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Go Back   Bimmerfest - BMW Forums > BMW Model Discussions > 5 Series > E39 (1997 - 2003)

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 07-09-2010, 08:48 AM
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Which of the dozen alignment specs are adjustable on the BMW E39?

I always wondered which, of the dozen alignment specs, are actually adjustable on the BMW E39?

Are these alignment basics even adjustable in the E39?
- toe (I'm sure toe-in is adjustable, simply by twisting tie-rod ends)
- caster (can we set the caster angle in the E39 or is it fixed?)
- camber (cam we set the negative camber angle in the E39 or is it fixed?)

And are these advanced alignment specs adjustable?
- Steering axis inclination?
- Included angle?
- Scrub radius- Ride height?
- Set back?
- Thrust angle?
- Steering center?
- Toe-out on turns?
- ??? anything missing ???
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  #2  
Old 07-09-2010, 10:23 AM
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The following .pdf has the description of BMW wheel alignment characteristics:

http://www.bimmerboard.com/members/s...ignment_System[1].pdf

This has e39 alignment specs:

http://www.bmwdiy.info/alignment/index.html

Toe in is adjustable front and rear. Front camber cannot be adjusted (unless you use camber plates) but rear camber is adjustable. Caster is fixed front and rear.
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  #3  
Old 07-09-2010, 11:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
The following .pdf has the description of BMW wheel alignment characteristics
I couldn't download that PDF. Can you doublecheck the link?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
This has e39 alignment specs
I always wanted to do my own alignment! Too bad those specs are for a 1997. Any idea where I'd get the specs for a 2002 non-sport 525i?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
Toe in is adjustable ... Front camber cannot be adjusted ... but rear camber is adjustable. Caster is fixed front and rear.
Good information.

So the summary is this, so far:
- front toe (adjustable)
- front/rear caster (fixed)
- front camber (fixed)
- rear camber (adjustable)

And, by inference, does that mean all these are non-adjustable?
- Steering axis inclination (non adjustable?)
- Included angle (non adjustable?)
- Scrub radius- Ride height (non adjustable?)
- Set back (non adjustable?)
- Thrust angle (non adjustable?)
- Steering center (non adjustable?)
- Toe-out on turns (non adjustable?)
- ??? anything missing ???
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  #4  
Old 07-10-2010, 12:34 AM
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For the front suspension, you can only adjust toe on the e39. If you did it right the steering wheel will be centered.
But if you want to go the extra mile, you can adjust front camber, by getting camber plates. I'm sure somebody sells a camber plate set that also allows you to adjust the caster. The Ride height (front and rear) can be adjusted by different springs or getting coilover shocks that allow that adjustment. The scrub radius can be adjusted by using a wheel with different offsets.

For the rear, the thrust angle is adjustable, its very, very related to the rear toe adjustment. The camber can also be adjusted.

BTW: You can screw up the front toe and rear toe/thrust line, and still have the steering wheel straight, but the car will crab across the road like a '75 Nova.
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Old 07-10-2010, 12:41 AM
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The angles are aligned in this order: Rear Camber, Rear Toe, Front toe. Done. There is no such thing as rear caster. Caster only applies to the front. If front camber or caster are out of spec, then you have bent suspension components.
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  #6  
Old 07-10-2010, 12:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pangolin View Post
For the front suspension, you can only adjust toe on the e39. If you did it right the steering wheel will be centered.
But if you want to go the extra mile, you can adjust front camber, by getting camber plates. I'm sure somebody sells a camber plate set that also allows you to adjust the caster. The Ride height (front and rear) can be adjusted by different springs or getting coilover shocks that allow that adjustment. The scrub radius can be adjusted by using a wheel with different offsets.

For the rear, the thrust angle is adjustable, its very, very related to the rear toe adjustment. The camber can also be adjusted.

BTW: You can screw up the front toe and rear toe/thrust line, and still have the steering wheel straight, but the car will crab across the road like a '75 Nova.
You sure can. It's called dog tracking, well, because it looks similar to how a dog runs...with it's ass out to the side yet it runs straight ahead . Vans and trucks are extremely susceptible to dog tracking because of their long distance between the front and rear axles, where the toe adjustments are made.
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  #7  
Old 07-10-2010, 07:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
I couldn't download that PDF. Can you doublecheck the link?

