Topic: Beetle Wheel Alignment

Ok...a lot of us do our own work on our Beetles.  There is almost nothing I can't or won't try on my Beetle...except for two things:


1.  Mounting & balancing of tires.  Tire shops really should be able to do this properly on our VW's...since the mounting & balancing of tires has changed very little in the past 50+ years.  The only real things that have changed are hopefully better methods like "computer" spin balancing.

Believe it or not...when I get new tires for my Beetle, I usually take the tires/rims off my Beetle, and take them to the shop for the mounting and balancing in another vehicle.  I don't even trust them to jack my Beetle up...because whether they use floor jacks or the big hydraulic jacks built into the garage floor, more times than not...a jack is going to be put into the wrong place & minimally scratch up the pan exposing it to moisture & then rusting...or the jack is put in the wrong place & deformation of the pan results.


2.  Front - end or 4-wheel alignment.  This is really the only thing that I won't do or try (unless convinced otherwise).  I could do the mounting & balancing of tires if I had too.

My questions for the forum are:

1.  Where does everyone go for front end or 4- wheel alignments on their Beetles?...especially if no trustworthy VW mechanic is in the area.

2.  If you went to a national chain like place for the alignment, were you happy with the results?

3.  If a trusty local VW mechanic is not available, what national chain shop would you recommend?

4.  Does anybody do their own alignments, and if so what special tools do you use, and how difficult is it?

Thanks,

- Nick

1979 Super Beetle Convertible

Re: Beetle Wheel Alignment

Nick: I can only answer #1....In addition to the big national shops, there are numerous, small, non-chain alignment shops in my town. I found one recommended by several people. I took my Bentley manual with me the first time to have the front alignment specs with me. The shop pulled up the specs on their old computer and lo and behold they were identical to Mr. Bentley's. They did a great job on the front and even did the proper procedure for ensuring that the steering wheel remained in its correct, neutral position (i.e., they didn't just find the loosest tie-rod and turn only that one but actually turned both the right and left one.) Now I have a '65 with a king/link pin front end so they only set the toe-in. But they were able to check the caster and camber and their readings showed both were within spec. All this was done while the car was no more than 10 feet away from me and they even invited me into the pit area and offered me safety glasses. Was I just lucky? Perhaps, but I've recommended them to several others who have had the same experience. I've never had them do all four corners though, just the front. My recommendation would be to find a small shop and ask if they do older cars and have the old specs. Then watch them like a hawk while they do the job.

Good luck.

Clancy

Re: Beetle Wheel Alignment

Tires -

The major problem here is that if you have wide-5 pattern wheels, very few shops still have the adapters to attach the wheels to the mounting and spin balancing equipment.  The shop I use for this does have the adapter so I'm okay on that.


Alignment -

This really isn't rocket science.  The hardest part of this is getting the adjuster part of the linkage to turn but a liberal soaking of penetrating oil and a little heat usually loosens things up enough.  This is a DIY job as long as you can read a ruler, but if you want a shop to do it this is a task that any of them can do.  At least you can take it back if it isn't done right, and continue taking it back until it's right, at no additional cost.

David H
'66 VW Beetle w/sunroof
http://tinyurl.com/qhw59
"Where am I going ... and why am I in this handbasket?"

Re: Beetle Wheel Alignment

Clancy:

What you mentioned is what I would consider the "Perfect World" scenerio...and I am in total agreement with you. 

Since I move around every few years, I was hoping to get a good recommendation on a national chain for alignments.  Of course, the national chains from store to store can vary widely as well.

I am considering going to a Pep Boys in my area...but as of yet I haven't gone to them for anything mechanical to test out their capabilities.


David H:

Do you do your own alignments? 

If so, what special tools do you use?

How long does it take you?

I would imagine if the procedure is not too complicated...like anything else on a Beetle...it is usually the hardest the 1st tiime around.  I should mention that my "main" VW is a 79 Super Beetle, so that may make a difference for front end alignments compared to a standard Beetle.

Thanks for the feedback.

- Nick

1979 Super Beetle Convertible

Re: Beetle Wheel Alignment

Nick: Yes, it does sound like a "perfect world" scenario. I have "checked" the toe-in on my Bug according to the Muir and Bentley procedures, but I've never attempted to do the actual adjustment...I could if I HAD to but would prefer to have it done properly by a shop that does this everyday all year long.

I guess I would still perfer finding a small independent shop over someplace like Pep Boys, Sears, Brakes Plus, etc. My concern is similar to that expressed in another thread about experiences with "mechanics". My experience is that the relatively young technicians just don't have the years of experience to be able to do much more than you could do in your own garage, especially for a Bug. Yes, they may have the proper shop equipment but may not understand (through absolutely no fault of their own) the peculiarities of a Bug. Now maybe my concerns are misplaced since the McPherson strut front end in your Super is perhaps more like what the technicians in the big shops are used to seeing in Hondas, Toyotas, and many other recent models.  I guess I'm age-biased. But, I will say this: the young fellows in the BugMe videos could work on my car anytime they wanted, because they've had a Dad to show them since they were in diapers how things are to be done. Anyway, please give us a report on what you decide to do for yourself or where you take it.

