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My alignment saga continues...

1832 Views 6 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  bmw325
Just got back from my 3rddealer and 3rd alignment since my steering retrofit was done. My car has been tramlining badly and the steering was off center. I went for a test drive w/ the tech before he did the alignment-- he noticed the off center wheel which was a good thing ( I thought). I also told him to please the proper weights in the car before aligning it- he sounded like he didn't want to-- but eventually he agreed. I don't know if he actually did. I'm incline to think that he did because I noticed that the "before" printout for front toe in showed both sides even at .05. My after prinout from the last dealer showed them both even at .10. Putting weight in the car would cause the toe to change slightly (become more negative or toe out), so I take this as good sign.

I got the car back 3 hours later-- and got the alignmet printouts. I made the service advsior go for a ride w/ me. The steering was still off-center but less so. The car still tramlines badly. I looked at the before and after printouts. When I brought the car in the rear toe was way off (which owuld explain why it was always going to the right), but the front toe was exactly even. After this alignment the front toe is uneven (but each side is just within the spec), but the rear is even. I pointed all of this out. At first the advisor blamed it on road crown and said that the the .1 degree difference between the 2 sides wasn't enough to cause a problem. This time I was ready for this argument-- I pointed out that was basically the entre tolerance for the front toe (its 14 minutes +/- 8 minutes) .1 would be equivalent to 6 minutes. Apparently the tech had already left for the day, so I have to bring it back. :mad:

I later noticed that the camber in the front is too negative and its uneven. The camber should be a total of -.43 minutes and my car has a -1 on one side and -.6 on the other side for a total of -1.6. Too much camber might be nice for auto-crossing-- but it can also contirbute to tramlining on the highways-- so I've read.

I'm tempted to just try and fix the front toe myself- it probably requires that I turn the right tie rod about 1/4 of a turn--and I may just go ahead and do that to get the damn steering wheel centered. But given that the camber is also off, I guess I should just bring it back. I'm just in awe that 3 different dealerships could all be so inept at doing alignments. I think the problem is that they consider their work done when they get each side anywhere within the "green" or permitted spec. They don't really try to get things even side to side-- which of course causes pulling and the steering to be off center.

If you ever have to get your car aligned in the NY/NJ area, good luck--I can guarantee you it won't be done right. This feels like it should somehow qualify for the lemon law-- although I don't think it would. With this kind of lack of attention to detail, it must be easy to get a car qualified as a lemon if the criteria is 3 attempts to fix the same problem! I like the rest of the car-- if they could just align the damn thing properly!! I noticed that the time stamps on the alignment printouts show that the tech spent about 30 minutes on my car-- maybe a little more if he did a road test-- so say 50 minutes. I think if I could just find someone who would take the extra 10 minuutes to get thinsg even AND to properly balllast the car AND to remember to center the steering wheel before setting toe-- I'd be fine. For this pleasure, the bill was $200! I'll be sending these alignment billls to BMWNA of course. :mad: :mad: If I coudl just use one of these alignment machiens myself and get the BMW special toos-- I'm absolutely ure I could fix this.... Its not rocket science to get both sides of a car to be even and on spec. Jeez. This is F*%^*ing unbelievable.
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I hear what you're saying- it makes sense. I do plan to try and get a regional rep involved. But I actually don't think there's anything major or mysterious going on-- it seems that way since I
've had so many alignments. THe problem is that no dealer seems to be able to follow BMW's alignment procedures and specs--which are very clear, precise and explicit. They all seem to just kind of "throw it on the rack and wing it". This is evidenced by the fact that none of the alignment printouts i have match each other. This is because each dealer makes a slightly different set of mistakes consisting of: they don't weight down the car properly, they don't adjust the rear then the front, they don't attempt to get each side even-- they just shoot for "in the green", they don't select the proper model when aligning (e46 w/ sport suspension and 17" wheels), they don't properly calibrate their equipment, they don't bother to tighten, then read and correct or even road test and correct. All they do is throw the car on the rack, and make adjustments until they see its in the green and then tighten down the bolts. this takes about 35 minutes-- then they say that they're done-but charge for 2 hours of labor. This last dealer was better because I made them actually put weight in the car, and told them what alignment specs to use-- but they still couldn't be bothered to get it even side to side.

