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Thread: 1998 528i REAR Wheel Alignment

  1. #1
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    1998 528i REAR Wheel Alignment

    DIY: 1998 528i REAR Wheel Alignment


    I just did the REAR Suspension Overhaul, and needed to do a 4-wheel alignment.
    - Called local BMW dealer, they wanted $150!
    - My trusted local indy wanted $90 but the next appointment is 10 days from now!
    - I am making a long trip, so I cannot wait and decided to do the REAR Alignment myself. It is easier than I thought, read on!

    * FRONT Wheel Alignment is part of this FRONT Suspension Overhaul Thread (Scroll down to see the Alignment using Carpenter square and 24-inch Level Device):

    http://wwww.bimmerfest.com/forums/sh...d.php?t=399580

    * REAR Suspension Overhaul Link:

    http://wwww.bimmerfest.com/forums/sh....php?p=6113810


    REQUIREMENTS:

    1. Perform the FRONT Wheel Alignment first, see DIY above.
    Personally I adjusted the FRONT Toe-in = 1mm each side to account for the crown on the road.

    2. If you have bad Rear suspension parts (e.g., bad Rear ball joints), don’t waste your time doing this alignment, do a REAR Suspension Overhaul first, see above link.

    3. Best is with a Full Gasoline Tank.

    4. To-add-weight-or-not-to-add-weight debate: read this thread below. I don’t add weight because 99% of the time, I am the sole driver.
    Grab a beer and read these debates:

    http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=394836

    http://forum.roadfly.com/threads/12868116

    http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=526864


    5. Good tires, ideally same make, and tread depth.

    6. Tire pressures as per mfg, look it up. However, I use 35-38 psi in all 4 tires.

    7. Level garage with concrete floor: I am lucky because my garage is level between (R) and (L). It just slopes outward a bit for water flow (per building code), so I use 2x10 lumber under the REAR tire so the car is more or less level. You can use 2 boards of lumber if you need more clearance to work on.

    8. A 2nd person is helpful. I worked alone (wife and kids busy watching Stanley Cup Hockey Games....LOL).

    9. All torque values are given in the REAR Suspension Overhaul Link.

    10. Lastly you need to understand what tangent is. This is because at home, you don’t have the angle-measuring device as the alignment shop, so you need to use trigonometry to convert mm into tangent. If you did not sleep through your high school trigonometry class....LOL, then you can do this! Basically tangent = opposite/adjacent. “Arctan” is the reverse of “tan”. OK, if this sounds too scary, then google “arctan” and “tan”, or ask a high school kid to help you.


    TOOLS:

    1. Rubber hammer, pair of 16-mm wrenches (the longer the better), pair of 18-mm wrenches (the longer the better), 8-inch adjustable wrench to help extend the read of the 16-mm wrench.

    2. Carpenter square and 24-inch Level Device: see DIY above for detail.

    3. Work gloves.




    ALIGNMENT PROCEDURE:

    1. On the REAR of an E39, Adjustment can only be made via the 2 Eccentric bolts.
    Review the diagram below to be sure you are familiar with the setup.
    Basically the Eccentric Bolts are on the Swing Arm and the Front Upper Control Arm.





    2. Review the Alignment Spec Sheet.
    - I don’t know the V8 spec (very similar to I6), but below is the 6-cylinder spec.
    - Note also the definition of tangent.
    - Note: Wheel: 470 mm, Tire round part is 520 mm. I only use the 520-mm for calculation.





    3. Every car alignment problem is different, in my case, the (L) Rear Wheel has too much toe-in, so the rear pushes to the (R), the Front goes to the (L). On highway, car veers to the LEFT.





    4. Start with the (R) Rear Wheel. Hold the 24-inch level and adjust it so it is level.
    - Note the knee pushing the level against the tire (it is tough doing this alone!).
    - Now measure the difference between the tire and the level.
    - In my case, it was 20mm.
    - So arctan (20mm/520mm) = 2.20 degrees. Note that this is negative camber so technically speaking it is – 2.20 degrees.
    - Camber still within spec, but I hate that much negative camber (tire wears more on the inner side), so I reduced the camber as much as possible.








