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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 03-25-2014, 09:40 AM
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Fudman Fudman is offline
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Should I Attempt a Rear Alignment DIY

Just got new "shoes" for my car (Conti DWS). As part of the installation package, they gave me a front alignment (Hunter) and measured the back. My rear camber is a bit out of spec at -2.3 L & -2.4 R deg. Bentley's says -2.0 deg and the Hunter spec calls for -2.0 to -2.2 deg. However, my toe is worse at -0.20 L and 0.25 R. Bentley's says total toe is 22' +/-4' and Hunter spec calls for 0.15 - 0.22 deg.

I can bring it back and have them adjust the rear for $50 or I can DIY for free. Normally, I would never consider doing an alignment. However, I'm thinking about adjusting the rear toe myself and possibly reducing the rear camber to 1 deg (I don't really need the improvements to handling). While my alignment "tools" clearly lack the precision of a Hunter, my concerns about a DIY alignment are considerably less now that the car is older. I do have a few questions: Will making adjustments to the rear axle affect the front axle settings? Am I being penny wise and pound foolish (some might say cheapskate), since the tires cost $600 for the set?
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  #2  
Old 03-25-2014, 10:16 AM
bobdmac bobdmac is offline
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When I first saw the title of this thread, my instant reaction was, "No, you shouldn't." But then I saw it was you asking the question, and I decided to click on it. As I started to read through your question, I thought, "Well, okay, but...to save $50?" So to answer the last question you posed, if you can get the shop to set the reduced camber you're looking for, yes, you are.

As or the effect on the front suspension, I'd think it would be negligible, especially since you aren't pursuing ultimate road holding.
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Old 03-25-2014, 10:53 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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I adjusted the REAR camber to minimum, INNER tire wear has improved a lot.
I posed the procedure below:

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=547533

PS: In retrospect, it would be easier if I have the whole car on 2 pieces of 2x10, i.e., each corner will get 2 pieces of 2x10 wood to raise it enough so you can adjust the nuts/bolts with more clearance.
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Old 03-25-2014, 05:18 PM
edjack edjack is online now
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A four-wheel alignment is best, using the correct loads in the cabin and trunk.

Only toe is adjustable in the front.

Are you experienced in wheel alignment? In the rear, all the adjustments are interactive, so that you must go back and make sure all specs are correct.
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Last edited by edjack; 03-25-2014 at 05:20 PM.
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  #5  
Old 03-25-2014, 06:56 PM
pshovest pshovest is offline
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Setting total rear toe is easy, you can use the same technique you use for setting front toe. The problem is setting equal right/left rear toe. This is much more difficult because you need to measure to the centerline of the vehicle and the centerline in nearly impossible to locate. Here's the spreadsheet I use to set front toe using a laser level. Works well in centering the steering wheel also. This is an .xls file, but it has been renamed with a .pdf extention in order to upload it here. Change .pdf to .xls and open in Excel.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf DIY_Laser_Toe_Align - xls.pdf (50.0 KB, 31 views)

Last edited by pshovest; 03-25-2014 at 07:00 PM.
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  #6  
Old 03-25-2014, 08:16 PM
rdl rdl is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
Just got new "shoes" for my car (Conti DWS). As part of the installation package, they gave me a front alignment (Hunter) and measured the back. My rear camber is a bit out of spec at -2.3 L & -2.4 R deg. Bentley's says -2.0 deg and the Hunter spec calls for -2.0 to -2.2 deg. However, my toe is worse at -0.20 L and 0.25 R. Bentley's says total toe is 22' +/-4' and Hunter spec calls for 0.15 - 0.22 deg.

I can bring it back and have them adjust the rear for $50 or I can DIY for free.
...
Am I being penny wise and pound foolish (some might say cheapskate), since the tires cost $600 for the set?
I don't know where Hunter & Bentley got their info. TIS specs for rear low slung sport & M-sport:
Camber -2 10' +/- 25' or -2.58 to -1.75
Camber difference (cross camber) 15' or 0.25
Total toe +16' +/- 12' or +0.07 to +0.47
Geometric axis deviation (thrust angle) +/- 12' or +/- 0.2

So your camber & cross camber are both OK. FWIW, I've run a set of 225-55/16 tires ~50k km at the same values you have. No wear problems. Before that I had a Catera with same size tires and similar rear camber that I ran that to ~400k km over 4 or 5 sets of tires with no wear problems. I do tire rotations at 10k to 20k km intervals. Although the tire "lean" looks severe, apparently it is not a tire killer.
Based on my experience there isn't any need to adjust camber to protect the tires.

