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E46 Xi Forum
The E46 XI was produced from 01-05 in sedan and touring body styles. Powered by either a 2.5L inline 6 in the 325xi or a 3.0L inline 6 330xi. Discuss all thing about BMW AWD E46 'Xi' here.

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Old 12-28-2012, 12:16 PM   #1
bikesandcars
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where to get an alignement, or suggestions for doing an alignment myself

I've called 3 local "alignment" shops and they have all told me that they need special tools (that they don't have) to do my 2002 325xi alignment. They said they need weights, and they need a "toe bar".

I replaced my front ball joints, struts, and installed the powerflex bushing which has given me a pronounced toe-out.

As far as I know the camber / caster is not adjustable on these cars, but the toe is adjustable (both front and rear).

On my (non BMW) racecars I do a string alignment and use a bubble camber gauge. Because the BMW dealer is closed for the week and I want to get this done I think I'll revert back to my simple method

questions:

1) any hints for doing a manual alignment

2) where do you guys take your car for alignment

3) Do you folks get the same BS from local shops? Do you really need this magical "toe bar" to set the toe on the auto?

any help much appreciated, probably going to start this afternoon
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Old 12-28-2012, 12:24 PM   #2
Mark M
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I try to avoid the dealer whenever possible...however for alignments I always go to the dealer only! Call up Daniel's BMW.

Assuming you have a competant tech, they follow the prescribed BMW process to the T, use the sand bags as weight, and insure the steering angle sensor is calibrated.

The steering angle sensor is mounted at the base of your steering column and tells the DSC / ABS systems the steering angle of the car in conjunction with the yaw sensors. This all works together for your stability control. If you have an alignment done at a random local shop and don't have the angle sensor calibrated, then the computer may think you're turning slightly even if you are physically going straight.

Just my two cents, but this is a dealer service for me.
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Old 12-28-2012, 12:52 PM   #3
bikesandcars
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Jack Williams Tire and Auto: Total Fail, kept my car for 5 hours to tell me they couldn't do it.. would have been $69
Another local shop: Fail but better service, at least they told me on the phone they couldn't do it, would have been $99.00
local 3rd party BMW shop: closed until after Jan 2
Daniels BMW:... calling them is why i hate dealerships, they were very nice but it was expensive and i felt like a number. First i get the operator.. then the scheduler, who says they are booked until past new year.. can't tell me the price... forwarded to service.. nobody picks up... left a voicemail. I just looked on their website and their "Holiday Special" is $169.95.. it must be close to $200... fail on price and customer service, but not out of the running

So is it really worth $200? I might do it if they could actually get me done before the new year but I have no time to screw around once I go back to work January 2.

Thanks for the heads up on the steering wheel angle. I bet I can use my scanner to tell me the perceived angle and compare that to the strings (should I go that way).

Last edited by bikesandcars; 12-28-2012 at 01:06 PM.
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Old 12-28-2012, 12:54 PM   #4
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Try posting in the regional forum.

Good Luck.
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Old 12-29-2012, 08:26 AM   #5
Arnezie
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I went to Belle Tire
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Old 12-29-2012, 02:45 PM   #6
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Not really a task you would want to attempt for many reasons. For any modern 4-wheel alignment, the tools and rack equipment are exotic. $200 at a specialty shop would not be crazy talk. You should get a number from the dealer. If it's scary, check out the euro shop. Hack shops are to be avoided as you found out.

I think mine was $180 out the door at an independent local.
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Old 12-29-2012, 03:09 PM   #7
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I went to Monro (my only option at the time), and they gave me the same bs after wasting 2 hours of my time. Went to sears the next day, and after 4 hours they aligned my car to 325 specs. Objected and finally got an OK alignment. I would say just find somebody who is not afraid to loosen the rtab bolts and knock out the alignment tabs if necessary. They could use some encouragement, too.

BTW, there is an alignment DIY by jpr on this site. Just search for it. Good luck.
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Last edited by SeanC; 12-29-2012 at 03:10 PM.
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Old 12-30-2012, 10:45 AM   #8
bikesandcars
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Thanks guys, JPR DIY link is here: http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthr...889&highlight=

I will use a technique that I'm more familiar with and report back results.
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Old 12-30-2012, 01:30 PM   #9
Kubica
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Put as much neg camber on the front as possible and then set toe to zero.

Toe the rears in to factory spec and then try to make the rear camber match on both sides, as close to -1 deg as possible (this will change the toe again slightly but you prob won't be able to tell with a string).

That's my opinion anyways.
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Old 01-02-2013, 07:41 AM   #10
bikesandcars
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Accomplished a few things in the last week but also ran into some difficulties...

The good: Finally invested $40.00 in 2 lengths of 8' long x 1" diameter aluminum tube from boxstore to place on jack-stands and hold the mason-string. Much improved over tying it to the jackstand directly. Working on a writeup on how to actually do an alignment this way (when I'm done).

The bad:
1) This whole inpa / ediabas scanner thing... what a PITA. I'm good with computers, but the amount of time and drudgery trying to get that program to work seems crazy to me in these times... reminds me of computing in the 90's. I have managed to connect to the car, but I cannot connect to the module to see the steering wheel angle. Using the car to tell me the steering wheel angle is a critical part of my alignment process (I want to align the car to 0 angle, which should guarantee a good job). I'm on the ediabas related forums and will continue to soldier on until I get something that works.

2) I don't believe the car was ever aligned judging from the rust on the tierod ends and how tough they are to free up and turn. I had to heat the left side end almost cherry and use 2 pipe wrenches to get the steering rod to turn. Before that I had to use a pipe extension on the lock nut (also heated) and had to use the impact hammer to knock the collet off the tierod end. still soaking all in penetrating oil before I work on them again. I will probably take them all the way apart and anti-sieze them (like I do with everything). lesson learned... don't even try the 13mm wrench on the steering tie rod... just go right to the pipe wrench. I buggered the threads on the tierod pretty good.

