Is it possible for the bolts that are tightened during an alignment to get adjusted so many times (through too many alignments) to the point where the bolts' threads weaken and the alignment adjustments don't hold?
While I was lucky enough to get the 2002 rack for free, my previous dealership had done a lousy job on the new alignment at the time of the 2002 rack installation. Fortunately, one of my friends knows the general manager at a different Chicago area BMW dealership. This dealership's service department specializes in working on modified BMWs and they cater to performance+detail oriented drivers.
After talking to the GM about the issue, he suggested that their service department perform a proper alignment on my car. So, I went in yesterday. After they took measurements of my car's current alignment specs, it was determined that my alignment specs had previously been set according to the non-sports suspension specs. Additionally, some of the alignment settings (especially toe) were way off. So, they went ahead and re-did a 4 wheel alignment for me according to the E46 sports suspension specs. They also confirmed that the threads of the bolts that are adjusted during an alignment are not stripped and that they are in good condition.
Since picking up my car yesterday, it's definitely handling much better. It tracks straight and handles the curves much more precisely than before -- like a real BMW should. Hopefully, it'll stay this way.
While the E46 is a great platform, I strongly feel that this car is extremely sensitive to how well it's wheels are aligned. Most dealerships don't realize this and as a result, they're careless when it comes to using the proper specs and performing a thorough alignment job. After dealing with several dealerships' service departments in the Chicago area, I definitely know which the competent ones are.
It sounds like you're a south sider. I'm a North sider. This is how I rank the dealerships I've been to servicewise:
Although I bought my car from Motorwerks (got $1500 under MSRP which is pretty good for the Chicago area), their service dept is by far the worst. I've been most happy with Patrick BMW so far and I hear that most people that race their cars go there.
Did they weight your car properly when doing the alignment ? BMW OP quoted me $195 for a 4 wheel alignment; I asked what is the difference between their alignment and a $65 Pep Boys job and the service advisor explained that the specs are with weights in the front/rear seats, full gas tank. If not weighted, the camber will definitely be wrong. The wheels also have to be done in the correct order.
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