If your toe is -0.20L and +0.25R then total toe is +0.05 and GAD is 0.225. Totel toe is just barely out of spec on the low side and the car is dog tracking a little from the slightly high GAD. FWIW, TIS recommendation to tame "figgety" cars is to set at the low end, which is pretty much what you have.
If your toe is -0.20L and -0.25R then total toe is -0.45 and GAD is 0.025. Total toe is on the high side but still in spec and GAD is virtally perfect.
EDIT: a gigantic OOPS. -0.45 (toe out) would be wildly out of spec. I sort of missed the -ve sign, even though I typed it. Time to go to bed.

I hope that the first instance is your case, i.e. -0.20L and +0.25R, which is what you wrote, although without the +ve sign.
If so, I'd leave well enough alone. Buy your wife a present with the $50 and spend some time together with the saved DIY hours.
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Last edited by rdl; 03-25-2014 at 08:48 PM.
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  #7  
Old 03-25-2014, 09:09 PM
Burning2nd Burning2nd is offline
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Dont Do it..

You wont be able to get the spec that bently says... the hunter Is correct...

IF they did the alighment correctly.. you are already where you need to be...

as soon as you start turning that bolt.. your gonna be needing another alighment..
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  #8  
Old 03-26-2014, 01:58 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cn90 View Post
I adjusted the REAR camber to minimum, INNER tire wear has improved a lot.
It's hard to tell since the tires are still relatively new, but, I seem to also have improved my inner tire wear with my latest "neutral" rear alignment on my non-sport 2002.
I told them to make the rear camber as close to 0 as possible, but the best they could do (with full 500 pound weights) was -1.5 on each rear wheel (resulting in each wheel having 0.07 toe in).

Details here:
- 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) & BMW_E39_Alignment_Specs_and_Procedures.pdf

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See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need

Last edited by bluebee; 03-26-2014 at 07:59 PM.
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  #9  
Old 03-26-2014, 04:04 AM
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Fudman Fudman is offline
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Thanx for all the responses.

The difference in alignment specs from all the different sources is very strange. You'd think they would agree. RDL, my total toe is indeed -0.45 so, I really need to have this fixed. My previous tire wear was not unusual so reducing my camber is not really needed. However, this time, they wouldn't let me sit in the car like previous times. Since I don't have as many gas cans as BB , 100 lbs of gravel in the front seal wells was all I could do. I've reviewed all the procedures (Thanx, Cam!) and while they are straightforward, I'm not exactly looking forward to lying under the car in 30 deg weather fiddling with the eccentric. If this were summer, I think I would attempt it. But I don't have a laser level and my garage floor has a very slight tilt to it. With more snow coming today, I think I'll just let them handle it. Thanx again for the feedback!
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  #10  
Old 03-26-2014, 06:03 AM
StRaNgEdAyS StRaNgEdAyS is offline
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TBH as someone who did alignments all day every day for many years it's simply not worth it to attempt a DIY without at least basic shop equipment. I've done alignments with string lines and plumb bobs through to full computerised sensors. I can say unequivocally that the latter is by far the easier, more accurate and quicker.
You also have to take into account that when you adjust one thing it affects all the others. Setting the balance of all four wheels properly is absolutely imperative to the handling of the car and the life of the tyres.
I can also say that unless specifically directed to do so by the customer I never once did just a "toe and go" alignment.
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Old 03-26-2014, 07:41 AM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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1+,

Although I agree that for most people, taking the car to an alignment shop is the way to go.
However, not all shops can correctly perform the alignment. It is a science and an art!

I have successfully aligned all of my cars for > 10 years. I even verified with a friend who owns an alignment shop and I am spot on.

If one attempts to do the alignment at home, the following are imperative:

- Garage floor must be flat from R to L, if not, think wood shims.

- The bottom line is: when you get the car ready for alignment, it needs to sit on some wood pieces to make sure it is all even in all 4 corners.

- The reason for wood pieces:
a. even level
b. raising it high enough so one can crawl underneath to do the adjustment.

- Suspension up to date, no worn ball joints etc.

- All garages, by building codes, will have a slight slop from inside the house to the garage door. So you may have to add a bit more wood to the rear tires to make the car level.

- I have the laser level but I find the plumb bob method better because it is true and straight. One cautionary note: do this inside the garage as the wind is the enemy to the plumb bob.

- Review high-school geometry. This alignment business involves nothing more than high school geometry (angles, triangles, tangent etc.).


