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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Using a do-it-yourself camber gauge

After a lot of tweaking the suspension and steering of my '74 Lotus Europa Twin Cam Special, the handling still isn't quite right. When I change lanes at highway speeds, it feels like it's executing one maneuver for the front, and a second one for the rear.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/the-hack-mechanic/using-a-do-it-yourself-camber-gauge/
22 REPLIES 22
audiobycarmine
Instructor

Rob — I'm just a bit confused here...
You write: "Then I noticed that the inside edge of the right front tire is more worn than the outer edge. In contrast, the tire on the right side looks evenly worn."

Remember — two wrongs don't make a right, but three LEFTS do.
thehackmechanic
Detailer

Yeah, that was my fault. Thanks.
Flashman
Instructor

You've got a "castor" in there.
thehackmechanic
Detailer

Whoops! Blame the editor!
FloridaMarty
Intermediate Driver

I am a huge fan of products or tools that let the DYI auto enthusiast do it themselves. I have done alignments with string and had huge success. I have set camber with levels. The tire shop charges way too much for a simple alignment these days. Bravo!
Hammerinhank
Pit Crew

For your next trick, how do you measure caster?
John
Intermediate Driver

You need a pair of car turn tables to do that. They are available on Amazon for about $170. Two alignments pays for them.
hyperv6
Engineer

I have a tool to measure the camber and toe in. for a Soap Box derby car. We no longer run but it is a nice looking piece of machined billet construction and looks good on the wall. 

cosvega76
Pit Crew

Here is what I use to attach the magnetic gauge directly to the wheel, it's good for 13-18" wheels:
https://www.toolsource.com/wheel-alignment-tools-c-433_526/no-mar-rim-adapter-19-in-car-lt-truck-p-1...
I see Amazon has a more substantial, yet cheaper version:
https://www.amazon.com/PMD-Products-Alignment-Adapter-Mounting/dp/B0157QU9IO
Longacre has a very nice magnetic caster-camber gauge that's more affordable than the digital one:
https://www.summitracing.com/parts/lng-78272
Driver17
Pit Crew

Rob, I am used to using a digital inclinometer on a dirt track car I raced. To get a zero, we just set it on the floor, zeroed, and got our measurements sticking it to the rotor. Would yours not zero in that manner?
rickspero
New Driver

Rob, The Lotus is so light, shouldn't you also put a weight equal to yours in the driver's seat before making adjustments?
thehackmechanic
Detailer

Probably, but the corrections to the suspension that need to be made, and then the alignment for those corrections, are probably larger than the effect of a body in the seat.
TG
Instructor

I rebuilt the rear suspension on my 74 corvette and had to use a series of string lines and degree wheels to dial it in. In my case toe is adjusted with shims and camber is adjusted with (aftermarket) threaded rods. It doesn't do anything crazy on the road, but I can tell it isn't exactly right, so one day I will have to plunk down the $600 for a proper 4-wheel alignment
Marv48
Pit Crew

Rob, your drifting on the BMW is most likely caused by the caster setting. You probably need a little more positive caster to correct it. Working in an alignment & frame shop in the 70's we first scribed a line on both tires for the toe setting which was done last. We then checked the side runout of the wheel, marked it and put it on the horizontal axis. We used a Bear adjustable level guage for checking camber and caster, the guage being a adjustable tripod which measured at the edge of the rim in the verticle axis. Back then 95% of american cars had adjustments for camber,caster,& toe. Most of the foreign cars were toe only. If parts were tight and the camber was way off we sometimes would chain it down and bend the crossmember to get proper camber.
Hymie60
Intermediate Driver

After reading all that, I will just go too an alignment shop. YIKES!
LoudV8
Intermediate Driver

Great article Rob. When I worked at the dealership I was one of the alignment guys using high dollar Hunter machines. Now that I changed careers and brought all my tools home, I still do the work on all 4 of my vehicles including alignments. I bought the Tenhulzen Automotive 2-Wheel Alignment Tool - All-in-one (Camber/Caster/Toe Plates) from Amazon. In addition to camber and toe, it does caster too. Using that tool is not as creative as your methods but it gets the job done. Keep wrenchin man!
SwampBox
New Driver

A few years ago I rebuilt the front suspension on my 55 Buick Century. A friend has a shop that does alignments. I had spoke to him about doing the alignment. Well I finished the front end on a Friday night. Being impatient I did it myself with a Snap On Magnet alignment tool I inherited from my Grandfather that owned a repair shop. The book in it stopped at 1957. I set caster and camber and toe to specs and have been driving ever since. Drives well, Tires are wearing well. My car is all stock.
Zeissmaster
Intermediate Driver

I used the bubble gauge on my 86 Mustang GT with a with the wheels off. Got one wheel right on and the other out 1.5 degrees 😞 The problem you have with your BMW my have just solved the problem with my GT as well. Can't wait to try it. Car handled great with the skinny drag wheels. Then I went to 16" pony's with wide tires.
bhart
Pit Crew

I have done simple alignments on my original Mini with 2 pieces of angle aluminum, drilled for the PCD and cut to then length of the tire circumference. Two tape measures fit into slots at the far ends of the aluminum and with the car on 4 axle stands under the wheel centers, it all becomes quite simple. BTW, I have used the small bubble/magnet camber gauge to check and realize that the settings at the front were good but the back needed some serious fettling. Simple, analogue and cheap!
BobWVic
Pit Crew

The Europa's handling is quite sensitive to rear wheel toe-in. Get it right, despite the primitive adjustment procedure, and it's magical. Mine is set to 5/32" on each side. The car will feel darty over bumps if the settings are unequal. I have adjustable lateral links on the rear but the camber seems less important in everyday use.
Ik
New Driver

I wouldn't describe the Europa's suspension as "primative". Or any lotus's for that matter. Simple and usually misunderstood yes, but not primative.
BobWVic
Pit Crew

It's not the suspension that's primitive but the adjustment procedure. As Rob says, at the rear it involves inserting or removing washers between the front of the trailing arm and the chassis. Like several other maintenance tasks on the Europa, even on a hoist it's awkward to do and, in this case, it's a trial-and-error procedure. The trailing arm has to be unbolted and done up again with each attempt to get it right.