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Alignment time again, on the search. Wheel Works - prospect- Lifetime Alighment

Alignment time again, on the search. Wheel Works - prospect- Lifetime Alignment

Unfortunately my goto guy, Dietsch Werks, for alignments has moved quite a distance ( couple of hours) away from San Jose to Vacaville. So I'm in the search for a new shop that I can trust. I just knocked my alignment off with the passenger rear side, and now the car is not "on" the way it was in terms of handling.... so on with the search....

In Santa Cruz there's a "Wheel Works" shop that I've used where they have one technician who's very good at alignments, that's all he does and was trained to do. I had my truck and jeep aligned there and have been quite happy. They have a late model Hunter alignment machine and just acquired another new alignment machine which is great.

I dropped by the shop today and talked to a manager Bill who I spoke with before, very professional. I indicated that I have a Tesla Roadster I am very particular about with its alignment specs as well as who I take my car to. He understood my point. I also inquired about the guy who is very good at alignments they have there, his name is Omar, whom I had great experience with before and also was highly recommended by other managers there. I told him the numbers I want the Roadster dialed in at, which are still within spec, and he said that's do-able. He indicated they just won't do an alignment a customer requests that's out of spec. I also told him we most likely will need 2x4's to run the Roadster up on the alignment machine, the angle of attack is too steep and the Roadster too low. He said he has those all ready to go.

But the cool thing is that Wheel Works now has a "Lifetime" alignment program. Standard alignment they charged around $70 and the Lifetime is another $70, so $140. You can take the car in multiple times a year if you want to ensure its still dialed in / properly aligned or take it in when ever you want, say a year if you feel its knocked out. If its out they'll re-align it back all for free! Totally awesome! My goal is to train / get these guys to be familiar with the Roadster and have them as the goto place for those close by. I was paying $250 per alignment before and that didn't have a lifetime guarantee. However it was done by a Lotus expert who races and I did get my money's worth in information and knowledge for sure.

I'm scheduled for an appointment at Wheel Works next Thursday, will follow up with the results / feedback.

One thing I need to stop by is if I need to bring my own shims or not. I might have to order a set just for this purpose, but we'll see. I might be fine as is.
 
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To my uninitiated ears, the $70+70 for lifetime price seems very close to Bridgestone's offer. Which sort of tells me you're not getting a $200/hour experienced tech, you're getting a 19 year old. How would a shop make money if you give them $140 and they do 2 alignments a year for ten years? If they use the $9 an hour kid to do the work. Just think about the math - an alignment takes 30-60 minutes. Shop time usually bills at $120-200 an hour.
 
To my uninitiated ears, the $70+70 for lifetime price seems very close to Bridgestone's offer. Which sort of tells me you're not getting a $200/hour experienced tech, you're getting a 19 year old. How would a shop make money if you give them $140 and they do 2 alignments a year for ten years? If they use the $9 an hour kid to do the work. Just think about the math - an alignment takes 30-60 minutes. Shop time usually bills at $120-200 an hour.

I hear with what you're saying, hence why I've had personal experience with this technician and have confirmation on my own end he has proper training and enough real world experience to set a proper alignment. For the most part, a high tech machine is doing most of the detailed analysis work on where to make the adjustments. As ecarfan indicated about taking the car to Wheel-Works, its more than just the shop, its more-so the technician who's doing the work hence why I'm over-seeing and guiding them as they're allowing me to with the work so I am 100% happy with the results.

I cannot confirm if my experience is good from this technician and wheel-works shop that all wheel-works shops will meet this hopefully good expectation, but what I can confirm after this experiment is a particular wheel-works shop with a particular known alignment technician will be competent to do the job well. From there, others can leverage off this recommendation and request to have the same technician align their car.

However, if you have experience with alignments and understand what all these numbers mean coming from the machine you'll be able to speak the technicians language.

I firmly believe its always good to build a comfortable straight forward and open relationship with anyone working on your car.

in the end I will be double-checking the nuts/areas the alignment tech worked on to guarantee all is good and torqued correctly. Note I will also provide the tech with the proper torque numbers for all the bolts/nuts he'll need to loosen and adjust as an extra step which I can contribute as a quality and safety measure.