Too bad those specs are for a 1997. Any idea where I'd get the specs for a 2002 non-sport 525i?
http://www.bimmerboard.com/forums/posts/661790

For an '02 w/17" wheels and the sport suspension, a toe range of -0.04 - +0.13 deg, a total toe of -0.08 - +0.25 and an SAI of -0.05 - 0.05 is specified. I got these off my service records. Can't help on your 16" wheel setup. I've looked on the TIS but that is like navigating a maze.
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  #8  
Old 07-10-2010, 11:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryan M View Post
Rear Camber, Rear Toe, Front toe. Done.
Thanks Ryan for the clarification.

Assuming tires are new and inflated properly and that all parts are in good shape, is this our conclusion of the baker's dozen alignment specs in terms of adjustment?

These are fully adjustable on the E39:
1. rear camber (adjustable, do first)
2. rear toe (adjustable, do second)
3. front toe (adjustable, do third)
4. steering-wheel centering (adjustable, do last)

These are changeable (only by adding parts):
5. ride height (change springs or add coil-over shocks)
6. front camber (add special camber plates)
7. front caster (you may need really special camber plates)

These are non adjustable (assuming all parts are good):
8. steering axis inclination
9. included angle
10. scrub radius
11. set back
12. thrust angle
13. toe-out on turns

- ??? anything missing or incorrect ???
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Last edited by bluebee; 07-11-2010 at 11:44 AM.
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  #9  
Old 07-10-2010, 01:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryan M View Post
You sure can. It's called dog tracking, well, because it looks similar to how a dog runs...with it's ass out to the side yet it runs straight ahead . Vans and trucks are extremely susceptible to dog tracking because of their long distance between the front and rear axles, where the toe adjustments are made.
I have only seen that two or three times on the freeway, in all cases the cars in question were either Datsun 240z or 260Z's....not sure what in their suspension makes them get that way...
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  #10  
Old 07-23-2010, 10:09 AM
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In a recent alignment thread, sandbags came up.

Apparently BMW specifies 150 pound weights in the two front seats, 50 pounds in the rear, and a full gas tank before alignment (reference is step 22 of Cam's DIY self-serve alignment).

Which of the BMW E39 baker's dozen alignment specs are affected by this weight; and of those that are affected, which are adjustable (meaning it matters)?

Here's my guess (please correct if I err):

1. rear camber (adjustable, probably affected by weight in front & rear seats) <---
2. rear toe (adjustable, probably not affected by rear or front weight)
3. front toe (adjustable, probably not affected by rear or front weight)
4. steering-wheel centering (adjustable, not affected by rear or front weight)
5. ride height (not adjustable per se, greatly affected by front:rear weight) <---
6. front camber (not adjustable per se, probably affected by front:rear weight) <---
7. front caster(not adjustable per se, not affected by front or rear weight)
8. steering axis inclination (not adjustable, not affected by front or rear weight)
9. included angle (not adjustable, not affected by front or rear weight)
10. scrub radius (not adjustable, not affected by front or rear weight)
11. set back(not adjustable, not affected by front or rear weight)
12. thrust angle (not adjustable, not affected by front or rear weight)
13. toe-out on turns (not adjustable, not affected by front or rear weight)


If my guess is correct (please fix if I'm wrong), then the only thing adjustable that is affected by front or rear weight, is the rear caster.

