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This is the place to get answers, opinions and everything you need related to your E46 (sedan, coupe, convertible and wagon) BMW!

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Old 01-18-2007, 09:08 PM   #1
robt_sf
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Another Alignment Question

So I went today to drop my car off for a cheap alignment $75. The guy takes one look at the car and says he can't do my after all. Says that because of traction control only BMW can do it. Mentioned that changes in the alingment have to be updated in the traction control computer. Is this BS?

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Old 01-18-2007, 09:46 PM   #2
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BS

If I had to guess, the real issue is that he didn't want to do it, because he'd probably tried a couple times in the past and it either took him too long, he effed it up, or both. His story about the traction control is his way of saving face while turning you away, and who knows, perhaps he actually believes it himself.

All in all though, no matter what story he told you, consider yourself lucky you went to an guy honest enough to turn you away. A lot of shops would have taken your money, wasted your time, messed up your alignment, and even when they couldn't get it right after 3 or 4 tries, not give you money back. Send him a thank you note when you get a chance.
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Old 01-18-2007, 09:47 PM   #3
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Try Mach III/Faxon Garage near CCSF. I had mine done today for $80.
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Old 01-18-2007, 11:43 PM   #4
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Try Mach III/Faxon Garage near CCSF. I had mine done today for $80.
I never knew Mach III did alignment and even if they did, I suspect they probably have a OLD ASS OUTDATED alignment machine. Eitherway, I do not recommend going there, these guys who are a JOKE. First off, the "repair shop near the store is like a sub-contracted or something. The place LOOKS LIKE A JOKE. And if you want the crack head look a like dudes working on your car, be MY GUESS. *HIGHLY RECOMMEND not going to this place*

I had two tires changed their and they screwed up one and of course DENIED it through their AS@es. Quoted me $35 on the phone and when done, tried to charge me $60!!! After a few minutes of exchanging words, they went back to $35. This of course didn't include any compensation for the damage done to one of my wheels. Needless to say, very shady shop and business pratice.
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Old 01-19-2007, 12:58 AM   #5
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Alignment....

Sorry but it's "Not BS"!!!

When I first joined this Board this same question was being bandied about, and seemed to occur mostly at chain tire stores (ie; Firestone, Big-O, Discount, etc.) So I went to a local chain (Big-O Tires) who did some flat repairs for me in the past, to ask them about BMW alignment problems.

The Alignment expert said that sometimes their alignment machines (Hunter R611) computer would flash a *** CAUTION *** with some BMW's depending upon the yr, make, model, type and wheels size.

So he took down all the info on my car, input it into the computer and immediately called me over to view the monitor. At the top of the page was a large ***CAUTION*** note in red followed by:

Vehicles eqquipped with ACC (Active Cruise Control), DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) or AFS (Active Front Steering) require special tools and procedures for alignment.

DSC: After an alignment, carry out adjustment of the steering angle sensor using the BMW diagnosis system.

ACC: After an alignment, carry out fine adjustment of the ACC system using the BMW diagnosis system.

AFS: Requires BMW diagnosis system and BMW special tool 32 4 150 during and after an alignment.

This is what scares some chain stores away from doing an alignment. They don't want to charge you for something the may not complete, or just don't want to deal with it.

That's the story.
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Old 01-19-2007, 02:54 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by mickey513 View Post
I never knew Mach III did alignment and even if they did, I suspect they probably have a OLD ASS OUTDATED alignment machine. Eitherway, I do not recommend going there, these guys who are a JOKE. First off, the "repair shop near the store is like a sub-contracted or something. The place LOOKS LIKE A JOKE. And if you want the crack head look a like dudes working on your car, be MY GUESS. *HIGHLY RECOMMEND not going to this place*

I had two tires changed their and they screwed up one and of course DENIED it through their AS@es. Quoted me $35 on the phone and when done, tried to charge me $60!!! After a few minutes of exchanging words, they went back to $35. This of course didn't include any compensation for the damage done to one of my wheels. Needless to say, very shady shop and business pratice.
i'm not sure about the business practice that MachIII/Faxon Garage protrays to the general public, but i know for sure that they just got a new Hunter brand alignment machine, it's fully computerize and looks just like the alighment machines dealerships uses..

http://www.allstates.com/alignment.html
picture of the machine...
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Old 01-19-2007, 08:02 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by 325 & 55 View Post
Sorry but it's "Not BS"!!!