In summary: alignment at home is possible but not for the "weak-heart" people.
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Old 03-26-2014, 08:58 AM
Ed Cheung Ed Cheung is offline
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I can't recall all spec, but when I was doing the alignment after the suspension overhaul with new tires, the shop guy showed me that the machine will have different setting within the e39, with different tires tires size.
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Old 03-26-2014, 03:53 PM
StRaNgEdAyS StRaNgEdAyS is offline
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My machine would spit out a custom set of numbers depending on what size tyres, what ride height and what model of car (the different models had differing weights and performance specs = different alignment settings)
Even the difference in tyre width of 5mm would alter the figure.
Most people don't also get the impact ride height has on the alignment. I once had a Mazda ute (pickup) on my hoist that had terrible numbers, but adjusting the torsion bars to correct the ride height alone, a lift of some 10mm brought the alignment back perfectly.
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Old 03-26-2014, 05:31 PM
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doru doru is online now
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Fudman, if your rear camber starts going out of spec, the first culprit is the rear balljoint. If you have the correct tool, after you have the car on jackstands and wheels off, it takes literally 15-20 min/side to change that one.
These balljoints were toast on both my cars one at 150,000Km (a tad less then 100 k miles) on the e53 and 175,000 Km on the e39. When you do the "wiggle" of the wheel (or even the pry-bar thingy), these don't show up because there's force from the suspension on them, and they "seem" OK. On the X, I let the air out from the suspension, and then....holly molly. You pull them out, you can twist them by hand.
Here's an interesting part: the X was aligned before I changed the ball joints. The tech (he's an old guy, mostly BMW alignments) said that all my suspension parts look and feel tight. He even showed me that by pulling me in the shop when he did the alignment. Nothing moved - with the prybar. But the camber was out of spec, quite a bit. I talked to my indy about this, and lo and behold he told me that especially on the x there's tremendous force from the suspension on the balljoints, and they will not budge, even if the things are broken in 2. So after about 2 weeks, I lifted the x and once the suspension was out of the way (air out), those wheel wiggled like crazy. Balljoints changed, done. The crazy thing was that the wheels straightened out after that without me doing anything. Then I did the e39, after I learned my lesson. All the other rear suspension parts were really tight. It's a 40-50 bux part, much cheaper than 1 tire, which you will go through a few if you don't change that one little part. They are the same p/n for quite many BMW's. So that balljoint extractor/press is a keeper. I found mine on e-bay a looong time ago for about 1/4 of the BMW p/n, which was a steal.
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Old 03-26-2014, 05:37 PM
StRaNgEdAyS StRaNgEdAyS is offline
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If you jack the wheel off the ground by lifting the rear lower control arm as close as possible to the wheel you'll keep the load on the suspension and if there is any wiggle in the ball joint it will be very evident.

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Old 03-26-2014, 05:49 PM
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I'm not detecting any excessive play in the rear wheels so i don;t think I have any ball joint failures yet. I've got 120K miles on the original rear suspension. New shocks are coming this summer. Maybe suspension components too. My only rear spec way out of whack is the left toe. I want to reduce the rear camber, partly because I want to avoid excess tire wear and partly because I have an M5 rear sway bar which stiffens up the rear. The M5 runs a bit less rear camber than the regular or sport suspensions so a slight reduction would seem to be appropriate for my situation.
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Old 03-02-2015, 02:05 PM
BMW_530i_Sport BMW_530i_Sport is offline
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Is Rear Camber Spec Optimal for everyday driving?

I have gone through a number of tires with horrible inner wear just like the pics posted before show. Worn to or through the belts on the inside with 1/8" or more left on the outside.

So I wonder, is this spec rational for everyday driving?


On doing your own alignments:
I did my masters project with Hunter and Ford on wheel alignment. In short, it's impossible to do properly without full 4 wheel, run-out compensated, position information. You can't get that at home or even with most of the commercial systems available. There are 1,000s of crappy systems out there that just don't work and millions of uninformed "experts" who will tell you BS. Any adjustment to any tire affects all the rest due to suspension geometry. (yes weighting is critical too but most shops don't do it, big mistake!)

You would do better with a pyrometer (tire tread internal heat measurer) and several laps around the track than any strings and bobs system you could rig up at home.

Note that Hunter dropped all of its crappy string systems and now offers a very advanced camera based system to simultaneously calculate runnout and position of all 4 wheels AS they are adjusted. (you can do the research)
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Old 03-02-2015, 02:23 PM
MKJS MKJS is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BMW_530i_Sport View Post

You would do better with a pyrometer (tire tread internal heat measure) and several laps around the track than any strings and bobs system you could rig up at home.
On the race car teams I worked on, that's the way final adjustment was always done. Couple of hot laps and then measure the tire temp across the tread in several positions.

doc
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