    5. I adjusted the Camber using the Eccentric Bolt on the Swing Arm. By bringing the Swing Arm INWARD, I reduced the Camber from – 2.20 degrees to –1.30 degrees.
    - The max I could do (max out the eccentric bolt) was arctan (12mm/520mm) = - 1.30 degrees.
    - To bring the Swing Arm INWARD: first loosen the 18-mm nut about a full turn (about 360 degrees). This allows you to rotate the 18-mm Eccentric Bolt. In my case, I rotated the 18-mm Eccentric Bolt as shown, when viewed from the Rear, it was rotated CCW to bring the Swing Arm INWARD. I max out the eccentric bolt: the elongated part of the eccentric washer pushes against the frame, moving the Swing Arm INWARD. Gently lock the nut so it does not move. Checked the measurement and it was arctan (12mm/520mm) = - 1.30 degrees. ---> HAPPY MAN!
    - Once you are happy with the Camber reading (whatever you want), tighten the 18-mm nut.





    6. Repeat the same process and adjust the Camber on the (L) Rear Wheel.


    7. Now toe-in issue. I am lucky because after I reduce Camber, the track widths are almost the same front and back.
    (FYI: Factory values: wheelbase: 2,830mm; front track: 1,511mm, rear track: 1,527mm)

    So I simply pull a string from front to back (tape the front to middle of the tire) and measured Toe-in.
    The (R) Rear Wheel has zero toe-in, fine with me (I didn’t need to go with BMW Rear Toe spec of +0.05 degrees, which is tan(0.05) x 520mm = 0.45mm).









    8. The (L) Rear Wheel had 6mm toe-in (arctan (6/520) = 0.66 degrees, out of spec).
    - To reduce toe-in, loosen the 16-mm nut on the Upper FRONT Control Arm.
    - Whatever you do, bring the Upper FRONT Control Arm OUTWARD.
    - Confused? Simply look at the Eccentric Bolt and think. The Eccentric Bolt is “sandwiched” by the raised sections of the frame, so by rotating it, you either move the Control Arm IN or OUT. Very easy to figure it out, pure common sense.
    - Anyway, I adjusted the Toe-in until it reads zero. PERFECT.
    - Now this is the fun part, the 16-mm is hidden in a very tight space. The longest 16-mm wrench barely reached it. I used an adjustable wrench to help! The alternative is to remove the useless plastic cover on the subframe bushing to gain more room (I did not do this but feel free to do it). It was the toughest part of this project.
    If you have a super long 16-mm wrench (? Snapon), then it is much easier.
    - Once done, tighten the nut, making sure nothing has moved (Mark the Eccentric Bolt with the position you are happy with before tightening the nut).





    9. See picture of FINAL Result with REAR Camber = -1.30 degrees. I don’t think you can adjust the E39 to zero camber. The eccentric bolt only allows that much adjustment. Anyway I am HAPPY with REAR Camber = -1.30 degrees. Much better than –2.20 degrees!





    Took the car on the highway at @ 90 mph, Holy Macro Smoke, it is dead straight like a dream, unbelievable.
    Went home, had a Heineken beer, felt good because I knew I did the right thing: $100 savings = 5 cases of Heineken LOL.

    That is all boys and girls, do it and save money!
    Last edited by cnn; 06-10-2011 at 07:41 AM.

  2. #2
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    I have to do this because after I dropped my car (struts replaced with springs), the rear wheels look like they are toed out...

  3. #3
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    I need to update this Rear Alignment thread.
    As mentioned above, one of the most difficult part of this job is the 16-mm nut way above the FRONT control arm. My longest 16-mm wrench (9.5" long) barely sticks out below the swing arm and I had to use the adjustable wrench as an "extension".

    I just found out a coupling nut works perfect for this situation.
    Go to any hardware store and buy 1/4-16 coupling nut for $1.00/each.
    The hex side of this coupling nut fits perfectly into the 16-mm wrench!!!
    Now you can use either the adjustable wrench or another 16-mm wrench for leverage.
    What a beauty!

    Here is what I mean:



  4. #4
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    i think this should end up in the diy section. thanks for your work

  5. #5
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    Great job! This was very helpful. I just did this and I want to add one thing which I did not see here, which is how much adjustment bolt rotation equals how much adjustment of the alignment. What I found is that for the camber bolt (#11 in the diagram above) one tick mark on the bolt equals about .2 degrees of camber adjustment.

    For the toe adjust bolt (#15 in the diagram above) there are no tick marks, but I think 1 degree of bolt rotation equals about .01 degree of toe adjustment. So if you have -.15 degree of toe and you want 0.00 then you would turn the bolt about 15 degrees. That is as close as I could estimate it.