When I first joined this Board this same question was being bandied about, and seemed to occur mostly at chain tire stores (ie; Firestone, Big-O, Discount, etc.) So I went to a local chain (Big-O Tires) who did some flat repairs for me in the past, to ask them about BMW alignment problems.

The Alignment expert said that sometimes their alignment machines (Hunter R611) computer would flash a *** CAUTION *** with some BMW's depending upon the yr, make, model, type and wheels size.

So he took down all the info on my car, input it into the computer and immediately called me over to view the monitor. At the top of the page was a large ***CAUTION*** note in red followed by:

Vehicles eqquipped with ACC (Active Cruise Control), DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) or AFS (Active Front Steering) require special tools and procedures for alignment.

DSC: After an alignment, carry out adjustment of the steering angle sensor using the BMW diagnosis system.

ACC: After an alignment, carry out fine adjustment of the ACC system using the BMW diagnosis system.

AFS: Requires BMW diagnosis system and BMW special tool 32 4 150 during and after an alignment.

This is what scares some chain stores away from doing an alignment. They don't want to charge you for something the may not complete, or just don't want to deal with it.

That's the story.
Interesting info -

Of course the E46 has neither ACC or AFS.

As for the DSC system, the only way that will enter in to the equation is if the hose up the front toe setting so badly the steering wheel isn't reasonably centered and it trips off the steering angle sensor. As for calibrating the steering the angle sensor, that would only be necessary when installing a new one or performing some sort of repairs to the steering column. It's not needed merely consequential to an alignment. The bottom line is, if your alignment messes up your steering angle sensor, then you got a pretty effed up alignment.

So while there is a bit of truth in the claim, it is still in the end, BS
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Old 01-19-2007, 01:49 PM   #8
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Interesting info -

Of course the E46 has neither ACC or AFS.

As for the DSC system, the only way that will enter in to the equation is if the hose up the front toe setting so badly the steering wheel isn't reasonably centered and it trips off the steering angle sensor. As for calibrating the steering the angle sensor, that would only be necessary when installing a new one or performing some sort of repairs to the steering column. It's not needed merely consequential to an alignment. The bottom line is, if your alignment messes up your steering angle sensor, then you got a pretty effed up alignment.

So while there is a bit of truth in the claim, it is still in the end, BS
, I will definately have to agree.

I was just happy to finally learn what it was that made so many quote "Alignment Experts" hesitate at completing so many BMW alignments.

You're right, this "Warning" would not effect the Alignment Expert who truely had the Technical expertise to complete an alignment on any BMW....
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Old 01-19-2007, 03:40 PM   #9
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Not to mention most shops don't wieght BMW's properly and will get an inacurrate alignment, also the rear toe adjustment requires a specail tool on the E46
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Old 01-19-2007, 05:31 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbeurotech View Post
Not to mention most shops don't wieght BMW's properly and will get an inacurrate alignment, also the rear toe adjustment requires a specail tool on the E46
^^ true
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Old 01-19-2007, 05:38 PM   #11
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had my done at sears yesterday, took them a while and for some reason they had to open my hood..
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Old 01-19-2007, 05:58 PM   #12
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So with all this "special" stuff needed for a proper alignment, where is a good place to get one?
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Old 01-19-2007, 07:46 PM   #13
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Sears? No offense to Sears, but please use your heads people.

The ability they have to accurately "dial" in your car to factory spec, or to your driving style is like bringing only a mallet to do dental work...can still charge you to make things happen, but you might not like the outcome.

I'm fairly confident in my guess that they won't have the BMW specialty tool to adjust the rear toe-in, via the rear trailing arm bushing, probably won't check to bushings for wear/cracks/complete failure to see, if that is causing any misalignment, ask what is your preferred driving style, or check tires for wear patterns; just for starters. A quality alignment is key.

Though with stock suspension we can't utilize all the dynamic suspension parameters that would really make ours cars shine on the twisties. You do have to realize that there is more to an "alignment" than "are my wheels straight?". All the attributes that make our cars feel like a BMW are an specific range of every variable; ride height, CG, camber, caster, toe-in (front & rear), king pin angle, etc, etc. ...any of which could cause changes to the scrub angle, balance, "grip", roll center, camber gain/loss, etc, etc. We can't adjust them all with our cars...fortunately! Otherwise, we would have cars messed up by bad shops that would be nearly undriveable.

Whoa! What a ramble...

Bottom line: Please do yourself a favor, and find a shop that the RACERS (SCCA Pro, GT2, GT3, or any production based professional driver) trust. Ask around. These guys point you in the right direction, and the suspension guru will know what they are doing, and be able to really help get your car to "feel" and perform the way you want. CRUCTIAL after suspension work .esp coil-overs (make 'em really work for you)

Personal recommendation (known his work for years):
OH, IN, KY area: Performance Alignment

PM me w/questions...more than happy to help.

