not used, the toe setting will NOT be correct per factory specs. Very experienced alignment guys can compensate for this and do it right without the bar, but guys like this are rapidly going extinct. Loading the seats with weights is almost unheard of, that's awesome.

    On a related note - make sure you have ALL suspension & steering issues sorted out before getting the alignment, and ride height as well. With dealer alignments pushing $150-$200 now, even higher in some areas, you don't want to end up having it re-done in the near future after another part is replaced. I especially like to replace all the front stuff at the same time (tie rod assemblies, drag link, idler arm if play is over 0.5mm, struts/mounts, yadda x3) so I can forget about it for many years.


  9. #8
    E500E Guru Jlaa's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Location
    Northern California, USA
    Posts
    1,054

    Re: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    Quote Originally Posted by luckymike View Post
    The spreader bar preloads the wheels to simulate the road force that pushes the tires out as you drive. You'll get a more accurate toe measurement with it.

    I've just found a shop in San Carlos that is willing to use my spreader bar. I was surprised to learn they also load the seats with weight to simulate driver and passenger.

    I'll try to report back after my car is done. Having the 560SEL aligned.
    luckymike,

    What shop in San Carlos are you having an alignment done? Curious - perhaps I will visit that place.
    My regular place (which is a full service place --- not an alignment specialist) uses a spreader bar, but doesn't simulate driver / passenger weight.

    Thanks.
    ---
    1993 MB 500E
    1996 Porsche 993 C2

  10. The Following User Says Thank You to Jlaa For This Useful Post:

    gsxr (2 Weeks Ago)

  11. #9
    Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    77

    Re: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    To be honest, the spreader bar and simulated weight are not as critical as people might think. The alignment tolerance is a range of acceptable parameters. Within the tolerance, the car will stay straight, aligned with a spreader bar or not. The final judgement is really about actual driving test. After the alignment, take it to the highway and try it out. Remember that the highway might be tilted, not simulated by the spreader bar. Over time, pay attention to the tire wear.

    In short, the spreader bar and the simulated weight are not the Necessary condition of alignment; i.e., it is wrong to say "No spreader bar/simulated weight, no proper alignment!"

    jftu105

  12. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to jftu105 For This Useful Post:

    Jlaa (2 Weeks Ago), maw1124 (2 Weeks Ago)

  13. #10
    Senior Member northNH's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    107

    Re: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    FWIW My local alignment guy has been doing MBz since the '70s, knows his stuff...

    He says spreader bar ONLY allows his changes to toe to respond (i.e. move) more quickly as the wheels are under outward pressure when adjusting tie rod length.
    He has proven to me with his alignment machine readouts there is no difference in end point with his bar vs. no-bar technique i.e. no difference in readout after bar is removed, remeasured, and compared...

    BTW In Dallas there (still?) used to be a 3rd generation Moroccan alignment guy so experienced that he could get most cars into spec by eye with a ruler...Toe, caster, camber, he'd quickly set 'em and then check 'em with his machine...With his DNA he hardly ever needed to make changes once his eye was satisfied.

    Both laugh(ed) at the added weight on the seats...
    '92 300CE Black/burgundy Sportlined
    '94 320TE Silver/gray
    '86 BMW 635CSi Black/black 5spd
    '67 Volvo Amazon wagon Green/green 75Kmi time capsule
    '62 Volvo Amazon Black/red 4Dr 65Kmi time capsule

  14. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to northNH For This Useful Post:

    jftu105 (2 Weeks Ago), maw1124 (2 Weeks Ago)

  15. #11
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    Norcal
    Posts
    209

    Re: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    Quote Originally Posted by Jlaa View Post
    luckymike,

    What shop in San Carlos are you having an alignment done? Curious - perhaps I will visit that place.
    My regular place (which is a full service place --- not an alignment specialist) uses a spreader bar, but doesn't simulate driver / passenger weight.

    Thanks.
    Jlaa,

    It's called Family Auto Clinic. http://facbelmont.com/ The place doesn't make a great first impression but they're willing to work with me on the alignment so I'm hoping they'll become a go to for that service.

  16. #12
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    Norcal
    Posts
    209

    Re: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    Quote Originally Posted by northNH View Post
    FWIW My local alignment guy has been doing MBz since the '70s, knows his stuff...

    He says spreader bar ONLY allows his changes to toe to respond (i.e. move) more quickly as the wheels are under outward pressure when adjusting tie rod length.
    He has proven to me with his alignment machine readouts there is no difference in end point with his bar vs. no-bar technique i.e. no difference in readout after bar is removed, remeasured, and compared...