Last edited by bikesandcars; 01-02-2013 at 07:52 AM.
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Old 01-02-2013, 05:01 PM   #11
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This is probably a bit out of your range, but Bob's Garage is a great place that I get my advanced servicing done. I had front and rear alignment back in November and it's been great ever since. (Especially considering how it pulled to the right.) I was charged $120 for it.

Address: 236 Delsea Drive, Sewell, NJ 08080
Phone856) 589-5055

Hope this can help you.
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Old 01-02-2013, 05:10 PM   #12
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This is probably a bit out of your range, but Bob's Garage is a great place that I get my advanced servicing done. I had front and rear alignment back in November and it's been great ever since. (Especially considering how it pulled to the right.) I was charged $120 for it.

Address: 236 Delsea Drive, Sewell, NJ 08080
Phone (856) 589-5055

Hope this can help you.
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Old 01-02-2013, 05:40 PM   #13
Mflara20
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I just bought new tires all the way around and ask for a 4 wheel alignment, the guy didn't tell me anything about special equipment or adding weight. he just told me it was gonna take a couple hours to do this. Now it runs straight like an arrow and drives so much better.
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Old 01-03-2013, 12:06 AM   #14
bikesandcars
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Thanks for the info gentlemen

Regarding my post above.... INPA / EDIABAS installation complete, I can now talk to the ECU...which means i can do a string alignment and use the ECU to ensure my wheel is centered. Details on my getting that to work on my car here: http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthr...5#post15026645

I've confirmed I can read perceived steering angle, and that it aligns exactly with the steering wheel in the center position. why sit there and guess when the car can tell you.

Last edited by bikesandcars; 01-03-2013 at 12:07 AM.
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Old 01-06-2013, 02:25 PM   #15
bikesandcars
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How to do a string alignment on an e46

I completed the string alignment and took the xi for a road test. Drove great with the suspension work (bilstien shocks, eibach springs, new bushings). I'm not going to take it for a more "professional" alignment because I feel I nailed it.

What you will need:

- A way to read the ECU (computer + INPA)
- Wrenches: 13mm, 21mm, 24mm
- mason string (home depot has this)
- jack stands to hold string
- anti-sieze compound
- trusty and familiar tape measure, prefarably smaller sized (6' variety).

Optional:
- 8' x 1" aluminum tubes (I find this handier than just jack stands because it makes it easier to get a perfect rectangle around the car)

Step 1) make your tools:

a) String setup: I measured my 8' aluminum tube to verify equal lengths and drilled holes exactly 1' in from the outside. I then fed the string through the holes using a light down the middle of the tube. You can also just wrap the string around the tube, but drilling holes makes the system easier to setup. set it off to the side

b) alignment pads: Vinyl tile would be better, but I had scrap 1/4" plywood, so I cut approx 1' squares and sanded / greased the contact surfaces to allow slippage. Without an alignment pad it is very difficult to accurately set toe. set it off to the side

Step 2) Using INPA / Ediabas place your steering wheel at 0 degrees. Note that this steering wheel angle is very sensitive, and a couple degrees steering wheel does not = a couple degrees road wheel angle because of the gear reduction in the rack. Wiggle the wheels back and forth until you get it centered. turn the ignition off and pull the key out

step 3) completely dissassemble the tie rod linkages on both sides if you have never done this. Jack the car up in the air, clean everything, re-assemble with liberal anti-sieze. I just changed front components so I just loosened the front, the rear would be done as well for a rear alignment.

This was a big PITA for me. Judging by no wear marks on the tie rod themselves and how frozen everything was the car was probably never aligned post-delivery. I needed to break out the pipe wrench (13mm wasn't cutting it), the pipe extension, the torch, and use a bit of persistance. When done dissassembling one nut was buggered, so I went to sears and got 2 new 14mm x 1.5 nickel plated nuts for the stopper nuts.

step 4) reassemble everything with liberal anti-sieze and visually line up everything. Make sure your steering wheel is still centered. line this up by looking down the brake rotor at the rear wheel and walking around the car once. Put the tires back on and set the car down on your alignment pads. push down on the front and rear a couple times.

Step 5) set up your jack stands and string around the car in a perfect rectangle, equally spaced on each side from the center of each hub.

The wheels will not make a perfect rectangle, but your string setup should. This is the key to the whole aligment, get the strings exactly the same length from the center of the hub on each side.

Front to back is not as important, but I put the jack stands so I can support the rods with a few inches to the front and back bumper, and i measure from the wheel with a tape to get it close.

Tension the string as much as possible without lifting the jack stands off the ground.

step 6: fire up INPA again and ensure your car is at 0 degrees wheel deflection.

Step 7) adjust each wheel to give the desired toe (i gave each front just shy of 1/16 differential toe-in from front to back of wheel (actually measured from rim). This is 1/32 of toe-in. Use INPA to keep the wheel at 0 degrees

Check the backs even if you aren't doing them, they should have a little toe-in and be exactly the same... if not they need to be done too or you need to double check your string positioning.

Step 8) tighten down the backer nuts

step 9) take a walk around and re-check everything. Do not get lazy here, if something isn't right find out why and fix it. My toe didn't change by tightening the backer nuts.

Step 10) test drive (most fun), do some highway, turns, whatever... the auto should have a centered wheel, no strange bump-steer, and be very neutral and light feeling in a straight line.
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Last edited by bikesandcars; 01-06-2013 at 02:45 PM.
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Old 01-06-2013, 03:25 PM   #16
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Excellent job! Hats off to you sir.

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