Doing Your Own Caravan Wheel Alignment

Submitted: Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 08:58
ThreadID: 107483 Views:25662 Replies:6 FollowUps:16
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Some time ago I commented on someone else’s post re wheel alignments for caravans with independent suspension. I have recently been messaged by a member for more details so I thought I would post this for all to see.

A good quality digital spirit level is required. I bought a Bosch DNM60L. You need to go to a quality tool shop (Bunnings don’t stock them). Also needed are 2 powerful eclipse magnets which are superglued to the level at a distance apart equal to the width of your wheel rims. I then bought two new (long necked) sockets which “stick” to the magnets (giving me clearance over the centre hub of the wheel). These are all that is needed to align for camber but also need is a torque wrench.

Before doing an alignment the spirit level needs to be calibrated for any tolerances in socket length, magnets or glue used. This is done by rotating the level 180 degrees on a vertical surface and doing a 2nd reading. The readings should be identical…but if not the level recalibrates and takes this into account.

Then simply follow your suspension specifications (other brands may have different specs).

1. Place caravan on hard level service with typical operating load. Move forward and reverse a few times to eliminate any “twist” in wheels.
2. For Cruisemaster the camber is 0 – 0.5 degrees negative to the vertical (top of wheel is leaning towards the trailer) on all wheels.
3. If adjustment is needed loosen hinge bolts and adjust by rotating the adjuster leaver using open ended spanner. Check level and repeat as necessary.
4. Tighten hinge bolts to 190 N.m
5. For tow-in a straight edge and steel ruler is all that is needed. Place straight edge across tyre and measure distance to chassis at edge of tyre. The front axle should be 2mm less at front of tyre than the rear measurement of same tyre. The second axle (tyre) should be parallel. On a single axle van the 2mm setup applies only.
Check your specs with manufacturer…the above is for Cruisenaster only.

Once familiar with routine a wheel alignment check/adjustment takes about half an hour and can be done anywhere there is a level hard service. It saves taking you van to a wheel alignment specialist who may not be familiar with your suspension’s specs anyway. The tools required cost me about $150 (I had a torque wrench already) so it’s not hard to recover costs given that workshops charge about $100 for a caravan wheel alignment. The beauty of doing it yourself is convenience. Do it at home before a trip in your own garage or even en route if you feel you have hit an unseen pothole particularly hard. But overall I have found the suspension alignment engineering is robust and takes a lot to put it out.


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Reply By: John and Regina M - Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 09:17

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 09:17
You're a brave man.

I no longer post 'how to's'.
I reason if someone gets it wrong, gets hurt then decided it wasn't their fault then there will always be a lawyer who will agree with them. After 38 years as an auto electrician I no longer want that sort of nightmare just around the corner. And whilst I am still a practicing trades person my insurances don't cover that scenario. I now believe some tasks are better left to the experts in their well equipped workshops. Especially if the consequences of getting it wrong could be life threatening.
AnswerID: 531312

Follow Up By: Member - Silverchrome - Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 09:25

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 09:25
I know what you are saying and not only that but the general negativity/criticism on this forum is also a concern. As a consequence I very rarely if ever create threads or comment on other threads anymore. However I thought I would take the risk this time and break my self imposed absence. The point is a wheel alignment is unlikely to be a safety issue under normal circumstances and even the manufactureers suggest doing your own out in the bush. However if the mods think this thread is inappropraite I am happy for them to remove it.
FollowupID: 814313

Follow Up By: The Bantam - Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 09:29

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 09:29
Oh for goodness sakes...its an internet forum.
There are how to posts, threads and whole sites all over the internet.

Tell you know of a single case of someone being sued for giving basic advice or publishing how to's.....I don't mean advice that encourages people to break the law or deliberately putting people in danger..