    BTW In Dallas there (still?) used to be a 3rd generation Moroccan alignment guy so experienced that he could get most cars into spec by eye with a ruler...Toe, caster, camber, he'd quickly set 'em and then check 'em with his machine...With his DNA he hardly ever needed to make changes once his eye was satisfied.

    Both laugh(ed) at the added weight on the seats...
    Yeah, you'll see strong opinions on spreader bars and weights. I like to follow the manual whenever possible and this shop looks like my chance to do so. We'll see.

    I do know I'm tired of replacing tires prematurely. Hoping this alignment will be the answer.

  17. #13
    .036 Hoonigan™
    E500E Boffin
    gsxr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Boise, ID, USA
    Posts
    22,072

    Re: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    It's the difference between "close enough" and "done right". Whatever floats your boat, go for it.

    In most cases we're talking what - fifty bucks difference? And how much do tires cost if they wear prematurely? It gets close to "penny wise, pound foolish". I've yet to have the dealer screw up an alignment, btw. It helps that my dealer has a fantastic tech who normally does the alignments on my cars.


  18. The Following User Says Thank You to gsxr For This Useful Post:

    luckymike (2 Weeks Ago)

  19. #14
    Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    77

    Re: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    From kinematic point of view, as correctly pointed out by northNH, the spreader bar applies a outward force, which at most causes an minute elastic deformation, as long as the lower control arm and the tie rods have no play. This elastic deformation should be insignificant because the linkages are strong.

    As for the added weight, it would sink a the car body lower, which theoretically could change the camber angle. But the actual camber is affected by the road condition too. It all comes back to the alignment tolerance, within a range in which the car will run just fine. With the spreader bar and the added weight, you will set the alignement at some point within the tolerance. Without them, you still set it at some point within the tolerance.

    The alignment of my four E320, 1994-5, are fine, most of them were aligned by myself using DIY measurements. They stay straight, showing no eneven wear. No spreader bar and added weight in my DIY, of course.

    One severe alignment I experienced and professional alignment failed to cure was due to the tire's cone shape. A bad sample from Goodyear tires (which kills my interest in getting Goodyear in the future). Due to the tire is not cylindrical, it causes the tire to steer to one side. No alignment could cure it and the technician did not catch the problem. I found it by moving the tire to the other side and the alignment problem changed side. The tire was nearly new. Who would have thought it was due to the tire? The spreader and added weight would not address bad tire situations.
    Quote Originally Posted by northNH View Post
    FWIW My local alignment guy has been doing MBz since the '70s, knows his stuff...

    He says spreader bar ONLY allows his changes to toe to respond (i.e. move) more quickly as the wheels are under outward pressure when adjusting tie rod length.
    He has proven to me with his alignment machine readouts there is no difference in end point with his bar vs. no-bar technique i.e. no difference in readout after bar is removed, remeasured, and compared...

    BTW In Dallas there (still?) used to be a 3rd generation Moroccan alignment guy so experienced that he could get most cars into spec by eye with a ruler...Toe, caster, camber, he'd quickly set 'em and then check 'em with his machine...With his DNA he hardly ever needed to make changes once his eye was satisfied.

    Both laugh(ed) at the added weight on the seats...

  20. #15
    Site Honcho
    Klugscheisser
    Ich bekenne mich
    nicht schuldig.
    gerryvz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Annapolis, MD
    Posts
    18,331

    Re: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    Bad tires out of the box have caused a lot of problems for many folks over the years!

    Personally, I've just resigned to take my cars into the "stealership" for alignments. That way I know it's done right, with the correct equipment, and by trained people who know who to do it. And if something is bad, you can get them to stand behind the work.

    It's probably more expensive than going to an indy or alignment shop, but you can get deals and coupons from "stealers" that can reduce the price to a more manageable level. Also, often you get what you pay for.

    Only thing I ever go to a "stealer" for, though.

