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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My car has had a weird intermittent pull to the right for some time - and Firestone (I had gotten the lifetime alignment service with them some years ago) - told me it was aligned fine a couple of times - but it still would pull periodically.

Finally, I took it to another shop and explained how it kept pulling despite the alignments - and they looked and said the FCABs were bad as well as slop in the tie rods. I didn't really believe them on either point - since I had replaced the FCABS at about 150k (I've got 235k now) and could not feel any play in the tie rods with it jacked up and wheels free...

But to humor them - I put all new on - and have to admit - it made a difference.

BUT - they said they can't get the caster to spec...

And - even though it tracks straight now - it seems to want to roadwalk way too easily...

For the report shown - is the out-of-spec caster enough to cause it to want to roadwalk (especially on worn pavements with repairs)? I've seen the camber/caster adjustment plates advertised. Any recommendations on what would be good for this scenario?? Or what brand camber/caster plate would be good?





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Caster is the alignment adjustment that makes the car want to hold the steering in the center. Think of a Razor scooter, there is no caster and it's seriously wobbly at high speeds, but a chopper is almost impossible to get it to turn. The rake of the fork is Caster.

Your variance from left to right is 0.3 degrees, I'm not sure this would cause you any problems. Having said that, the Caster should lean the strut towards the rear of the car, I don't know if you want a positive or negative number.
 

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The caster is not adjustable on these cars. Might want to check the condition of your struts/springs/mounts etc. At 235k miles, you are well overdue for an entire suspension overhaul. Also, not sure what brand FCABs are using but they dont last 85k miles either
 

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Your caster values look normal/stock. Your car is fine. My car had the same values before E36 M3 strut mounts (5.2° and 4.7°). What you have now is correct. The only way to increase caster is with non-standard parts. This is my alignment after E36 M3 mounts:

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E30M3 Race F10 535 R1150Rt M Coupe
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Let me look at this when I get to the shop.

Why the camber disparity? Did they knock the pins out?
I've seen caster a LOT worse w/o a pull.
Swap the fronts. Does it pull the other direction?

A lot of people say "it pulls" but they're holding the wheel dead center. Is this your case?
Conversely are you holding the wheel relaxed and not worried about the steering wheel, and it still pulls???
 

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One weakness of hte E46 is the suspension and the bushings... Bushings go bad on a regular basis and yours (as well as other suspensions pieces like struts) are needing to be replaced.
 

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Alright now that I've had some more coffee in me.....
Caster disparity is very acceptable. Again I've seen much worse not create any issue.

(Rant) How the F can anyone perform ANY wheel alignment if something is worn and/or has play?
Part has play (static on rack) and wherever the worn part(s) take a set, you align. Looks good, ON PAPER.
The reality: When said part(s) move into the other position of play, the friggin alignment is off.

After reviewing the before/after alignment again, it looks to me like they didn't bother with trying to get the front camber disparity corrected?
Honestly although not quite in spec, I liked the before rear camber better. At least the two sides agreed. Rear camber/toe is very sensitive on these.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Let me look at this when I get to the shop.

Why the camber disparity? Did they knock the pins out?
I've seen caster a LOT worse w/o a pull.
Swap the fronts. Does it pull the other direction?

A lot of people say "it pulls" but they're holding the wheel dead center. Is this your case?
Conversely are you holding the wheel relaxed and not worried about the steering wheel, and it still pulls???
Over the past couple of years - the pull was such that you had to hold the steering wheel to the left with a bit of force, or it would drift fairly hard right. It wasn't related to wind or crown of the road... weirdly enough, it often was worst at 3-5 mph in a parking lot... ?? But the other weird part was it didn't always do it.

I put new Bilstein front struts on a year or so ago, rears a bit further back than that, and in general have really maintained the car pretty well - but I know with that many miles, there is bound to be plenty of wear.

I've jacked it up and prodded with pry bars - checked for play, etc, several times - just giving the 'eyeball test'.

I'll try swapping the fronts, but now that I have new FCABs and tie rods and the new alignment, it doesn't really pull anymore - so I guess that's progress - and if I can get the roadwalking tightened up a bit, I'll be great.

The "loosey-goosey" tendency to roadwalk is worst on my specific daily commute. I have 30 miles of highway - and much of it is fairly "grooved" by heavy truck traffic. And then they recently topped it with gravel in strips down the longitudinal grooves to help repair it. And where the pavement is the roughest, it REALLY exacerbates the tendency to walk. Where the pavement is great - it glides like a Rolls Royce. :)


I really appreciate everyone's data points. Would it be that big of deal to try a set of camber/caster adjustment plates to see if that brought the walking tendency under control? Or is there any other likely suspect I should check for?

After reviewing the before/after alignment again, it looks to me like they didn't bother with trying to get the front camber disparity corrected?
Honestly although not quite in spec, I liked the before rear camber better. At least the two sides agreed. Rear camber/toe is very sensitive on these.
I'll also run back by there and ask about that.
 