    The only other thing is, like you said, you really need a long 16mm wrench! Having a regular short wrench only makes the toe adjustment about 100 times harder!

    Thanks for the great write up and photos.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by mpo View Post
    ...The only other thing is, like you said, you really need a long 16mm wrench! Having a regular short wrench only makes the toe adjustment about 100 times harder!
    The longest 16-mm wrench on the market barely sticks out.

    As mentioned above, one of the most difficult part of this job is the 16-mm nut way above the FRONT control arm. My longest 16-mm wrench (9.5" long) barely sticks out below the swing arm and I had to use the adjustable wrench as an "extension".

    Go to any hardware store and buy 1/4-16 coupling nut for $1.00/each.
    The hex side of this coupling nut fits perfectly into the 16-mm wrench!!!
    This coupling nut makes the job 100 times easier.
    Last edited by cnn; 09-02-2011 at 11:34 AM.

  7. #7
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    The problem I had with that idea is the box end of my wrench has an "offset" or angle to it so the other end hits something whichever way I try to attach it. I ended up using the open end. I did some searching and I did see some adjustable "spud" wrenches up to 16" long, and also some wratcheting box end wrenches that claim to be 14" I think. If I was going to do it much I would probably weld up something. I am thinking you need something at least 15"

  8. #8
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    Do you need to drive a bit for the suspension to settle after adjustment but before the final measurement?

  9. #9
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    The $90 or $150 for a four wheel alignment is worth it...
    Last edited by deathwarden5; 09-02-2011 at 08:54 PM.
    Understeer is when you hit the wall with the front of the car and oversteer is when you hit the wall with the rear of the car.
    Horsepower is how fast you hit the wall, torque is how far you take the wall with you.

  10. #10
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    Well, I think $150 is a bit steep but they do pre-load (weight) the car correctly at the dealerships, which independent alignment stores almost never do.
    Keith
    2001 530i 5sp; 2006 X5 3.0

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by sktn77a View Post
    Well, I think $150 is a bit steep but they do pre-load (weight) the car correctly at the dealerships, which independent alignment stores almost never do.
    If you are the sole driver most of the time, then the BMW procedure is somewhat off, and I would not call that correct. It is based on the assumption that a married couple drive the car with a kid in the back seat and full gas tank.

    I do my own alignment at home with full gas tank and that is it. No weights in the front and no weights in the rear. Car runs straight like an arrow, zero issues.

    The issue of alignment the car with vs without weights has been discussed many times before:

    http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=526864

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by cnn View Post
    If you are the sole driver most of the time, then the BMW procedure is somewhat off, and I would not call that correct. It is based on the assumption that a married couple drive the car with a kid in the back seat and full gas tank.

    I do my own alignment at home with full gas tank and that is it. No weights in the front and no weights in the rear. Car runs straight like an arrow, zero issues.

    The issue of alignment the car with vs without weights has been discussed many times before:

    http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=526864
    I'm glad you can do your own work and whatnot, but this is not the right way to do an alignment.

    And because the car drives straight, does not mean the alignment is correct.

    BTW... you should always have some toe in, not zero'd. As the car drives down the road, the wheels naturally pull outward. So if you set for some toe in (as spec suggests), as the car drives down the road, the wheels will pull out, bringing the realtime toe to near zero.
    Understeer is when you hit the wall with the front of the car and oversteer is when you hit the wall with the rear of the car.
    Horsepower is how fast you hit the wall, torque is how far you take the wall with you.

  13. #13
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    I want to tackle a rear alignment on my car, mainly because I'm getting severe inner tire wear from lowering the car on adj. coil springs.

    I completely understand this DIY, in theory and practice, however, I believe these adjustments are happening with the car at stock height and on the floor, yes?

    In other words, you can make the adjustments simply by crawling underneath the car and turning the bolts on these eccentrics?

    In my case, I have almost no room to get under my car to do these adjustments because it is lowered. The question I have is can you still perform this alignment, by jacking up one side of the car, removing the tire, turning the eccentrics, installing the tire, lowering the car, and taking measurements?

    Can this job only be accurately performed with the car at rest (not lifted) and the wheels installed?
    Last edited by aa240sx; 10-17-2011 at 02:55 PM.
    2003 BMW M3 - Alpine SMG

  14. #14
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    Just a couple of things. First $150.00 is not expensive as the normal labor rate is over $100.00 and hour. Second weighing the car down has nothing to do with how many people are in the car. It is to imitate the downforce of the air on the car when driving. It really has to be done as the specs are given with that figured in. Even the toe changes depending on the weight in the car.

