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.
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.
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.