I also shared with the manager that I'll be sharing this experience with other Roadster owners, and he was happy to hear that, hoping to see more Roadsters if I have a satisfying experience.

In all honesty, I wish I could get the training and just rent these machines when needed and do my own alignment. But that'll never happen...

FYI: My $250 alignment was done by a younger person, not 19, but he did have true technical experience from working in a Lotus Elise/Exige racing environment. And he was very competent and knowledgeable. I also was 100% comfortable with him working on my Roadster after feeling him out and watching him work on my as well as others cars. I find experience in my opinion more valuable as a tool than just education and theory given only with a certification.
 
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You're no dope and I trust you're making an informed decision. I'm speaking in generalities of course.

I firmly believe its always good to build a comfortable straight forward and open relationship with anyone working on your car.
HEAR HEAR! It's not easy to do anymore though. Even at Tesla Service Centers I've found that every time I bring my car in, the people I spoke with last time aren't there anymore.
 
My experience with Wheelworks alignment is poor - I use them for my ICE, out of laziness (I have one less than 5 miles away). I used Dietsch for my Lotus years, and was heartbroken when he moved to Vacaville. He had Elise alignment and balance down to a fine art.

I've taken my nicer cars to Custom Alignment for years, too, and have always had a good experience. They'll tune the alignment to your driving style (do you drive with a passenger? Do you want less understeer? Are you ok with your tracking?), and they've worked on Lotuses for years, so they know the car's jack points (you don't want to be this guy: Dont let this happen to your Lotus | Z-Car). I've seen them working on Ford GTs and Ferrari 458s, so I figure they know their stuff.
 
OK, I have to ask: If you know the specs you want, why couldn't any competent alignment shop with good late model equipment do the job? At the end of the day, the alignment machine prints out the results, so what's the concern?

Whether it's shims or turnbuckles, it should be pretty straightforward to bring Roadster's/Lotus's alignment to meet those specs. The hardest thing, I think, is "Cross-Caster", but that's not typically a big concern. Is not tightening things down properly really a major issue (yes, we've all heard horror stories about even simple oil changes, but I'm assuming general competence).

Here's a page on Elise alignment. Talks about shim thicknesses and such.

I had my alignment done by Dietsch, and was there while they did it. We discussed how/where I drove and what I wanted, and discussed the final print out. I didn't see any black magic, but maybe that's because the service person was so familiar with the cars it was all second nature to him?
 
Just wondering if you maxed out the positive caster on your alignment. That would help with the twitchiness you feel at high speeds. If you go with a 17 inch front wheel it will probably get worse.

It appears my caster is off on the left, at least when it was dialed in at during my last alignment. Below is what I have for the castor... I'll try to pull that back into spec in my upcoming appointment and report back on how the car responds at higher speeds. Thanks!

Front CasterLeft: 3.0Right: 3.6


http://www.hcsharp.com/tesla/roadsterAlignSpecs/AlignSpecs.htm


Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 2.46.54 PM.png




Lotus Elise Maintenance, Suspension Alignment
Castor
optimum
+ 3.8degrees°


tolerance
+ 3.5degrees° to + 4.1degrees°; max. side/side: 0.35degrees°




































 
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Look and see if you have extra spacers (washers) on the rear of both of the upper control arm attachment points. There is one thick one which is required to space the bushing, and several thin ones for adjustment. If you don't have any, you won't be able to get any extra caster. They get placed in front to increase it, by shifting the arm to the rear. Most places charge extra to disconnect the upper control arm from the frame to shim for caster. Road impacts on the wheel will try to force it negative.
 
Look and see if you have extra spacers (washers) on the rear of both of the upper control arm attachment points. There is one thick one which is required to space the bushing, and several thin ones for adjustment. If you don't have any, you won't be able to get any extra caster. They get placed in front to increase it, by shifting the arm to the rear. Most places charge extra to disconnect the upper control arm from the frame to shim for caster. Road impacts on the wheel will try to force it negative.

