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Old 06-25-2006, 12:47 AM   #1
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Any way to check wheel alignment?

I have a 80 single axle Caravelle and want to know how I can check the wheel alignment? I've read all the info about balancing the hubs and wheels and will call Les Schwab Tires on that one, but what about wheel alignment? Thanks, Don
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Old 06-25-2006, 07:29 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glacierrunne
I have a 80 single axle Caravelle and want to know how I can check the wheel alignment? I've read all the info about balancing the hubs and wheels and will call Les Schwab Tires on that one, but what about wheel alignment? Thanks, Don
I'm not sure how to do that on your own. I'm sure most folks know when alignment is needed due to uneven tread wear.

Jack
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Old 06-25-2006, 07:55 AM   #3
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Don,
The most basic setting is toe in, you can roughly check this by measuring from the same point between the rear of the tires/rims and the front of the tires/rims and comparing the differences. Obviously if the rear measurement it larger than the front you will have toe in. I have attached a pdf file of the information. You will need to find out the specfics for your specfic year and model of trailer.

Aaron
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Axle Alignment.pdf.pdf (1.07 MB, 96 views)
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Old 06-25-2006, 07:58 AM   #4
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What Jack said is the best indicator. If one (or both) of your tires is wearing in a feather pattern, or is wearing more on the outside edge or inside edge, you could have an alignment problem. Wear on the inside edge could also be caused by loose wheel bearings, or overloading. Diagonal flat spots worn across the tread may indicate an axle replacement is needed.
Are you noticing anything that would incline you to think you may have an alignment problem, or are you more interested in this from a preventative maintenance standpoint?
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Old 06-25-2006, 01:59 PM   #5
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I am wondering the same thing:
how to check alignment.

I have uneven tread wear showing on my left tire. It's wearing more on the inside than the outside.
I repacked wheelbearing 2 months / 3600 miles ago. All was fine. now it's showing wear.

could it simply be wheel bearings loose on that side?
Safari 64
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Old 06-25-2006, 05:50 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Safari64
I am wondering the same thing:
how to check alignment.

I have uneven tread wear showing on my left tire. It's wearing more on the inside than the outside.
I repacked wheelbearing 2 months / 3600 miles ago. All was fine. now it's showing wear.

could it simply be wheel bearings loose on that side?
Safari 64
Yes. Jack up that side, and see if the wheel can be moved excessively side to side. If it does, you need to readjust the bearings.
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Old 06-25-2006, 06:32 PM   #7
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Good advice. All of it.
There is another measurment you can take your self. It's one that is very important when building a new frame or after the axle has had an impact such as hitting a piece of debris in the road or a pot hole.
Lift the trailer and set the axle on good SAFE jack stands. Take off both tires and remove the hubs like you were going to grease the bearings. Have a helpmate hold a tapemeasure for you at the very front tip of the ball coupler.
Measure from the coupler to the center of the hole in the end of the axle spindle. Then measure the other side in the same way. The two measurements should be within 1/8" of each other. If they are off more than 1/8" or a slight bit more your trailer is running doglegged because the axle is not lined up with the frame and you will need to see someone in a spring repair shop. Since the wind on that big slippery tube is enough to keep it running fairly straight it will wear your tires out. On a utility trailer without the wind resistance you would be able to see it running doglegged from behind.
The tape must be free of interference from the belly pan or any stuff hanging under the trailer. If there is no way to measure from the coupler without interference try measuring from the back of the jack. Coupler is best however. New springs aren't cheap but not cost prohibitive either. If axle is much out of alignment it will show up in reduced gas mileage as well as worn tires.
HTH
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Old 06-25-2006, 08:01 PM   #8
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We aligned a 68 Safari that was dog-legging badly. We had to remove the axle ( replaced it, too) and reset the notches and mounting holes in the axle mounting plate to square the axle in the frame. There was no sign of impact, this one must have been manufactured that way. It was almost one inch out of square.
You can check toe-in with the method described below. It should have a very slight toe in, but never toe out.
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Old 06-25-2006, 08:23 PM   #9
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A lazer/level will do the trick. I have been checking and adjusting my vehicles for a number of years now and it works very well. It will work for a trailer as well.

