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Suspension & Braking
Have some questions about suspension or brake setups for your E46 BMW? Get all your answers here!

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Old 12-13-2013, 03:09 PM   #1
coreyaugustus
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lowered suspension/alignment question

Sorry if there's already a thread dedicated to this issue, but I didn't see anything that directly answered the question in my search. Maybe using wrong keywords? Anyway, here goes.

I've got a 2004 M3 coupe lowered on H&R springs and Koni yellow shocks/struts. I'd say that's a fairly minor/mild modification. I took the car to the stealership in town (BMW of Macon) to have an alignment done. The $150 price quote they gave me seemed reasonable so I planned a long lunch. 2.75 hours later, the service advisor told me the technician couldn't align it exactly because of the suspension mods and that I also need to replace my steering coupler. The coupler issue, I can understand making the process more difficult, but why would the 1" height difference make it impossible to get straight on their machine? After all said and done, they charged me $230 (without replacing the coupler, for which they quoted me a total of $400 dollars for everything; I call bullshit) and it pulls more now than it did before I brought it in.

I'm trying to learn more about the physics of suspension (toe-in, camber, etc) but it still seems more like an art than a science to me at this point.

I ordered the steering coupler and should install it soon. Any advice for me after that's done?

(Mods, please place in appropriate subforum if this isn't it.)
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Old 12-13-2013, 03:35 PM   #2
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He should've been able to set it up properly. I can understand him not being able to get camber in spec, but he should've been able to adjust toe easily. You may need some camber plates and rear adjustable tierods. However, go to a place that actually knows what the hell they're doing.

Also, don't pay for that ****. They didn't do the job they said they would do. Therefore you don't pay. I went to a tiny shop for an alignment once and he couldn't get the camber adjustments to work. He put my toe in properly and then told me no charge because he couldn't finish the job. I told him I'd pay half but he refused. That's a good shop. He'd just never dealt with an E46 before (this was outside Auburn, Alabama).
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Old 12-13-2013, 03:44 PM   #3
coreyaugustus
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lowered suspension/alignment question

Exactly, not only was the job not done, but I was also severely late returning to work. I didn't test it myself before paying (they should have driven it to make sure it was done before handing me a bill) so I just paid and left.

The camber shouldn't affect any left/right pulling, just tire wear (inside vs outside), correct?

I assume the dealer would know what they're doing and have the best equipment, so I started there. I don't know of any better shops locally. I'd prefer not to drive two hours to a shop if I could help it.


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Old 12-13-2013, 03:45 PM   #4
coreyaugustus
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lowered suspension/alignment question

I did leave a scathing review in their customer (dis)satisfaction survey, but that's just passive-aggressive and worth no more than the emailed form.


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Old 12-13-2013, 03:54 PM   #5
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I need to do a full thread on alignments. A definitive guide.

Camber will affect pulling. Easily.

Further, lowering of the car may possibly not allow your tech to get the camber "straight" as you call it. But that doesn't mean it's not proper. Hard to explain.

Should I do a thread on it?

You are right. A lot of an alignment is an art. It's like a good bowl of soup. It's good if it's good. There's no one recipe to follow though BMW may specify a certain "recipe" to meet handling needs while retaining a degree of safety and civility.
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Old 12-13-2013, 04:01 PM   #6
coreyaugustus
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lowered suspension/alignment question

I'd really appreciate a "Definitive Guide to Alignments by Mango" thread. You have my blessing, though of course that has no authority behind it. Educate me, please.


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Old 12-13-2013, 04:45 PM   #7
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Hey Corey,

I'm guessing your dealership isn't comfortable with a nonstandard alignment, one that's outside of BMW's recommended settings. With the slight lowering, you've gained a little negative camber all around. For a performance-minded driver, it's a good thing. Cars like the M-B C63 AMG and the Corvette ZR1 come from the factory with noticeable amounts of static negative camber.

You need to find a local alignment shop that does race cars/track cars, and specify how you want it aligned. Accept the gain in negative camber, and tell the alignment guy to get it as close as possible side-to-side. Also, strive for stock settings on front & rear toe, and caster. If you have a little more positive caster, that's OK too...just shoot for the same setting side-to-side. More positive caster here will increase the steering's self-centering and effectively give you more negative camber on the outside front tire when in a corner...a good thing!

On the negative camber, if you've got, say, 1 to 1.5 degrees, it'll increase wear on the inside edges of the tires somewhat, but improper toe settings will kill tires a lot faster than negative camber will.

A good independent shop should only charge $80-$100 for an alignment; at least that's the going rate here in SoCal.

A great book on all this stuff is How To Make Your Car Handle, by Fred Puhn. It's been in print forever, but the information is sound. I highly recommend it!
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Old 12-13-2013, 04:52 PM   #8
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Many thanks bee-em-dougle-u. Might head on over to the library tomorrow.
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