I'll check it out this weekend. Truly appreciate it!

Adding a pic below for a reference to others to help understand what we're talking about.

caster-camber.jpg
 
Here's my stock washer setup.

Driver:
front leg = 0:3 (0 washers frontside : 3 washers backside), Large Shims
rear leg = 0:4 (0 washers frontside : 4 washers backside), Small Shims

Passenger:
front leg = 0:3 (0 washers frontside : 3 washers backside), Large Shims
rear leg = 0:3 (0 washers frontside : 4 washers backside), Small Shims


Will try to push the caster out as far positive as I can while keeping symmetry.

I found via the lotus forum that 0.4º of caster change occurs per washer, presume its the washer... which seems to be sort of accurate with how much my caster is off on the driver's side. Have to figure out what the small washer does in terms of degrees/setting, they are thinner than the large one. Have to use a mic and compare the differences.
 
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Did my caster shim swap this morning before heading out to work. Did my research on tricks & tips form the Lotus forums which allowed me to knock out the job in 30-40 mins. for the passenger side. Attacking driver's side tonight/tomorrow. Without the tricks I heard it taking people 3 hours/side and bloody knuckles.

Here's my new setting with the updated washer setup.

Driver:

front leg = 3:0 (3 washers frontside : 0 washers backside), Large Shims
rear leg = 3:1 (3 washers frontside : 1 washer backside), Small Shims

Passenger:

front leg = 3:0 (3 washers frontside : 0 washers backside), Large Shims
rear leg = 3:0 (3 washers frontside : 0 washers backside), Small Shims

Right now, in theory, I should have pushed my passenger caster out to a +4.8º. Researching on the Lotus forum, they mentioned you cannot have to much positive caster on the Elise. Will attack the other side tonight / in the morning, then throw it up on the rack to see where the numbers are and make adjustments if needed.

With a double wishbone setup, adding more positive caster gives the car more negative camber up front when the suspension compresses. Will write more about the pro's / con's later.

Adding some pics as a reference. I did have to pop the tie-rod end to remove the rear bolt of the wishbone. No need to remove the shock or mount, I was able to access the nut to the front wishbone behind the shock mount.

Tips:
1) The washers are a pain since they're individual, very tough to put them in if not put in as a single entity. Glue with superglue, rubber cement, white sticky glue all the washers together. Makes your life way easier.

2) Start with the front upper wishbone arm bolt, and allow it to line up with the washers. Put the nut on but hand tighten. This will be used to help the rear wishbone bolt to line up as well as help guide it through the small washers/shims.

3) Tie-rod end needs to be popped.

4) Front upper wishbone nut can be accessed behind the shock mount without removing anything else. When putting the nut on, use the extension and put a paper towel or something that will make the nut stick to the socket. You can't fit your hand in there to get the nut started otherwise.

5) Keep track of your bolts, they are specific for where they go. Also take not of the two washers that are on the front bolt but not on the rear. I put the bolts, each in their own ziplock bag marked front and one rear so nothing gets lost.

6) Before tightening down the wishbone bolts / nuts completely, put the tie-rod end in, hand tighten the nut, then drop the car down lightly, allowing the front rotor to lay on one or two 4x4 blocks (something that will hold the Roadster's weight). This will be putting some weight and lightly compressing the upper wishbone. Then tighten down and torque to spec. This limits sagging/shifting/settling of the bolt / wishbone component over time since a load was put on with weight rather than unloaded.

7) Each caster washer is equal to 0.4º of adjustment.