If people where being sued, these sites would disapear over night

FollowupID: 814314

Follow Up By: Member - Silverchrome - Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 09:34

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 09:34
I agree Bantam...we need to get on with life and do what we can to help others and share knowledge and experiences as we make our journey. We should not be a "nanny" state and fear doing everything.
FollowupID: 814315

Follow Up By: The Bantam - Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 09:49

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 09:49
There is a big difference between very real public liability concerns and out right paranoya.

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Follow Up By: John and Regina M - Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 10:30

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 10:30
There's an idea. Put a disclaimer up saying 'if the mods don't think this thread appropriate etc'

That puts the legal responsibility back on them. And the forum.
FollowupID: 814320

Follow Up By: Member - Silverchrome - Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 10:44

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 10:44
Well that was not even on my mind J and/or R nor my intention. I was just making the point that if this Forum no longer allowed "how to" posts then they could delete it.
Perhaps if you have nothing to add to the content of this Post you may like to let it go. If the bickering continues I will ask the whole Post be deleted. Comments like yours are one reason I never Post or comment anymore.
Have a good day.
FollowupID: 814324

Follow Up By: Ross M - Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 11:03

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 11:03
Unlike some, I have very little faith in the ability of wheel aligners who use $20,000 machines and still get it wrong. Blind faith is admirable but doesn't necessarily solve anything.
Perhaps the machine can do it, but the operators integrity and ability is also a large factor. Dealing with such an issue at the moment
If it is wrong it doesn't matter how it is detected as being wrong, it is still wrong.

Since, nearly all if not ALL alignment places only work to a tolerance anyway, the use of correctly zeroed digital gauges is quite good and can easily better their alleged, "correct adjustments".

Similar gear is used in other spheres of society for accuracy of all sorts of things, why not suspension too.

I use 3 different types ( where needed) of digital gauges to set front ends and suspension and it is relatively easy and safe to do it.
Because the owner WILL tighten up bolts and WILL make the alignment within the specs it is far more likely to be correct than little Johnny with the myriad of flashing lights and sparkling LED's to confuse him. Little Johnny also HAS to understand the principles of wheel alignment too. That is a big ask for some of them.

Never check your brake fluid or change a wheel, that could be dangerous and to change a wheel is right in the thick of it.

PS, the item mentioned is a D40 Navara, aligned on a $20,000 machine and has 0.5 pos camber on L wheel, 0.5 NEG camber on R wheel, 3.1 degrees caster on L wheel axis, and 3.8 degrees camber on R wheel axis.
All of which causes the vehicle to pull markedly left.
The rear axle is also out of square by 3mm on LHS ie, beautifully aligned but made to crab, bum to left, and steering pull to left.
Not bad for a $20,000 machine or perhaps it is the operator.
FollowupID: 814327

Follow Up By: The Bantam - Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 11:40

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 11:40
The problem is the majority of wheel aligment machines these days are in the hands of tyre shops....mostly these tyre shops do not employ mechanics.

The bloke operating the wheel aligner is most likley to be a more or less untrained, minimum wage, muppet of low inteligence and no tallent.

They are tyre fitters who for the most part can't even infate a tyre in accordance with the tyre plackard.

that said there are a few of these guys out there who, inspite of their lack of qualifications, do know their business, and have will, the touch, feel and tallent to do a nice alignment.

But they are few.

I have found it best to go to places that employ mechanics to do wheel alignments.

I have taken vehicles that seemd to have intractable front end problems to specilaist suspension shops to find that all that was needed was a proper alignment..maybe not to book specs though.

At the moment I go to a mechanical shop that sells tyres ( not a tyre shop that does mechanical) and has a rep with 4wds.

They are forthright and proud that they only use qualified mechanics to do wheel alignments.

Yeh its hard to find good tradesmen these days.

FollowupID: 814329

Follow Up By: Bravo Man - Monday, Apr 28, 2014 at 18:07

Monday, Apr 28, 2014 at 18:07
I agree with you Batman. It doesn't matter how good the machine is if the operator is not up to scratch.