  15. #15
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    aa240sx,

    If your car is lowered, get some 2x10 wood and place them in such a way that the car is level (Assuming you have a level garage from R to L).
    Most home garages slope outward a bit (building code), so you may want to place an extra piece of 2x10 wood in the REAR tires.

    And Yes, I have:
    - toe-in as spec (full gas tank and without weights).
    - verified my DIY alignment with a shop laser machine. It is spot on.

  16. #16
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    Great write up CNN, props for taking the time to post and for taking the shots from people who think the BMW "pre-load method is the only way. My car has SLS so I can't tell if it makes a difference or not... .

    I've been doing the DIY alignment myself since discovering that so called recommended alignment shops were just doing the bare minimum alignments for big $. The toe could be toed in as much or more than you had but as long as the car went straight they wouldn't adjust the toe, thus my rear tires wore out quickly. Since doing the alignments myself and setting the rear toe to almost zero with a slight toe-in the amount of wear is now substancially reduced and the car still goes dead straight under power and under braking.

  17. #17
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    Actually car alignment is straightforward business as long as:

    1. You have a level garage (from R to L side).
    Some 2x10 wood to level the car.

    2. You have good Understanding of geometry/physics. This stuff is no more than grade 10 high school stuff. So relax.
    - Good understanding of the principle of parallelism.

    3. Preferably same tire size, tire make (such as Continental), wear pattern, and pressure (I use 35 psi).
    - I use full gas tank but no extra weights.

    4. Note that I slot the carpenter square a tiny bit (see pic above) just to allow the string to go in.
    Also you want to do this inside the garage to avoid wind blowing the Plumb Bob!

    I am very happy with my new camber setting, there is less INNER wear and the car handles very well even at 120 mph (I only do this in the middle of nowhere lol)!

    PS: I have 3 cars at home, so this DIY saves me a truck load of money going to alignment shop! And I know I got it done right.

    If you have aligned a whole bunch of cars, then you will quickly realize that in 99% of cars out there, the toe-in is about 1mm per side, whether it is BMW, Honda or Volvo. I have verified this through the work shop manuals.
    The difference between BMW, Honda or Volvo is in the Camber, but even so, the camber is usually set at neutral ---> negative 0.5-1.0 degrees.

    Castor in most cars is virtually unadjustable.

    Anyway, check your shop manual for your particular car.

  18. #18
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    CNN, I'm interested in comparing your stringing method with mine, can you post more on what you use for reference.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by MLue1 View Post
    CNN, I'm interested in comparing your stringing method with mine, can you post more on what you use for reference.
    The string method (Plumb Bob) is listed in the link(s) above.
    The very first thread.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by cnn View Post
    aa240sx,

    If your car is lowered, get some 2x10 wood and place them in such a way that the car is level (Assuming you have a level garage from R to L).
    Most home garages slope outward a bit (building code), so you may want to place an extra piece of 2x10 wood in the REAR tires.

    And Yes, I have:
    - toe-in as spec (full gas tank and without weights).
    - verified my DIY alignment with a shop laser machine. It is spot on.
    Thanks for the advice. Was reading through your DIY on front suspension and was curious about using a Laser Level to get the floor level. I have one at home and basically placed one on top of the 2 x 10 x 10 planks where my tires will sit during the alignment. I sighted the level to the other 3 corner planks ( all at the corners where the tires of the car will sit on top of). When sighting from the rear left passenger tire to the front left passenger tire, the laser actually hits the plank at about the mid point of the 2 inch thick plank. This leads me to believe my garage does in fact slope to the garage door. So adding a 1 x 10 x 10 plank, does level it out.

    Further - could the laser level also be used to measure before and after toe?

    Would this be a workable option for leveling a garage floor for alignments? I've seen a youtube video where a guy uses a water level, tubing and carjack on his Mitsu Evo and in principle I can see that working too, but it seems more complicated than just using a laser level.
    2003 BMW M3 - Alpine SMG

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by deathwarden5 View Post
    as the car drives down the road, the wheels will pull out, bringing the realtime toe to near zero.
    Are you sure that is correct? That makes sense for non-driven wheels (front in this case) but I would think the drive wheels would be opposite, toeing in when driving. I could be wrong of course...

    Seperate, general question: Is a positive value of toe for toe-in, and a negative value toe-out?

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