The service advisoralso insuated that there might be something else wrong w/ my car-- liek it got into an accident. I mean, after all, how could 3 highly trained professional BMW mechanics not be able to align it? Simple- they can't read and follow basic directions! I know it sounds hard to believe, and I also can't believe it myself but its true. BMW spends a lot of time and effort making all of these computerized repair procedures w/ step by step pictures that a child (w/ the right tools) could follow. Unfortunately, the children that dealers employee to repair these cars can't even manage to find or read the directions.

Its like if I bought a set of shelves from Ikea, and tried to put them together however I thought best without reading the instrucitons I notice that there are some tools that are included w/ the shelves (maybe a special hex key), and some fasteners i'm not familiar with. But I just say "ah.. to hell w/ it, i'm just goin to take a hammer and wack it together" IN doing so, I crack the shelves but decide that it must be Ikea's fault for making such bad shelves. I've read some of BMW's tech insturctions and i've read Ikea directions and let me tell you, BMW instrucitons are about 100x more user friendly.

I'm just frustrated because these guys have all of these resources but just don't use them-- if they would just let me have their tools for 1 hour i'd be more than happyto solve my own problems! Imagine letting these yo-yos near something even more important -- liek your engine. I can hear the converstaion in the shop now: "Uhhh- Joe how do I get the head off?" "errr...uhhh-- i dunno- jus take a sledgehammer and wack it few times ah guess" "uhhh-- the block cracked when I did that"..."duh-- musta been the stupid owner-- he probly didn't put oil in it er sumthin'". "service advisor: i'm sorry sir, our technicians have detected a fault w/ your engine....unfortunately, its due to the abnormal wear and tear you've subjected it to so it can't be covered under warrany--oh by the way, give me all 5s on the survey when BMW calls". To a greater or lesser extent, they also don't listen to me when I try to tell them what to do (in a nice way)- they just say dumb things like "nahh- see your probelm is you need more toe out in the front because the car toes in when its on the highway" or, "you only need to put ballast in the car if its been in accident" ....Since when is this a FWD car- you idiot!! or its just "road crown" -- even when your in the left lane and the road slopes to the left but the car is drifting to the right. I'll be calling BMWNA on Monday to get them to send a field engineer to babysit the next guy who tries to align my "unalignable" car. The lack of logic, common sense, intelligence and work ethic defies comprehension. Once I get this done, I really want to avoid going to another dealer svc department--but I do still want their fancy equipment and warranty parts--just not their people. DAmn. Wish they had a DIY warranty option. :(

BTW, i'm sure the next thing to happen will be that dueto all of the alignments, the bolts are going to start to lose their ability to hold a positino, and the alignment will start to slip. SO of course, i'll be told its my fault and that i need to pay to have all of the bolts and tie rods replaced- and to have another alignment.

the dealer today also lost my car twice and then lost the keys. I saw the car outside and thought to myself "i bet they're in the ignition." Sure enough. its like it was everyone's first day on the job- but i've experience that at other dealers too-- one dealer left my car idling outside for 20 minute while a lot guy went looking for it. I finally happened to spot my car sitting there- pointed it out and the guy said "no that's a loaner car that's not your ca. uhh- yeah buddy". These dealers are so far from excellent- they need to re-invent the scale for that stupid survey.

Sorry for all the venting-- its therapeutic. :)

All you west coast guys w/ your Cutter motors type of dealerships and great independent mechanics on every corner don't know how good you have it!
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I did call JMK last week but couldn't get an appointment for this past saturday like I could w/ Difeo. I'd heard good things about Difeo too from a bunch of people, and its closer to me so I gave them a try. In fact that they did treat me better than other dealers, but didn't do the work quite right. Atleast they're offering to fix it. But, maybe I should've gone to JMK instead. I'm sure you can appreciate how frustrating my situation is and why I'd want to share my experiences here. I will try JMK next time.

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