These days, front end alignment shops can't be bothered with setting
caster and camber. What would you expect for only $60? On the older GM
cars this adjustment requires changing the shim pack if it's out of
spec. That involves adding or removing some sheet metal shims from the
upper control arm mount. On newer Fords and many other newer models
with strut suspensions, such as a Ford Taraus, the factory spot welds
have to be ground out (three minutes with the rotozip) and the top of
the strut tower moved a small amount.
Around here in Maryland, the scam it to take your $50 or $60 bucks and
twiddle the toe-in. When the computer print out shows the camber or
caster is out, they circle it and tell you that the car can not be
brought to specs without a lot of expensive work.
I've been through this debacle twice now!
The first time, I showed the shop owner that the camber before and after
alignment was completely unchanged. I asked him if we went out the
parking lot and open the hood on my car, would I see evidence of wrench
marks on the shim pack bolts showing that his mechanic had at least made
an attempt to bring my vehicle into specs. He promplty tore up the
invoice, said no charge and asked me to leave. That was on the GM.
Yesterday, I had the same crap from a different shop for our Ford. "We
can't bring this into spec but it doesn't matter" said the shop
manager. "It's so close and it won't tear up tires or effect
handling". "We are saving you money becuase we would need to change
expensive parts to fix this".
This was a Maryland State approved inspection station offering to return
the car to the road with the right front and left rear wheels out of
factory specs and the car pulling to the side. The fact is that we
brought the car in because it could not be maintained within the highway
lanes easily and it was eating tires up at the edges.
Again, I asked the shop manager, if we go out to the parking lot, will I
find that you have released the factory spot welds and attempted to
adjust the out of spec camber condition? Well, they had to find the
mechanic, but he couldn't be found. Next came an offer to complete the
alignment for an increase in price. This was after they had already
replaced a satisfactory ball joint that was not loose but caused some
squeaking. (Thank you Ford for eliminating grease fittings!)
When I offered to bring the Ford shop manual out to show what a front
end alignment required for a Taraus and that this was certainly included
in the listed price for "four wheel alignment", I was asked to leave.
I told them I would leave when the job was completed to my satisfaction
for the posted price. Customers were watching with keen interest. A
refund was promptly offered. I left with my good but squeaky ball joint
swapped (a twenty dollar part) and my full refund, but the car was still
misaligned and twirlling around on the highway.
Maryland State Inspection Station huh? I will call the Maryland State
Police next time this happens, as they oversee licensing. I don't see
how a Maryland approved inspection station can release an auto that can
be adjusted to spec yet fail to do so when paid for the job. Live and
In talking with an ex dealer shop manager, he told me that he has the
same trouble with his Ford pickup. He can't find a shop to align
anything other than tow-in and his Ford truck eats tires every 10,000
miles. It's been this way since new. His rear tires are original.
He gave up on alignment shops after the second $60 walletecomy, and now
buys inexpensive tires. He didn't know anyone who would do the job.
Sad state of affairs when a mechanic can't locate an honest shop!
I found a shop that does repairs after collisions and they are attending
to my alignment now. I explained what I expect as a result and they are
okay with that.
I am posting this here to that others are not sent away from alignment
shops believing that their car cannot be made safe to drive and aligned
to factory specification without replacing most of the front end. These
shops don't even attempt a full alignment. If the camber is out of
spec, they don't even try. If it is in spec, it is gravy for them. If
not, they simply advise the customer it can't be done and charge the
shop rate for an unsastisfactory job. I've gotten better alignments
using a monkey wrench and a tape rule.
Better luck to you others out there! comments?
noone@nowhere in Maryland