Last edited by bluebee; 07-23-2010 at 10:33 AM.
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  #11  
Old 07-23-2010, 01:04 PM
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You would weight the car based on how it is normally loaded. BMW gives a spec for a technician that has no idea how the car is used, so they give general guidelines. Any good shop will ask that the gas tank be half full, and ask you if you normally have passengers, then weight the car accordingly.
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  #12  
Old 07-23-2010, 04:45 PM
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Do you need to have an alignment machine to do this? I always am suspect after an alignment if they did anything... mine does not pull left or right now but I know there can be other alignment issues that dont "pull"... lots of good info here. I'm waiting for 4 new 9Jx18 Style 42's so will have to do an alignment after spacers and rubber.
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  #13  
Old 07-23-2010, 05:33 PM
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I have watched the alignment done on my cars and I don't know how you could get it as accurately done DIY. Sure, it CAN be done DIY with some basic tools and kits sold online...but who has the hours and hours of time to mess with it, trying to learn and get it done at the same time? My local shop charges between $100 and $150 depending on time required and amount of adjustments needed to get it set up correctly.
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  #14  
Old 07-24-2010, 07:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 540 M-Sport View Post
I have watched the alignment done on my cars and I don't know how you could get it as accurately done DIY. Sure, it CAN be done DIY with some basic tools and kits sold online...but who has the hours and hours of time to mess with it, trying to learn and get it done at the same time? My local shop charges between $100 and $150 depending on time required and amount of adjustments needed to get it set up correctly.
Good point... wonder what my local stealer gets for it. I use NTB for my wife's honda but not sure how many BMWs they see there....
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  #15  
Old 09-02-2010, 08:52 AM
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Based on a clarification from Ryan M in this thread, I am changing the ORDER of the alignment items to the following (please review for accuracy).

These are adjustable on the E39:

1. rear camber (adjustable, do first)
2. rear toe (adjustable, do second)
3. front toe (adjustable, do last, after centering the steering wheel)

These are changeable on the E39 (can change only by adding special parts):
4. ride height (change springs or add coil-over shocks)
5. front camber (add special camber plates)
6. front caster (you may need really special camber plates)

These are non adjustable on the E39 (replace bent or worn or broken parts if they're off spec):
7. steering axis inclination
8. included angle
9. scrub radius
10. set back
11. thrust angle
12. toe-out on turns

Last edited by bluebee; 09-15-2010 at 11:02 AM.
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  #16  
Old 09-02-2010, 03:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
Based on a clarification from Ryan M in this thread, I am changing the ORDER of the alignment items to the following (please review for accuracy).
Changes are in RED below:

These are adjustable on the E39:

1. rear camber (adjustable, do first)
2. rear toe (adjustable, do second)
3. steering-wheel centering (adjustable, penultimate step)
4. front toe (adjustable, do last, after centering the steering wheel)


These are changeable (only by adding parts):
5. ride height (change springs or add coil-over shocks)
6. front camber (add special camber plates)
7. front caster (you may need really special camber plates)

These are non adjustable (if they are off spec, then you must replace the broken part):
8. steering axis inclination
9. included angle
10. scrub radius
11. set back
12. thrust angle
13. toe-out on turns
Items 1-4 are correct, however, steering wheel centering isn't really an alignment angle. It's just something that is done before adjusting front toe to ensure that the vehicle not only tracks straight, but the wheel is centered while doing so.
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  #17  
Old 09-02-2010, 04:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryan M View Post
steering wheel centering ... is just something that is done before adjusting front toe
I understand the order ...

What I don't get is how you KEEP the steering wheel centered if you align it BEFORE you adjust toe.

I GUESS what you do, is twist the tie-rod ends asymmetrically UNTIL the steering wheel is aligned; then, you twist them SYMMETRICALLY (one turn here, one turn there) to adjust the toe-in.

Once the steering wheel is centered, only if BOTH tie rod ends are turned symmetrically (i.e., in unison) would the steering wheel REMAIN centered.

Right?
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  #18  
Old 09-02-2010, 04:52 PM
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Nevermind. Just saw your answer in a different thread:

"Also, adjusting toe has no effect on the steering wheel. When you adjust toe, all you are doing is lengthening or shortening the outer tie rods, nothing more. You either screw them in, or screw them out. You could adjust toe all day in either direction you want, and your steering wheel will not move. This is why it's important to center it first, then adjust toe."

Funny. I thought adjusting toe affected the steering wheel centering ... ???
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Old 09-02-2010, 07:19 PM
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It has no effect at all. Also, I responded to you in the "other" thread.
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Old 09-30-2010, 09:51 PM
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So, given this list:

ADJUSTABLE:

1. rear camber (adjustable, do first)
2. rear toe (adjustable, do second)
3. front toe (adjustable, do last, after centering the steering wheel)

CHANGEABLE:
4. ride height (change springs or add coil-over shocks)
5. front camber (add special camber plates)
6. front caster (you may need really special camber plates)

NOT ADJUSTABLE:
7. steering axis inclination
8. included angle
9. scrub radius
10. set back
11. thrust angle
12. toe-out on turns

The quest will be to point to the best DIYs for doing the toe and camber at home with shop tools.

Here are some starter alignment DIYs:
- DIY Camber Gauge & Toe Alignment
- cn90 The Alignment DIY
-
Reduced the Negative Camber on my Rear Wheels
-
Tired of paying $ís to align your bucket? Alignment DIY Inside!
- DIY Wheel Alignment Boston MA
- DIY Digital Camber Gauge
- At-home DIY Caster/Camber alignment tools?
- Hands free Camber Gauge
- Do your own alignment

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Last edited by bluebee; 09-30-2010 at 09:56 PM.
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  #21  
Old 10-18-2010, 05:09 PM
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This is a nice alignment report kindly supplied by JerryWBrooks:
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  #22  
Old 10-18-2010, 05:23 PM
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Michel added some nice alignment pictures in this thread.

First photo:
Picture 1: Rear toe is adjusted using the "Guiding suspension link". #14 is the integral link.

Second photo:
Picture 2: Rear camber is adjusted using the eccentric where the A-arm/swing connects to the subframe. Not the Integral Link

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  #23  
Old 10-18-2010, 05:40 PM
Kacique2002 Kacique2002 is offline
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I have also noticed that the front shock on my 530i can slide on the hubs by loosening the pinch bolt.
I have noticed that if I move the shocks up (or slide the hub down) I take some camber off the front wheels.
I was wondering what is the proper location where to set the shock on the hub and then tighten the pinch bolt.
Has anyone played with this?
thanks
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Old 02-18-2011, 11:33 PM
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For the record, some folks have problems getting the shop to center the steering wheel during an alignment:
- Alignment

In that thread, the 2003 525i was aligned twice, yet the steering wheel was still not centered.

Since we should be able to center our own steering wheels, it would be interesting if someone posted a pictorial DIY of how to center the steering wheel.

BTW, you can measure the amount the steering wheel centering is off based on this thread (start around post #48).
- average price for a wheel alignment?

You basically park on a level surface (duh); and hold a two-foot level at common points across the steering wheel.


Further details come from cn90 himself in that thread:
Quote:
To properly do an alignment, this is what needs to be done:
- Measure the existing data so the shop has data for BEFORE and AFTER alignment.
- Adjust toe-in, camber, caster on each wheel (4 wheels total).
Every car is different in terms of what can and cannot be adjusted.
For ex, the Front of E39: only toe-in is adjustable.
- During the adjustment, the SW must be dead-center.

- However, being very sensitive to little change, even the pro has problem with having the SW perfect on the 1st shot. It is always off a tiny bit here and there.
Again, as I mentioned above, it is purely cosmetic (assuming the alignment was done perfectly).

- Then the mechanic needs to drive the car on highway and note any SW deviation and bring it back to the shop for minor adjustment to make it perfect. Then test-drive again.
It is time-consuming but this step is exactly the difference between the boys and the men.

-------------
- To sum it up, if and whenever I run into this problem, I usually take care of this at home because I simply don't have the time to go back to the shop.

It is relatively simple to do the adjustment if you know what you are doing.

1. First, read up a bit how how SW works, the concept of toe-in, toe-out, tie rod etc.
Conceptually this is no different than a grocery store shopping cart wheels.

2. Then read the thread below carefully.
I posted info on the final adjustment using 16-mm wrench and wood ramp.
Read back and forth a few times to make sure you understand it: threads # 8 and 21:

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=409576

Last edited by bluebee; 02-19-2011 at 09:21 AM.
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Old 02-24-2011, 10:07 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
Seek to understand,^Value
Location: San Jose, California
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 21,076
Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
Mark at EACTuning, today kindly posted alignment specs for the 540 which should be of interest to others so I reproduce here (shrunken to 640x480):


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