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I did not mention that Caster is non-adjustable in the E46, but someone else pointed it out.

Caster is the angle of the struts, they lean to the rear of the car. The top of the strut is mounted to the strut tower, the bottom is attached to the steering knuckle which is held in position by the location of the ball joint in the lower control arm. I suppose one could move the location of the ball joint by redesigning the lower control arm, and the result would be a change in Caster Angle, but this does not change the idea that caster is not adjustable in the E46. One can adjust the Toe IN/OUT by changing the length of the tierods, and Camber has an adjustable point where the strut and steering knuckle are joined, but there is no adjustment for Caster Angle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I did not mention that Caster is non-adjustable in the E46, but someone else pointed it out.

Caster is the angle of the struts, they lean to the rear of the car. The top of the strut is mounted to the strut tower, the bottom is attached to the steering knuckle which is held in position by the location of the ball joint in the lower control arm. I suppose one could move the location of the ball joint by redesigning the lower control arm, and the result would be a change in Caster Angle, but this does not change the idea that caster is not adjustable in the E46. One can adjust the Toe IN/OUT by changing the length of the tierods, and Camber has an adjustable point where the strut and steering knuckle are joined, but there is no adjustment for Caster Angle.

Yes - I knew there was no factory adjustment on it. But had read that bent/worn components could cause it to move out of spec. With the high miles, and seeing that there ARE adjustment plates that could be fitted to it - I just wondered:

1) if being out of spec that much could cause the roadwalk problem I'm having
2) if anyone had good/bad to say about those type of plates as a remedy for the front end migrating out of spec like that


And I'm not hung up on caster, per se, if it looks like its not that bad. The red splashes in all the green just look alarming! lol :)

If there are other causes of the roadwalking, I'm open to suggestions...


:)After doing all the vacuum lines, CCV, IAC, and all that - this little jewel purrs like a mountain lion - so its becoming a quest to see how far it will take me... lol :)



Thanks for all the data points,
Howard
 

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Caster CAN be adjusted with E36 M3 fcabs or urethane offset bushings.

The nice thing about urethane is that they can be clocked to do other silly things
to your front geometry... and then re- set when you don't like it!

but I wouldn't really recommend it for anything other than a track car.

t
 

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One can also clock press in bushings, albeit with more difficulty.

Keep in mind if you clock the FCAB, anything other than horizontal will raise/lower the rear of the arm. This has other knock on effects.
 

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Strut tower mushrooming? I had one side a touch out on caster and noticed my strut tower deforming on one side when I was replacing the struts. Repaired, reinforced and the alignment came back into spec when I took it into the shop.
 

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Caster CAN be adjusted with E36 M3 fcabs or urethane offset bushings.

The nice thing about urethane is that they can be clocked to do other silly things
to your front geometry... and then re- set when you don't like it!

but I wouldn't really recommend it for anything other than a track car.

t
You can also use E36 M3 strut mounts and Z4M FCABS to change caster.
 

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The Z4M FCABs are a popular upgrade as the bushings are offset and provide that caster. E36M3 bushings won't work here.

I pre-press the OE Z4M units for folks into used housings. Hit me up if someone needs a set...
 

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Caster CAN be adjusted with E36 M3 fcabs or urethane offset bushings.

The nice thing about urethane is that they can be clocked to do other silly things
to your front geometry... and then re- set when you don't like it!

but I wouldn't really recommend it for anything other than a track car.

t


Caster cannot be adjusted, it can only be changed. These are two very different things. You ADJUST to dial it in, you CHANGE by using different parts. When you can loosen a bolt and turn it a few times then lock it down, this is an ADJUSTMENT. When you have to remove almost everything and replace it with different parts, this is a CHANGE. Yes, I completely agree that one can affect a change, but it's also true that one cannot adjust.

I'm going to ignore the stuff you can do on track days because these things are beyond the scope of most of us.
 

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Oh, with a urethane bushing, it CAN be adjusted-

rotate the bushing for more or less caster, and also to affect how much caster gain
(or loss)
you'll get with suspension compression.

I discovered this with urethane bushings that... self- adjusted, shall we say?
They pressed into the lollipops, but soon after, decided that they were a slip- fit instead.

So I drilled and threaded a couple of lockscrews into the lollipops, and then, viola, true adjustability!

But yeah, I take your point- I'm used to making suspension 'adjustments' with spring swaps,
which are in fact, changes.

t
'we've got a couple hours, let's go up #100 in front, #50 in back, and add an inch of rake'
 

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They pressed into the lollipops, but soon after, decided that they were a slip- fit instead

BTDT. Pressing in dry usually....solves it.
 

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I used Z4M bushings in my non-M E46. Increased the caster with 1°
 
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