Clancy

Re: Beetle Wheel Alignment

Thanks Clancy.

Gotta replace some old ball joints...then gotta decide on a shop.

If anyone else has anything to add...please do.

Thanks,

- Nick

1979 Super Beetle Convertible

Re: Beetle Wheel Alignment

Hey, how did those ball joints come out?Mine were a bitch!! Va Eddie

Re: Beetle Wheel Alignment

Let's say you are running a couple sizes larger tires in the rear of your Beetle to compensate for it's oversteering characteristics.  Try asking a technician in an alignment shop to adjust the caster to compensate.  And you'll probabably get a blank stare, or be told it can't be done.

If you put the caster adjusting shims in their hands they probably wouldn't know what to do with them.  Chances are they've never heard of offset anti-sway bar bushings to adjust the caster of a Super Beetle either.

I wonder how many of the young ones know how to adjust the camber of a link pin suspension.

I do my own alignments.  I've seen the "Pros" screw up too many times.  Not to mention, at least years ago, most of them said they didn't have the capabilities to adjust the rear alignment.

It's not that hard.  You need to make four level spots for your tires to rest on.  Then you can make a trammel bar to measure your toe in.

But before you do any of that, you should adjust the bearing play in your steering gearbox, and adjust the lash between the roller and the worm.  The wheel bearings should also be adjusted.  It's also possible that the rear wheel berings are worn out and should be cleaned and regreased at least.

More than likely, your torsion bar grommets are shot.  It seems like nobody every replaces them.  Worn torsion bar grommets result in squirmy unpredictale handling.  And as the car is 30 plus years old, the rear torsion bars will have settled a bit and need readjustment anyway.  All that is needed for that is a good angle protractor that you can buy at Sears, and a torsion bar compressor that Latest Rage sells.  I think it's less than $20 bucks.  Personally I prefer the graphite impregnated urethane bushings that Engegy Suspensions makes.  They also make bushing for the IRS trailing arms and regular and offset anti-sway bars for the Super Beetles.  People often forget to change these bushings.

I'm not saying that there aren't suspension shops that know what they are doing.  You'll just have a hard time finding one that can take care of all the alignment needs of a Beetle.  If you do find someone that is competant to do every aspect of the alignment and suspension setup, will you be able to afford them?

Before even considering taking your VW in to have the alignment serviced, you need to make sure you have all of the repairs completed, so all they have to do is adjust.  This includes correctly adjusting the steering gearbox and making sure the steering wheel is on straight BEFORE you bring the car to the alignment shop.

Scott Novak

Re: Beetle Wheel Alignment

Hi,

I did my own alignment on my 74 Super about 6 years ago and havent had any irregular tire wear or pulling since then.  It's really a piecs of cake if you're patient and don't mind readjusting at about 8 - 10 times to get it just right. 

You need to make sure that your Steering box is centered when you're going straight ahead to start with.  Then you start adjusting your tie rods and make sure that your steering wheel is straight when you drive.  Once you're down to fine adjustments, you can use a locking tape measure - it even takes the measuring out of the picture. 

You simply lock the tape measure when it's toughing the front edge of both inner tire rims.  Then transfer that measurement to the back edge of the rims and you should have about 1/8 inch of play in the tape measure.  Then rol the car forward or back 1/2 wheel revolutino and check again to make sure that what you're measuring is not bent rim drift.

My bug tracked straight as an arrow on the highway.  Better than my Chevy or BMW.

Go for it.

Mike.

Last edited by MikeL (2005-12-03 14:51:04)

Take Care,

Mike
74 Super - Willie
52 Zwitter
78 Vert

Re: Beetle Wheel Alignment

To reduce the errors of bent wheels, you can jack the car high enough to lift the front wheels off the ground.  Then spin the wheel and hold a marking crayon to the center of the tread and make a line around the tire.

Set the car down and roll it back and forth to center the wheels, then move it onto your level spots on the floor.

You can make a trammel bar from a piece of wood as wide as the track of the car. Screw a wooden leg on each end of the wooden bar to hold it up.

Then make a couple of wire pointers by bending a piece of stiff wire into a loop that will go around a bolt that you will put through the bar.  A couple of washers (over and under the wire loop) and a bolt through the bar, and tighten just enough so you can barely adjust the position of the wire pointers.

Be sure to hold the front of the tires apart to simulate the forces of the road while driving.  Then you can align the pointers at the center line of the tires in the front.  Then move the trammel bar carefully to the rear without disturbing the pointers.  Align one of the pointers to a mark one of the tires.  Look at the other tire.  The distance between the pointer and the mark on the tire is your toe-in.

Scott Novak

Re: Beetle Wheel Alignment

MikeL & Scott,

Thanks for the much more detailed "home mechanic" wheel alignment procedure...but it sounds like something that is best seen the 1st time to understand & follow...and much more difficult to convey via text on Volkswebbin.

- Nick

1979 Super Beetle Convertible