It is easy to do but quite a story if put into words. If anyone is interested I will do a write up.
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Old 06-26-2006, 11:04 AM   #10
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If anyone is interested I will do a write up.
Yes , please. These levels are now inexpensive, and I've been looking for an excuse to buy one!
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Old 06-28-2006, 05:18 AM   #11
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Ok, here goes.
The idea is to align the laser level, parallel to the tire/wheel assembly. This only works if the rim is true so best to lift the trailer or vehicle up of the ground so you can spin the tire/wheel assembly to verify it is true. Then drop the trailer back to the ground.

Tow in or tow out:
Set and hold the laser level against the side of the rim. Then get a large piece of cardboard and set it on it's edge directly in front of the trailer. I use a piece of 4'x9', 3 ply card board. The laser will project the red spot on the card board which you will mark with a pencil. Don't move the cardboard. Then take the laser to the opposite side of the trailer and do the same thing on the other wheel (same axle). Also locate the centre of the coupler and mark that location on the card board as well.
You now have two dots (pencil marks) on the card board located from the rims. If you have multiple axles repeat the process for each axle. Number your pencil marks as to not get them mixed up. Now move the cardboard 30 to 50' ( the farther away the more accurate the procedure is) away from the vehicle and redo the laser thing at the wheels making new pencil marks. If the pencil marks are the same distance apart when the card board was close to the vehicle, compared to when the card board was move away then your wheel alignment is straight, and has neither tow in nor tow out. You can now see at a glance by looking at the cardboard how the alignment is for each wheel with respect to each other. You can also use the pencil mark in the centre of the card board to determine if the wheels are running parallel with the line of the trailer.

Alignment top to bottom:
Assuming the vehicle or trailer is sitting level do the following. Turn the laser off and just use the level. Position it vertically against the side of the rim. View the level indicator to determine how the wheel looks. If the bubble is centred then the wheels are correct.
If any of the wheels you are measuring require positive or negative settings then it gets a little complicated doing the math to determine what degree you need or have but I have found this method very easy to determine if you are in the ball park.
Hope this gives you an idea how to do a quick check of your wheel alignment of your trailer and in many cases much of the alignment properties of your vehicles. You may not want to get into the actual adjustment but it will tell you if you need to go to an alignment specialist to get any adjustments done.

Note: On a 15 inch wheel your laser level will need to be about 15 1/2 inches long to rest against the rim without hitting the tire. If your laser level is too short you need to attach a length of aluminum to your level to get it too the right length.
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Old 06-28-2006, 07:37 AM   #12
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Excellent, thank you, and most ingenious. One could use a wall behind the trailer as an alternative to the cardboard. Now we know how you came to rule the road!
Karma is on its way.
Nick.
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Old 06-28-2006, 08:10 AM   #13
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I find that the most accurate way to check tow in is with a measuring tape. The first step is to place a line on the center of the tire. Jack up the wheel and spin the wheel while pressing a piece of chalk against the tire until you have a good chalk line all around the tire. The next step is to hold a pointer against the chalk line and carefully rotate the tire to get a black line in the chalk. Do the same thing on the tire oon the other end of the axle. Doing this eliminates any error due to wheel runout, and all wheels have runout. After you have the tires marked, measure between the marks front and rear at the same height. The difference is toe in or out. Toe-in is closer at the front.

Another way to measure toe is how we used to do it on the race car and how NASCAR teams still do it in a pinch. Set up a long string on each side ot the trailer at hub height. Jackstands work well to hold the strings. Make sure that the strings are parallel to the centerline of the trailer. You can do this by measuring from the center of the coupler at the front and the center of the bumper at the rear. After taking into account any wheel runout, measure from the wheel to the string at the front and rear of the wheel to determine toe in or toe out. One advantage of this system is that it will also tell you if the axle is not square to the trailer. If you have toe-in on one side and toe-out on the other, your axle is probably misaligned to the trailer, and more measurements should be made.

Camber can be measured with a level as discribed above. Be sure that you are on a level surface and have checked for wheel run-out. The degree of camber can be determined with a little simple trig. You do still have your trig tables or slide rule don't you?
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