    Cheers,
    Gerry

  21. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to gerryvz For This Useful Post:

    gsxr (2 Weeks Ago), skikrazey (2 Weeks Ago)

  22. #16
    E500E Guru sheward's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Cumming, Georgia
    Age
    62
    Posts
    2,361

    Re: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    I have also had a couple new tire issues through the years with my trucks. It's hard to consider a new product is at fault but it does happen. You usually figure it out after everything else has been tried. You may even convince a tech initially with the statement "these are brand new Michelin/Bridgestone etc. tires."
    The book method is usually the best method however I always listen to old school wisdom where occasionally an experienced tech may know how to tweak the adjustments to help a car stay centered on more heavily crowned roads. I can imagine a difference where most driving is done in the left lane of a multi lane highway (Yes!) vs. mostly rural two lane backroads. I believe there may be some art to the science in this area. The problem is in finding someone experienced. Nothing much more aggravating than a nice driving car that won't.

    drew

    drew
    Drew
    92 500e 58,500 miles
    92 500e 180,000+ miles
    93 500e 179,000 miles sold
    92 500e 110,000 miles sold

  23. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to sheward For This Useful Post:

    gsxr (2 Weeks Ago), maw1124 (2 Weeks Ago), skikrazey (2 Weeks Ago)

  24. #17
    E500E Guru
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    DFW Texas
    Posts
    2,727

    Re: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    I think what ppl are missing on the spreader bar is the geometry of the steering. Most cars, the steering linkage is infront of the axis of the wheel so the links trail. The MBs were behind the axis, so they push the alignment. So, it is natural to toe out slightly at speed. FYI, I've watched many alignments- it's all computerized and cookbook these days. Yes, you can absolutely do things by eye, level, etc. But things are inter-related and if you "whole sale the suspension and steering" it can be hard to set it up. If it's just one component affected or a slight adjustment- it's pretty easy.

    I monitor tire wear and check suspension regularly.

  25. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to samiam44 For This Useful Post:

    gsxr (2 Weeks Ago), sheward (2 Weeks Ago), skikrazey (4 Days Ago)

  26. #18
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    Norcal
    Posts
    209

    Re: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    Well, can't recommend Family Auto Clinic.

    The tech had agreed during my pre-visit to use my toe-in spreader bar and the agreement was that I'd show him how.

    When I showed up for the appt, he was visibly uneasy. But he proudly showed me pictures on his phone of all the very nice cars he had aligned and I thought we were building some rapport. As he was installing the wheel laser sensors, I asked about the seeming redundancy of locking the brake pedal in addition to using the parking brake and was very surprised by his response to that question. "Do you want me to align your car or not?" "The computer said to." Wow. It really came out of the blue. He followed with "I don't think it's going to work out." It was clear that he was uneasy doing anything new. He's young and I suspect is very capable of following the instructions the computer gives him but I wonder if he's unfamiliar with the 'why' and is therefore lacking in confidence.

    Anyway, I didn't push it. If he really didn't want to do align my car, I sure didn't want him working it so I apologized for wasting his time and left.

    The search for an alignment shop continues...

  27. The Following 5 Users Say Thank You to luckymike For This Useful Post:

    gsxr (4 Days Ago), Jlaa (4 Days Ago), nocfn (3 Days Ago), sheward (4 Days Ago), skikrazey (4 Days Ago)

  28. #19
    E500E Guru sheward's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Cumming, Georgia
    Age
    62
    Posts
    2,361

    Re: Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    There is only one reason for becoming defensive when asked questions. Disappointing to see the amount of folks insecure in their knowledge and unwilling to learn anything. He turned away free help at his own venue.

    drew
    Drew
    92 500e 58,500 miles
    92 500e 180,000+ miles
    93 500e 179,000 miles sold
    92 500e 110,000 miles sold

  29. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to sheward For This Useful Post:

    gsxr (4 Days Ago), skikrazey (4 Days Ago)

  30. #20
    Site Honcho
    Klugscheisser
    Ich bekenne mich
    nicht schuldig.
    gerryvz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Annapolis, MD
    Posts
    18,331

    Wheel Alignment Recommendation

    Quote Originally Posted by sheward View Post
    There is only one reason for becoming defensive when asked questions. Disappointing to see the amount of folks insecure in their knowledge and unwilling to learn anything. He turned away free help at his own venue.

    drew
    It was for the best for all parties. Talk to El Roy Spencer in the Burl, and see who he recommends.

    Or just go to Oracle Autobahn Motors in Redwood Shores and have them do it.

Similar Threads

  1. Wheel alignment specs
    By cossie in forum Brakes, Suspension and Steering
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 2 Weeks Ago, 10:36 AM
  2. suspension and wheel balance/alignment
    By JSUNDARAM in forum Wheels and Tires
    Replies: 21
    Last Post: 11-10-2013, 05:36 PM
  3. after alignment, how can you tell?
    By jano in forum Brakes, Suspension and Steering
    Replies: 24
    Last Post: 05-24-2013, 09:09 PM
  4. New Alignment
    By szvook in forum Wheels and Tires
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 12-20-2010, 05:35 PM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •