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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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  #51  
Old 08-21-2012, 06:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dvsgene View Post
Why did we choose this particular subject to determine a DIY at home vs professional?
THAT is the critical question that can be asked of ANY DIY. The choice of this particular DIY was made by BB. We just all felt compelled to weigh in! And your four arguments are spot on. For any DIY, the owner must weigh the benefits (cost savings, satisfaction, etc.) vs. the risks (causing additional damage) and the costs (tools, time, etc.). Many of us have chosen the DIY path for many tasks for one reason or another. And many of us have decided to defer certain services to the "pros". There is no right or wrong answer. Bottom line, to each, his own.
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  #52  
Old 08-21-2012, 06:32 PM
dvsgene dvsgene is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
THAT is the critical question that can be asked of ANY DIY. The choice of this particular DIY was made by BB. We just all felt compelled to weigh in! And your four arguments are spot on. For any DIY, the owner must weigh the benefits (cost savings, satisfaction, etc.) vs. the risks (causing additional damage) and the costs (tools, time, etc.). Many of us have chosen the DIY path for many tasks for one reason or another. And many of us have decided to defer certain services to the "pros". There is no right or wrong answer. Bottom line, to each, his own.
In all fairness to Bluebee, I believe she agrees with this and the four arguments.

However, the very few people who have done DIY at home can't even answer the three main questions Bluebee has feeding this philosophy for/against and keep coming back to the argument that it can be close enough to machines without the cost

Arguing that machines can be inaccurate due to operator error almost as if errors don't exist for DIY which is untrue.

I can argue that with the right software, lasers and equipment, you can program algorithms to allow a monkey to align a car. Since the angles are easy to calculate with a computer, the parameters to limit operator error should be just as easy to program into it. I just don't know what those parameters are, or if Hunter will disclose that information.

So, at this point, IMHO, neither side has enough evidence to demonstrate the real factual advantage of one over the other.

Last edited by dvsgene; 08-21-2012 at 07:07 PM.
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  #53  
Old 08-21-2012, 10:43 PM
acoste acoste is offline
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I go for DIY usually because I want to understand how things work and I feel very good when I'm successfully done with something. And then I exactly know in what shape the car parts are and how well the job was done.

I was at big o tires once to replace a tire and I witnessed a conversation between the mechanic and a customer who brought in his S80 for a wheel alignment. The guy told him he needs a new tie rod because they have reached the end position of the tie rod and can not set any further!!! And they started browsing the catalog for a new tie rod. Poor guy ..
Does it matter how accurate the machine is here in this case? :-)
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  #54  
Old 08-22-2012, 01:27 AM
geargrinder geargrinder is offline
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I've watched and stayed out of this one for a bit because it's like arguing about oil, but FWIW, a few thoughts...

- I'm not an alignment guy but I've watched 'em done and new laser racks are pretty idiot-proof and precise. As others have said for what you get the $100 or whatever it costs is a bargain
- Our local primo-choice alignment shop also have immaculate knowledge of performance car setups and dealing with tricky issues, for $100 you're getting their eyeball on the car and feedback if all looks good as well. Again a bargain.
- That said I've also seen/experienced alignment guys errors in looking up data, or interpreting data (ex: "yeah I don't believe in the ballasting so I don't do it"... uh but you don't adjust the settings for non-ballasted either? hmmm) So laser-perfection doesn't do much for you if you don't put the right numbers in. Conclusion here is just find and use a good alignment shop, not your local Sears or Midas or whatever.
- I know guys who know their stuff and I trust who do their own and whose cars run perfectly including under high pressure (aka HPDE's) so it is completely viable
- If you track / street a car it can be really nice to be able to tweak your own settings and not pay twice for, say, a little more toe/camber beforehand and then have it reversed afterwards everytime you do an event.
- I have done minor tweaks on my own (toe/camber) but only very minor adjustments from a known good setup where I knew I wasn't ending up out of whack, and I would hesitate to stone-cold align the car myself after say a complete steering/suspension overhaul. esp for the $100 to get off to the right start.

In the end IMO the only wrong stance on this (like oil) is a black and white one. It's absolutely not impossible to get a good alignment on your own, and there may be a time and place to do it yourself, but the pro-job has a lot to recommend it.

BTW I am intending to work up or obtain a set of slip-plates if/when I want to make a tweak on my own... I had been using pairs of vinyl floor tiles which worked OK but they are tearing up and seem only good for a few uses. If anybody has other suggestions I'd be interested.
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  #55  
Old 08-22-2012, 05:45 AM
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shaftdrive shaftdrive is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tedm View Post
Such as?
I think Fudman covered this answer rather eloquently.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
THAT is the critical question that can be asked of ANY DIY. ......For any DIY, the owner must weigh the benefits (cost savings, satisfaction, etc.) vs. the risks (causing additional damage) and the costs (tools, time, etc.). Many of us have chosen the DIY path for many tasks for one reason or another.
So did dvsgene.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dvsgene View Post
In the end, it is like every DIY, why do we choose to DIY or bring it in. Neither always guarantees perfection or accuracy.
Quote:
Originally Posted by crowz View Post
Get your car aligned professionally first.
Like dvsgene, if I did it, I would do it the other way also.
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  #56  
Old 08-22-2012, 06:53 AM
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Interesting thread. I think its entirely possible to get a good alignment via DIY. There is no magic to it. Its just another one of those things that a lot of people are like "I don't understand it, therefore I shouldn't do it". Or, "it's a big red machine that costs a lot, therefore I cant match its awesomeness". I did a quick check with Google to try to find out what the actual accuracy is on a pro rack. They don't like to publish that stuff, but one shop claims 0.1 degrees for camber and caster with what looks like the newest hunter system (http://www.gocpt.com/alignment.php ). That's not super-duper in my book. That's more like "good enough". In rough terms that equates to about a 0.5mm tolerance over the diameter of a 25" wheel. I think that can easily be achieved with plumb bob/sight bubble technology.

The advantage of a pro rack is that is can quickly align almost any car or truck on the market without a lot of setup or training. Time savings is key if you are trying to make money. With all the threads that talk about "the dealer doesn't know what its doing", its not like the alignment techs are any smarter. In other words, if you don't trust a dealer to diagnose and fix an engine problem, its should be no different for an alignment. Like wise, if you have a good shop you trust, go for it.



.

Last edited by Flybot; 08-27-2012 at 06:21 AM.
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  #57  
Old 08-22-2012, 07:07 AM
cn90 cn90 is online now
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There are some very capable people in this forum, who can rebuild cylinder head, swapping engines, clutch etc. but the things that deter people from doing alignment at home is fear.
Once you get over the fear and knowledge gap, you are golden.

I have 3-4 cars at home, I save tons of money doing my own alignment.

I can get it done for 1h each, very easy.

--------------
Here are the issues:

1. The fear itself.

2. The basic geometry/trigonometry.
But rest assured, this is no more than 10th grade high school stuff. Just review the definition of sine, cosine, tangent and you are golden.
- Toe-in is given in either degrees (for the alignment machine) or in mm.
- Once you draw a straight lines on the garage floor parallel to the car axis of motion, you are golden.
All toe-in values are measured against it.

- Rear Camber is a bit tricky, the value is given in degrees such as -1.0, -1.5 degrees etc.
Just switch it to mm using arctan and you are good. Again, basic high school stuff.
Once you use arctan, you get the values in mm, and simply use it to subtract from your existing setup.


3. You need to create a level plane, whatever you do, once the car rests on the 2x12 planks, all 4 tires are on the same level plane.
At the shop, the car is on a special lift (designed for alignment) so adjustment is easier for the tech: they just bend down a bit and adjust.
At home, once the car is on the 2x12....you have some room (not much) to work with, it is a bit tight but doable. This tight space may deter people.

- Maybe I should do a thorough write-up soon to dispel this myth that one cannot do alignment at home.
It is so easy once you have the basics down.

4. The plumb bob tool.
I made a special tool just for this.
I will post detail later.


PS: I do not use ballast on my E39, don't care for it because in 99% of the time, I am the sole occupant.

There are people that still enjoy building a tree house, I am one of those.

----------

Philosophically, we can bring the car to a shop for oil change, just pay with cash/VISA etc. and done it. But why do we change the oil? Because we are BMW enthusiasts.
Ditto for the alignment discussion in this thread.

Last edited by cn90; 08-22-2012 at 07:11 AM.
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  #58  
Old 08-22-2012, 07:35 AM
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I think you left off one consideration from your list of things that deter a DIYer: The capability gap. This can apply to facility or tools. Many do not consider attempting a particular DIY if they lack the capability.

And I don't think being an enthusiast is the primary reason for why we DIY, although it helps. We drive BMWs because we are enthusiasts. We DIY because we do not want to pay someone else to do something we can do (no different than mowing the lawn or fixing a leaky faucet). I belong to Explorer and Civic forums and I gotta say that most of the DIYers there DIY simply for the cost savings. Other than its bombproof reliability, it is hard to get enthusiastic about anything related to the Civic.
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  #59  
Old 08-22-2012, 07:45 AM
cn90 cn90 is online now
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Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
....I belong to Explorer and Civic forums and I gotta say that most of the DIYers there DIY simply for the cost savings. Other than its bombproof reliability, it is hard to get enthusiastic about anything related to the Civic.
True,

I have a Honda Odyssey van and I can tell you the folks over there (Odyclub) are mostly moms and dads, they are a good bunch but no way near the folks in this forum, who tend to be younger, and adventurous (aka innovative)......
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  #60  
Old 08-22-2012, 01:10 PM
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I guess not many own a perfect levelled garage surface. That might be one reason of not attempting it. To try and do it on sloped or uneven surface is foolish.
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  #61  
Old 08-22-2012, 09:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doru View Post
To try and do it on sloped or uneven surface is foolish.
Most, if not all of the DIYs appear to make an effort to adequately take into account the level of the floor when measuring camber (and the ability to slip):


For example, most used shims:
Quote:
The key to accurate alignments is starting with a level surface. To accomplish that, we built a set of wheelstands from 3/4-inch particle board and 2x6s to support each wheel. Using the technique outlined in the scaling section, these stands are easily shimmed with pieces of vinyl floor tile to create a level plane, and the extra height makes working under and around the car a bit easier.
Many used linoleum tiles (some even greased or powdered them for slip).


Some used newspapers (which also allowed the wheels to slip as on a turnplate).


Some measured levelness with lasers:


Others measured levelness with bubble levels:

Most also zero the gauge relative to the floor slope:


Here's one on a bimmer, where the gauge is zeroed beforehand based on the floor slope:
Quote:
Measure the present camber with the car on a flat surface (like a concrete garage floor). I did it using a short piece of angled aluminum from Home Depot (about 5 dollars) held against the wheel edge. The angle was measured with a Wixey WR300 digital angle gauge (40 dollars from Amazon). If your wheels have machined flats then it is even easier. If your wheels are wider than the tires then you can buy a digital level and its easier still.
IMPORTANT: You will need to zero the Wixey gauge by placing it on the ground next to the tire and press the 'ZERO' button (the gauge has arrows to indicate positive and negative camber)."

This one even zeroed the leveling with the iPhone clinometer:


This Pelican Parts forum post shows the fanciest yet when it comes to leveled turn plates!
Note: See warnings later on by others to NEVER do this!


So, regarding the slope, most of the DIYs seem to take that into account when measuring camber.

All the more expensive camber gauges seem to have level zeroing procedures (see PDF already included in a prior post).

So, unless cn90 or someone else who has actually done the DIY objects, I'd say uneven floors are already taken into account in the good DIYs.

For example, here's a detailed approach when your garage floor is NOT level:
Quote:
The more astute reader has realized that the camber gauge only reads true camber if the car is resting on a level surface, otherwise the angle measurement is meaningless. This brings up the first element of a home alignment; leveling the car. It's been my experience that level garage floors, and level concrete in general, only exist in mythology. My garage slopes about 1" over the wheelbase of the Miata, and about 1/4" over the width. This means that I can't get good measurements with the camber gauge unless I level the car. I cut one foot squares of 1/2", 1/4", and 1/8" thick MDF and hardboard to use as spacers. I used a length of 3/8" Tygon tubing filled with water to measure the height of each wheel. I used the bottom edge of the dust cap as a mark to set the water level. Various thickness spacers are placed under each wheel until the water within the tube is at the same level on all wheels. I used one wheel as the reference and adjusted the tubing so that the water level as at the dust cap, and took the other end of the tubing to each of the three other wheels and made sure the water matched the same point on each wheel. If you jack the car to place spacers under the wheels (rather than driving up on them), make sure you jounce the suspension to settle it before making any measurements (this isn't necessary to check for level). It's good to note that some sort of slippery surface must be used under the front wheels. The front wheels must be turned to measure caster and the suspension shouldn't be bound up trying to make that turn. I put a pair of the 1/8" hardboard spacers under each front wheel which were quite slippery against each other.
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Last edited by bluebee; 08-27-2012 at 07:15 PM.
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  #62  
Old 08-22-2012, 09:16 PM
geargrinder geargrinder is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
a bit tight but doable. This tight space may deter people.
Yes this. Without some kind of slight raise it can be REALLY tough - easier on an E39 I'm sure than it was on my E46.

I'd still add slip-plates to the list of what needed, and Ive never even tried to go whole hog on a DIY alignment BTW.
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  #63  
Old 08-22-2012, 09:17 PM
geargrinder geargrinder is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doru View Post
I guess not many own a perfect levelled garage surface. That might be one reason of not attempting it. To try and do it on sloped or uneven surface is foolish.
no no no, always align on a downslope. then the car will be setup such that it's always going downhill. moar faster.

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  #64  
Old 08-22-2012, 10:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flybot View Post
one shop claims 0.1 degrees for camber and caster ...In rough terms that equates to about a 0.5mm
That's the kind of real-world accuracy numbers we need to make a good decision.

As another datapoint on the accuracy, Pelican's alignment DIY says "A 1/16" accuracy is good enough to measure the changes in camber settings."


This DIY alignment says they can get to a tenth of a degree and half a mm:
Quote:
Wanna try your own alignment? It's not too hard, and after a couple of times of doing it, you can do a check in under 30 minutes.
The steps I outline here allow you to check toe and camber in a pretty repeatable way (within 0.5mm toe, 0.1 deg camber) with tools that cost a total of maybe $50.
Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
- Camber is expressed in degrees, so you need reverse tangent to convert it back to mm.
This DIY has a section on the calculations.
- Do It Yourself Alignment Tips


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Last edited by bluebee; 08-22-2012 at 10:40 PM.
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  #65  
Old 08-24-2012, 11:26 PM
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I do my own alignment, no big deal. A laser pointer can be used to get very good alignment knowledge.
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  #66  
Old 08-25-2012, 06:55 AM
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The next time I need one, Im doing my own.
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  #67  
Old 08-25-2012, 08:08 AM
ppressle ppressle is offline
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+1. Add one to the home alignment folks.

I do my own alignment for the track car as that means I can adjust it when I am at the track and want/need to change something. I'm still 50%/50% on the street cars.
You need the leveling plates to make the reference level and raise the car a bit for access.
I use a smart camber and smart strings and a dial caliper.
I also have been playing with laser pointers to make the toe adjustment more of a one person job, but the dial caliper and smart strings is still more reliable.

One other consideration with the nice shop alignment systems. I'm sure that they are very precise, but are they accurate? How do you know? One miss installed wheel sensor could throw the results off.

Pete
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  #68  
Old 08-26-2012, 03:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ztom View Post
A laser pointer can be used
I googled for "laser pointer DIY wheel alignment" and found quite a few!

For example, here's a thread showing how to make a laser pointer toe wheel alignment tool:


Here's another tool:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Flybot View Post
The next time I need one, Im doing my own.
I'd love to follow your DIY when you're done!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ppressle View Post
I use a smart camber and smart strings and a dial caliper.
I googled for "smart strings" & "smart camber" along with "wheel alignment" and found them to be the following tools:
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Last edited by bluebee; 08-26-2012 at 03:53 AM.
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  #69  
Old 08-26-2012, 06:36 AM
macgy macgy is offline
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There r shops who did not calibrate their machine on schedule due to tight budget or pure stingy, how do i know? my tires wears out w/t months after alignment, as I unknowingly recommended the shop to my brother, same issue.
I then sent my cars to another shop which has been good for a while but lately each time I sent my cars there, without fail he would recommend to adjust the camber, after allowing him to adjust d camber for my other 2 cars ( a toyota & mitsubishi) I refuse to do d same for my E39, told him to just align it to d best possible spec, but interestingly he later told me that he was finally able to align my car w/t spec ! I didn't ask him why / how as it is difficult trusting these guys.

Thank you BB & CN90, I hv been searching for information about wheels alignment DIY, found most of it here!
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  #70  
Old 08-26-2012, 07:13 AM
cn90 cn90 is online now
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W.r.t the pic posted on Pelican forum (I am posting the pic again for you to see), I think this is a very dangerous thing to do, all 4 wheels on the dolly, so my advice is: don't ever do this unless you want to die:



One of these days, I will write a detail DIY using common carpenter tools you can build yourself, basically a bullet-proof system.
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  #71  
Old 08-26-2012, 09:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
W.r.t the pic posted on Pelican forum (I am posting the pic again for you to see), I think this is a very dangerous thing to do, all 4 wheels on the dolly, so my advice is: don't ever do this unless you want to die:


One of these days, I will write a detail DIY using common carpenter tools you can build yourself, basically a bullet-proof system.
Yea I saw that and thought "I would not get under that car". He does have a scissor jack under it, but still-castors and stacked blocks?! He could prob argue that there are 16 wheels, so each one is only holding about 200 lbs. But I dont like it.



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Last edited by Flybot; 08-26-2012 at 09:36 AM.
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  #72  
Old 08-26-2012, 12:28 PM
bkovalick bkovalick is offline
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I owned a shop for years working in high end cars and highly modified lifted trucks. We would do the work and eye ball and measure every time for alignments. And while it was close. Every time we did suspension work we sent out the vehicle to the alignment shop and it never made it green. As I said. It was close.. Very close. But always in the red. Trust machines with lasers. Not your eyes. Huge difference.
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  #73  
Old 08-26-2012, 12:33 PM
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doru doru is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bkovalick View Post
I owned a shop for years working in high end cars and highly modified lifted trucks. We would do the work and eye ball and measure every time for alignments. And while it was close. Every time we did suspension work we sent out the vehicle to the alignment shop and it never made it green. As I said. It was close.. Very close. But always in the red. Trust machines with lasers. Not your eyes. Huge difference.
This should close the debate.......
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  #74  
Old 08-26-2012, 04:41 PM
dvsgene dvsgene is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doru View Post
This should close the debate.......
Uhhm, coming from the same guy that said this? Eyeball and measure? Grain of salt on that.

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...9&postcount=12

Quote:
Originally Posted by bkovalick View Post
Wait. Are you really putting transmission fluid into your power steering reservoir!? That ATF is a German acronym. Not standing for automatic transmission fluid. Do a full P/S Flush. Get all that crap out and use a real high end cleaner that's solvent free. Detergent based cleaners are best for systems like power steering. And then get a very good quality fluid like royal purple power steering fluid or similar. You won't regret it.
Quick Doru, clean out your PS reservoir, you've been driving around with the wrong fluid all this time.

Last edited by dvsgene; 08-26-2012 at 05:24 PM.
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  #75  
Old 08-26-2012, 07:03 PM
bkovalick bkovalick is offline
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I'll Stand by that it's the wrong fluid. Does it work? Yes. Does it work properly and efficiently? Not at all.
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