IMG_8377.jpg


IMG_8378.jpg


IMG_8379.jpg


IMG_8380.jpg


IMG_8381.jpg







References I used / helpful links:

How noticeable are caster changes on the Elise/Exige? - LotusTalk - The Lotus Cars Community

Lotus Elise Maintenance, Suspension Alignment

Installing Polyurethane Bushings on a Lotus Elise

Another Suspension Refresh - Page 3 - Technical Talk - Midlands Lotus Owners Club (MLOC) - Page 3

Nitron suspension

Removing front camber shims - LotusTalk - The Lotus Cars Community

Geo Setups - TechWiki

Caster alignment - LotusTalk - The Lotus Cars Community

Longacre Digital Caster Camber Gauge 78298
 
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You probably know this by now, but the OEM shims have an O.D. almost equal to the control arm. Your pics show some smaller non OEM washers. I use 3/8 stainless fender washers. I have a spare 10mm bolt ground flat on the end to help keep the washers in place. You can catch the shims with the sharp end of the bolt one at a time. Just make sure you get enough shims in front so you don't bend the frame mount when you tighten it. The last shim should need to get tapped in to make it nice and snug.
 
The small ones on the rear leg are Lotus OEM, see pic below. Good tips, thx! The driver's side rear leg is harder than the passenger side was. I had 3 shims in the front leg and 4 shims in the rear leg. I'm thinking about running 3:0 for the front leg and 3:1 for the rear. The rear leg needs 4 shims since the frame mount is wider on the driver's side there vs. the passenger which I ran 3:0 front leg and back leg. If I ran 3 instead of 4 on the rear leg, the frame mount will bend/damage like you pointed out.

Will put it all together in the morning where I have daylight.

front caster.jpg
 
Hey Wiztecy I did the Nitrons and Lotus alignment with Rob Dietsch at the same time as your car. Are you sure about those alignment specs?
Did you ask Tesla if they would align to the same specs?

Yes, those are the specs from Rob that was reported by the alignment machine. Most people don't mess with the caster and leave it as is. Caster never changed with the past 2 alignments, I keep my records for comparison purposes over time. Tesla does not do their own alignment, they send it out. Also the Elise community has the same issue, caster off / not even / out of spec, hence where I leveraged most of the valuable information to do the job.

Making a correction on my passenger side stock shim setup, can't edit the original post:


My stock "factory" washer setup:

Driver:
front leg = 0:3 (0 washers frontside : 3 washers backside), Large Shims
rear leg = 0:4 (0 washers frontside : 4 washers backside), Small Shims
Caster: 3.0º (alignment machine)

Passenger:
front leg = 1:2 (1 washers frontside : 2 washers backside), Large Shims
rear leg = 0:3 (0 washers frontside : 4 washers backside), Small Shims
Caster: 3.6º (alignment machine)

Finished the driver's side and re-did the passenger side this morning. I setup the castor for the driver's side and redid the passenger side. Roadster drives great. Will see where the Hunter machine show for a true caster reading, but in theory I should now have +4.2º Driver and +4.0º Passenger with only a +0.2º difference on the driver side. As MAUTO pointed out, the "twitchyness" I was receiving from input of the steering wheel has gone away, the car is very stable and I've been cruising / testing at 95mph on the straights. Tracks very well, steering has better feel but also it's a little harder to turn. I should have picked up better turning radius as well, but I don't care about that really.

Current settings as of 11/4/15:

Driver:
front leg = 3:0 (3 washers frontside : 0 washers backside), Large Shims
rear leg = 3:1 (3 washers frontside : 1 washer backside), Small Shims
Caster: 4.2º (rough calculation)

Passenger:
front leg = 2:1 (2 washers frontside : 1 washers backside), Large Shims
rear leg = 2:1 (2 washers frontside : 1 washers backside), Small Shims
Caster: 4.0º (rough calculation)


More info on caster:
Caster angle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Positive caster angle

The pivot points of the steering are angled such that a line drawn through them intersects the road surface slightly ahead of the contact patch of the tire on the pavement. The purpose of this is to provide a degree of self-centering for the steering — the wheel casters around in order to trail behind the axis of steering. This makes a car easier to drive and improves its directional stability (reducing its tendency to wander). Excessive caster angle will make the steering heavier and less responsive, although in racing large caster angles are used for improving camber gain in cornering. Caster angles over 7 degrees with radial tires are common. Power steering is usually necessary to overcome the jacking effect from the high caster angle.

 
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