Sorry for the rant. I used to be a race team manager in college.
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Old 01-20-2007, 12:08 PM   #14
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When you pay for alignment you are actually paying for three things:
1) specialized tools and equipment
2) technical knowledge
3) a competent, conscientious, and experienced mechanic

As far as tools go, very little is strictly necessary, the main difference between having them and not is how quick and easy the job will be.

As far as technical knowledge goes, you’ve got two non-exclusive choices – pay somebody for theirs or bring your own. As a rule of thumb, the less you pay for your alignment, the more you better be bringing your own knowledge, if for nothing else to tell if the job was done right. The latest alignment racks also help out in the areas a great deal as they present the tech with a step-by-step guide of how to do it.

The last one, a good mechanic, can be hardest to come by, but it is also your best guarantee of success. They are also much more likely to be found at the more expensive shops. They are also particularly necessary if you suspect any problems beyond mere alignment or if you want alignment settings different from the factory specs.

In the end, the difference between the $50 alignment and the $300 alignment, is your chances of getting it done right the first time. You can still get a great cheap alignment and a lousy expensive one, but that’s not nearly so likely as the other way around. If you go the cheap route, do your homework before you go so you can better judge what you are getting.
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Old 01-20-2007, 09:33 PM   #15
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how can one tell if they got a crappy alignment or a good alignment?! because i got an alignment done couple of months ago, but for some reason, i'm feeling that there is still some "toe" in the rear passengerside of the car.. kinda nervous because i got new tires.. and toe will surely mess them up.
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Old 01-21-2007, 11:06 AM   #16
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how can one tell if they got a crappy alignment or a good alignment?! because i got an alignment done couple of months ago, but for some reason, i'm feeling that there is still some "toe" in the rear passengerside of the car.. kinda nervous because i got new tires.. and toe will surely mess them up.
The most simplest and most obvious thing is whether or not the steering wheel is centered and whether or not the car tracks straight.

Second, always make sure you get a printed out alignment report. If you don't have a report of what your settings are, it's pretty hard for you or anyone else to troubleshoot your issues.

Once you have the report, learn what it all means. Search this forum, other forums, and give google a whirl. Find out not only what all the alignment terms mean, but what changes to them do. Find out what the factory spec alignment values are and under what conditions they are meant to be set. Your suspension is a dynamic system and the alignment values will change as the suspension travels.

Finally, pay attention to how the car's handling changes under different alignment conditions. Turn-in, stability, corner grip, etc. can all be profoundly affected by alignment changes.
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Old 01-21-2007, 01:24 PM   #17
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Thumbs Up A Good Alignment

My rear OEM Continental tires required replacement at approximatly 18,000 miles which, I understand, is about par for the course with a sport suspension. I purchased Michelin Pilot Sports, All Season replacements and immediately noticed a pull, wander to the right. We checked the tires, rotating, to determine if there was a defect in any of the new tires. Testing produced no flaws so I took the car to a BMW dealer who had a 22 year veteran running their Hunter alignment and wheel balancing equipment, FULL TIME. He identified the problem, made adjustments and provided a print out of the before and after Camber, Caster, Toe, and other four wheel settings. Best of all he explained it to me in nauseating detail and indicated that I could bring the car back if the wander was not corrected to my satisfaction. I have driven approximately 1000 miles since the alignment and intend to return next week to check tire wear. Total alignment cost: $80.00.

Last edited by CascadeTelcom; 01-21-2007 at 01:29 PM.
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Old 01-23-2007, 11:36 AM   #18
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Just a little copy and paste from the WDS

Steering angle sensor



General

In order to function, the DSC system requires the overall steering wheel angle. The overall steering wheel angle is measured by the steering angle sensor. As the software could not be accommodated on the DSC control module for reasons of processor capacity, a separate control module with its own fault memory has been developed.
Arrangement in vehicle