I was in Broome a few years back and went for a wheel alignment at a well known tyre sevice. After a while the manager came out and said they couldn't adjust the camber as they didn't have any "Mazda" shims. I said just use any shims,there's nothing special about them, but he insisted they had to be Mazda shims.

When it came to pay I just said I wont pay for something you didn't do and just grabbed my keys and walked out. I think their policy is just do the toe-in if the shims are to hard to get at. Makes you wonder how many people they have done it to.

FollowupID: 814415

Follow Up By: The Bantam - Monday, Apr 28, 2014 at 21:37

Monday, Apr 28, 2014 at 21:37
Ya got that right...that lots of em only want to do a toe in.

Because some of the other adjustments are time consuming and a fiddle and it may require them to get parts ( shims ) in for the job.

FollowupID: 814446

Follow Up By: Bravo Man - Monday, Apr 28, 2014 at 22:01

Monday, Apr 28, 2014 at 22:01
That's right, he didn't want to spend the time on it. It was only a young fellow doing the actual work.

I ask for a computer print out when they had finished and it showed it had neg camber on one wheel, which means you have to take shims out not putt them in.

Just to lazy

FollowupID: 814447

Reply By: The Bantam - Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 10:16

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 10:16
The biggest problem I see with this method is the "flat ground".

Remember we are talking a camber of -0.5 degrees.

A realy good flat level piece of ground is a bit hard to come by.

If you are going to take the camber adjustment serioulsy, you need to work out a method of accounting for the irreglarities of the surface.

Not that I think the camber adjustment is particularly critical......vehicles run quite well with negative camber running up in the 2 to 5 degree range without adverse tyre wear.

As a matter of routine I get my vehicles aligned with more camber than factory specified....I have proven that the vehicles generally drive better and the front tyres wear particular light vans like hiaces and L300s.

In a trailer we are not concerned with the effects of negative camber on the other suspension and strreing geometry issues like we would be on a steer axle.

And then there is the issue of the resolution of the level in question.....lots of them will only resolve half the half a degree measured..even after correcting for ground irregularities may be anywhere between 0 and 1 deg.....but probably close enough for a trailer.

The toe in is the major concern, that WILL effect tyre wear, rolling resistance and if way out, stability.

people have been doing their own basic wheel alignments at home for as long as cars have been arround.
If the front end is relativly simple like on most of the older cars the only adjustment is toe is possible to make a pretyy fair fist of that with little more than a pair of sticks.
I know at least three people who have either shop baught or home made toe in jigs hanging in their garrage.

If you do any sort of suspenion work at home you have to be able to get the front end aligned close before you drive it toe the wheel aligner.
Particularly if you have any distance to travel..

If you live or travel remote, you realy do need to have a basic understanding of how to do a wheel alignment.

It is so easy for a car or trailer to cop a big hit and knovck the alignment out.

If you have to travel a hundred Kms to the nearerest wheel alignment'd rather do it with ya wheels at least roughly pointing in the dight directions.

It could mean the difference between driving out safely.........or driving a rig with a mind of its own...yeh, been there, done that..hit the tree.

AnswerID: 531314

Follow Up By: Member - Silverchrome - Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 11:39

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 11:39
Some valid and constructive points you raised Bantam. Thanks. My Bosch level measures in 10ths of a degree so assuming the ground is level it is fairly accurate to achieve 0.5 degree (the specs say anywhere from 0 to 0.5 degree). So I guess one way is to set at 0.2 or 0.3 in case the ground is not level....that may minimise the effects. Do you know of anyway to calibrate for the unevenness of the ground you may be on? At home I check before a trip in my concrete floor garage which appears to be level using a long standard non digital spirit level.

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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 12:40

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 12:40
I supose you could apply the basic principles of industrial set out.

Check the floor with a long straight edge to start with..then pick the flattest bit.

If you can find a flat bit you could then calibrate the digital level to that flat section.

It all bears some thinking about.

