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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 06-09-2011, 10:15 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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DIY: 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 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 will be 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!
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Last edited by cn90; 06-10-2011 at 04:35 AM.
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  #2  
Old 06-09-2011, 10:22 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Oooh! I like!

Someday, I'll get the courage up to do my own alignment.

Till then, I'll keep adding your excellent DIYs to the bestlinks:

- The dozen BMW alignment specs (1) and which are adjustable on the E39 (1) & cn90's front (1) and rear (1) home-alignment DIYs & how to DIY caster, camber & toe (1) (2) at home (0) (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) and how to make your own alignment tools (1) & the theory of alignment with (1) or without adding weight (1) (2) (3)

Last edited by bluebee; 06-09-2011 at 10:38 PM.
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  #3  
Old 06-10-2011, 05:59 PM
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champaign777 champaign777 is offline
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my Indy likes Heineken too
I am not a shmak, let him drink

Last edited by champaign777; 06-10-2011 at 06:01 PM.
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  #4  
Old 06-10-2011, 06:57 PM
Jimmys 530i Jimmys 530i is offline
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Great DIY. The closest alignment guy to me is 30 minutes away, and the dealer is almost an hour. Both charge the same.
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  #5  
Old 06-10-2011, 07:05 PM
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Jason5driver Jason5driver is offline
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Mein Auto: E39 hamster w/ pin-wheel
Amazing!
Seems complicated for me... LOL!
I usually pay around $150 for all 4 wheels to be aligned...
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  #6  
Old 06-17-2011, 10:39 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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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:


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  #7  
Old 08-20-2012, 10:42 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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May I ask the simple (possibly loaded) question of what ACCURACY is 'needed' for a home rear camber & toe alignment for the E39?

BMW specifies the following in the Bentleys (as shown in the chart below):
a) Rear camber = -24' 5'
b) Rear toe = 022' 4'

The allowable error translates (I think) to the following:
a) Rear camber = 5' (i.e., from 159' to 29')
b) Rear toe = 4' (i.e., from 018' to 026')

I must admit, I've never measured anything to a degree, let alone to four or five minutes; so may I ask what may be (painfully?) obvious to others:

Q: What accuracy is 'needed' for a rear camber & toe alignment for our E39?
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Please read the suggested threads, where the best always add value to those threads, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person with the same problem stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need

Last edited by bluebee; 08-20-2012 at 10:44 AM.
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  #8  
Old 03-20-2013, 09:20 AM
rshaffner rshaffner is offline
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Great Post!

This was very well done and quite helpful. Thanks! I'd like to add a few minor points.

As you noted, the front track is a bit narrow than the rear. Therefore, adjusting the rear toe to align with the fronts gives the rear wheels a little positive toe-in. According to my calcs, that puts your total rear toe-in to within specs on that car.

Also, most tires have a little bulge where they meet the ground. Wouldn't that throw your camber measurement off a bit? (Putting your level against the bottom bulge of the tire would give you a larger negative camber reading than the wheel might actually have.) So, you might have even less negative camber than you thought.

(I realize that the rear tire pressures are high on this car, and the bulge is hard to see in your photos. But still, I suspect some bulge is there -- at least a few mm.)

Again, it's a great post. I'm using it to make my alignment "close enough" after having to replace a bent control arm.

Thanks!
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  #9  
Old 06-24-2013, 12:47 PM
559eddie559 559eddie559 is offline
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so do you need a jack or just ramps? When you are moving the camber you need to get the tires off the ground correct or do you just leave the tires on the ground at all times?
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Old 06-24-2013, 03:37 PM
rshaffner rshaffner is offline
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To make the right measurements, the wheels must be supporting the weight of the car. You can make these minor adjustments while the car in the air, of course. Or, you can do it while the tires are on the ground or the ramps (the tires have enough flexibility for you to make these small adjustments while they are on the ground).

After you make an adjustment, you can roll the car a bit (or down the ramps and then back up) to let the tires resume their normal position relative to the wheels. Then you can check the alignment again to make sure you have it where you want it. (At least, that's what I did.)

Good luck!
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Old 06-24-2013, 08:49 PM
559eddie559 559eddie559 is offline
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Yea that sounded like a good idea. But i was almost done when you sent your reply.... I just jacked up the car... I was messing with the bolt and seen how it functions, Then i bolted it down to where i wanted it at. But thanks for the reply
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  #12  
Old 06-25-2013, 10:04 AM
PrimeSuspect PrimeSuspect is offline
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Re: DIY: 1998 528i REAR Wheel Alignment

Excellent DIY. Im just about finished redoing the front and rear suspension (following your DIY threads ) I decided to knock the whole thing out since I needed new struts...I hate re-work and covering the same ground twice so your post is timely.

The 16mm nut on the lateral arm is a PITA to reach. I marked the eccentric washers before removing but with new control arms and bushings it will likely change.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I747 using BimmerApp mobile app

Last edited by PrimeSuspect; 06-25-2013 at 10:05 AM.
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  #13  
Old 06-25-2013, 10:44 AM
rcshott rcshott is offline
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A question; Most roads have a 'camber' to shed off rain to the sides... does it make ANY difference if the alignment(s) are done on a flat & level pad?

And I assume there is a difference with L & R hand drive cars?

FANTASTIC POST, THOUGH!
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  #14  
Old 06-25-2013, 11:20 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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The road curve is called "Road Crown" in the US. It is designed to shed water to the sides of the road for safety reason.
This is a nice reading on this subject:

http://www.archivedsites.com/techcon...derations.html


---------
On the subject of Toe-In, Camber, Caster etc., the following was written by John Hagerman (mechanical engineer who works for the U.S. Army as a vehicle test engineer at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland):

http://www.ozebiz.com.au/racetech/theory/align.html
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  #15  
Old 01-26-2014, 11:30 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
Just in case anyone wants ideas for the proper weights, here's what I used:
- One users quest to diagnose uneven tire wear on the inside edge due to excessive and uneven alignment camber & toe (1) (2)





See also:
- Which of the dozen alignment specs are adjustable on the BMW E39 (1) (pdf) & cn90's front (1) (2) and rear (1) wheel alignment DIYs & how to keep the steering wheel (SW) straight during home alignment (1) (2) & what tools measure rear camber at home (1) (2) and what tools measure front/rear toe at home (1) & what tools lock the steering wheel & brake pedal at home (1) & the theory of alignment with weights (1) or without adding weight (1) (2) (3) & philosophically why most people prefer to let a professional alignment shop align their suspension (1) & what expensive equipment is used at the stealer to align your suspension (1) (pdf) & Internet references for how to DIY caster, camber & toe at home (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15) (16) (17) (18) (19) (20) (21) (22) (23) (24) (25) (26) (27) (28) (29) (30) (31) (32) (33) (34) (35) (36) (37) (38) (39)
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Please read the suggested threads, where the best always add value to those threads, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person with the same problem stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need

Last edited by bluebee; 01-26-2014 at 11:32 AM.
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