The steering angle sensor is mounted on the steering shaft.
Operating principle

The steering angle sensor has two potentiometers offset by 90°. The steering wheel angle determined by these two potentiometers covers one full steering wheel turn; each of these values is repeated after +/- 180°. The steering angle sensor knows this and counts the steering wheel revolutions accordingly. The overall steering wheel angle is thus made up of the current steering wheel angle together with the number of steering wheel rotations. In order that the overall steering wheel angle is available at any time, uninterrupted detection of all steering wheel movements - even when the vehicle is stationary - is required. In order to achieve this, the steering angle sensor is permanently supplied with power from Terminal 30. This means that steering wheel movements are also detected with ”ignition off”. The steering angle detected by the potentiometers remains available even after interruptions to the power supply; the number of steering wheel revolutions, however, is not. In order that the steering angle sensor remains functional after power supply interruptions, software that calculates the number of steering wheel rotations on the basis of the speed of rotation of the road wheels (and, on some models, the steering wheel being turned from lock to lock) has been integrated. This process is referred to as initialization or imposition. If imposition does not succeed by the time a speed of approx. 20 km/h is reached from a standing start, the DSC is switched to passive mode, the DSC warning lamp comes on, and a fault is recorded on the DSC control module. The imposition process is performed whenever the ignition is switched on if the number of steering wheel revolutions is not available. Four-wheel drive vehicles are an exception to this rule: The DSC system is immediately switched to passive mode and a fault entered in the DSC control module memory if there has been an interruption in the power supply to the steering angle sensor. In contrast with conventional drive vehicles, the imposition process is not aborted on reaching a specific road speed, but rather continued until the DSC is receiving correct steering angle data. At that point, the DSC warning light goes out and the DSC is operational again. In both cases, there is no fault recorded on the steering angle sensor. As an additional safety measure, the DSC control module calculates the steering angle on the basis of the speed of the road wheels and compares it with the information supplied by the steering angle sensor. This plausibility check prevents the vehicle operating on the basis of incorrect calibration. An incorrect zero position can result from incorrect calibration or alteration of the steering geometry as a result of damage or repairs. Another safety factor is precise assignment of sensor to vehicle. During calibration, the VIN number is stored in the EEPROM and then compared with the VIN number received from the instrument cluster whenever the ignition is switched on.
Replacing the steering angle sensor

After replacing the steering angle sensor, it must first be coded and then calibrated using the ABS/DSC diagnostic program.
Encoding

In order to perform its internal calculations, the steering angle sensor requires model-specific data which has to be loaded into it by means of coding.
Calibration

Calibration permanently stores the current steering wheel position as the straight ahead position in the steering angle sensor EEPROM. Therefore, the front wheels and the steering wheel must be set exactly to the straight ahead position before calibration. In addition, the vehicle identification number is also read from the instrument cluster and stored permanently in the steering angle sensor EEPROM. On successful completion of calibration, the steering angle sensor fault memory is automatically cleared.
Calibration must always be carried out after the following operations:
  • Replacement of the steering angle sensor
  • Replacement of the DSC control module
  • Adjustment work on the steering angle geometry
  • Any work on the steering or front suspension
Voltage supply

The steering angle sensor is permanently supplied with power from Terminal 30 which also has its own fuse. In addition, the steering angle sensor also receives a power supply from Terminal 87 or, depending on model, from Terminal 15. This supply is brought via a different fuse.
Frequency counter:
  • When a fault is detected after ”ignition off” the frequency counter is incremented upwards by ”1”. The maximum value is ”31”.
  • If the fault no longer occurs during the next trip, the frequency counter is reduced by ”1”. The minimum value is ”0”.
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Old 01-23-2007, 12:07 PM   #19
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Just a little copy and paste from the WDS


...

Calibration must always be carried out after the following operations:
  • Replacement of the steering angle sensor
  • Replacement of the DSC control module
  • Adjustment work on the steering angle geometry
  • Any work on the steering or front suspension
....
Interesting info, thanks for digging that up and posting it.

What this really means in terms of alignment though is not that you need to recalibrate the sensor after setting your front toe. Instead what it means is that if you get the tie rods adjusted unequally and your steering wheel is off center, you will likely set off the steering wheel sensor. The correct fix for that however, is to correct the unequal tie rods and not to recalibrate the sensor. Likewise, trying to correct a post-alignment offcenter steering wheel by removing and reinstalling the steering wheel is not a good idea.

As an aside, the reason for the calibration in the first place is so that they don't have to be that particularly careful about the placement of the sensors or steering components. That is, the installation of those parts can be a relatively loose tolerance affair and the required tigher tolerance of the input signal to the DSC can be achieved electronically rather than mechanically.

What would be really interesting to find out is just how sensitive those potentiometers are and in what increments they measure the steering angle deviation.
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Old 01-23-2007, 02:05 PM   #20
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After the alignment the steering wheel needs centering and steering angle needs setting. I could dig up a TIS document on that (eventually)...
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