I worked with an electrician, who did a job in an engineering shop run by "some nutter"..who insisted that everything in his shop was plumb or level to pretyy high accuracy......he even insisted that the fluro's where bang on level.

This electrician argued that the slab of the building would not be that level.....this "nutter" handed him a level and said go for ya life....its all flat and level.

The idea was, anything in the workshop could be used as a reference and the floor especialy was flat & level.

FollowupID: 814331

Reply By: Michael ( Moss Vale NSW) - Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 10:52

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 10:52
No chance of being sued! even without a disclaimer. Millions of people post there ideas and fixes, the problem is the same job done by someone incompetent is out of your control. What about a workshop manual showing how to change the front wheel bearings or brake pads nothing wrong with that, we all have to learn but can be a disaster in the wrong hands. People need to realise their capabilities, I know my capabilities and i'm willing to take responsibility if something goes wrong in my own repairs, welding and replacements. Michael
Patrol 4.2TDi 2003

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AnswerID: 531317

Follow Up By: OBJ - Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 13:02

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 13:02
So many half-ar$ed bush lawyers.

If most knew the process involved in getting a lawsuit up and running they would understand that it is a rich man's sport. I had 30 years in media and was threatened with law suits every day. We used to string it out to makes sure that the person starting the action ended up coughing up plenty to his lawyer for the prep work before we released transcripts or other evidence showing there was no case to answer.

Only two ever got to court and only one was successful. We received costs on the other one. Silverchrome can rest easy.

FollowupID: 814333

Reply By: OBJ - Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 12:55

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 12:55
Thanks for posting this Silverchrome. I am sure many will get some good use from it. And your points on the PC Police and the negativity on this forum also precludes me from offering anything beyond the most rudimentary of advice or assistance nowadays. I can do that on other forums where it is more appreciated.

AnswerID: 531322

Reply By: Member - PhilD_NT - Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 13:44

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 13:44
How did I ever get away with years of just using my eye's down the side for toe in/out (can I see the back edge of the front tyre or not) and camber (is the top further in/out than the bottom) with how the tyres are wearing also taken in to consideration. On my old Falcon castor was right when the tyre just about touched the front lip of the guard and on my old 4wd it wasn't possible to adjust without a hydraulic press reshaping the axle housing anyway. As well I always ended up with the steering wheel in the right position afterwards, unlike many professionals.

Then there's balancing. One fool was placing a weight on then if it wasn't right still he was then adding weights elsewhere to compensate for the ones he left on there. I left him for a while adding more and more before saying something, just for the fun of watching.
AnswerID: 531327

Follow Up By: Ross M - Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 14:13

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 14:13
It is fun to watch those people isn't it. You have to marvel at their inability but willing to have a go despite being totally wrong.
Wrong man, in wrong place, at wrong time.
FollowupID: 814337

Follow Up By: OBJ - Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 19:40

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 at 19:40
I remember too many years ago being at Bathurst for the Motor bikes and Australian champion Eric Hinton was working with his father on his bike, setting and adjusting the points with a cigarette paper. He went out the following day and won another Australian title. So, to perhaps paraphrase the real meaning of IBM ... it's better manually :)

FollowupID: 814364

Reply By: Member - Milton477 - Monday, Apr 28, 2014 at 21:53

Monday, Apr 28, 2014 at 21:53
Thanks for the advice Silverchrome. I am just nearing the point of aligning the Cruisemaster suspension on the van I am building & was wondering where I had seen the alignment method. Probably in the docs that came with the suspension I suspect??

As for PC & all the rest... short walk & long plank comes to mind. I have learned an incredible amount from forums like this from those who have taken the time to share advice. Sometimes the advice is a bit alternative but if you are looking for advice, a bit of common sense to sort the good from the not so good is all that is required, not lawyers. Perish the thought when the day comes & we cannot pass on the benfits of our experience to others.

Keep it coming. Lots listen & appreciate, only a few sad people are negative.
AnswerID: 531439

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