Different alignment info from 2 different Toyota places? ?

soozDecember 12, 2013

We just got a "new" used car (2011 Highlander, 6 cyl, 2 WD), and the car place had a 120 pt check list / inspection, to make sure it was good to go, and they slapped on 4 new tires.

It was due for 20,000 mi checkup, so we took it to our local Toyota dealership for service and it was discovered that the tires etc were not aligned. The service guys printed out the info for us.

The very next day, we brought it back to the place we bought it (that gave us a Pass on the 120 pt inspection) and they took it to the Toyota dealership in a neighboring town. The alignment etc were 'found' to be within normal limits. Some of the "range" spec were different too. Huh?

I have the different "read outs" in front of me, and am wondering why there is such a disparity????

Here are the specifics that our Toyota Service place found:
Left Front "Toe" was 1.94 degrees, and normal range was noted as -0.04 to 0.12 degrees.

Right Front "Toe" was - 1.53 degrees, and normal range was noted as 0.12 to -0.04.

Left Rear "Toe" was 0.07 degrees, and normal range was noted as 0.09 to 0.26

Right Rear "Toe" was 0.35 degrees, and normal range was noted as 0.25 to 0.09 degrees.

Front Total Toe was 0.41, and normal range was noted as -0.09 to 0.23 degrees.

Front Steer Ahead was 1.74 degrees, and normal range was noted as -0.05 to 0.05 degrees.

Left Front "Toe" was -0.05 degrees, and normal range was noted as -0.04 to 0.12 degrees.

Right Front "Toe" was 0.25 degrees, and normal range was noted as 0.12 to -0.04.

Left Rear "Toe" was 0.12 degrees, and normal range was noted as 0.09 to 0.25

Right Rear "Toe" was 0.19 degrees, and normal range was noted as 0.25 to 0.09 degrees.

Front Total Toe was 0.20 degrees, & normal range was noted as -0.09 to 0.23 degrees.

Front Steer Ahead was -0.4 degrees, & normal range was noted as -0.08 to 0.08 degrees.

So who the heck do I believe?

WHY is it that two different authorized Toyota service places can get such a difference in things???

The first authorized Toyota place showed I definitely needed alignment work, but the neighboring city's authorized Toyota service place only showed one area where the alignment was off (front left toe).

Thanks for any help!!!!

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Other than differences in measuring equipment and accuracy of set up and procedure, I can think of 2 possibilites:

1. The chassis loading was different in each case. In one case, there could have been 200 to 300 pounds of cargo in the vehicle and for the otherr case, the cargo was missing.

2. Critical ball joints are worn thereby allowing control parts to assume different positions depending on the direction of slack take up. With worn joints, you may get different parts positions each time the vehicle is removed and reloaded onto the alignment rack.

However, experienced alignment techs usually check for worn joints before attempting to align the components. A good alignment can not be made with worn joints.

Lets hope that you do not have bent wheels. That can throw a wrench into the works.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 6:06AM
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Shop 1 said left toe was 1.5deg and rt toe was -1.5deg. Sounds like steering wheel was turned to the left. Both tires were pointed left.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 1:34PM
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Thank you both for your input!

Jemdandy, email coming at ya!


    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 2:51AM
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I could not answer your email directlly since your return address was stripped away. From the numbers you got, these possibilities exist:

1. One set of data is correct and the other is in error, but which one?

2. Both sets are in error, but how can you tell?

There are are a couple of observations that you can do that does not require any tools. First, check for "dog tracking", by that I mean, does the rear wheels track symetrically with the fronts? For this test, you will need to find a relatively flat space where the vehicle can be driven in a straight line for several car lengths, and the tire tracks must be visible. A vacant parking lot will do nicely such as a school lot after hours, or a steet in a new subdivison under construction. The surface should be wet or covered with something that reveals tire tracks.

Pick out an object in the distance and drive in a straight line toward that object. stop after enough distance has been driven to establish tracking. Examine the tracks. Bear in mind that on many vehicles the spacing between the rear wheels are not quite the same as the fronts. A variance of zero to 2 inches is common. Did the rear wheels track symmetrically with the fronts? If yes, then you are half way done. If the rears did not follow the fronts symmetrically, then the rears needs aligning. It is the aiming of the rear wheels that determines if a vehicle 'dog tracks'.

Next, examine the front tires' wear pattern. Is it equal across the width of each tire? is a 'feather edge' forming at the tread grooves? Its important to see on which edge the feather is forming. Is the edge toward the outside or the edge toward the inside? If toe-in is excessive the feather edge will be on the inside edge of the tread ribs; If neutral, no freather; and too much toe out, the feather will be on the outer edges of the tread ribs. An out of alignment tire may develop a 'cupping' pattern of wear. Cupping can also appear from out of balance.

If you have too much toe -out, you may notice this in handling; The vehicle will tend to wander on the road at speed and require constant attention at speed to hold position in the lane. Straight ahead steering is not stable. Driving long distance is tiring. (The same effect can happen if the side wall and tread stiffness of the rear tires differ from the fronts when different tire types are mounted front versus rear. I recommend that all 4 tires be the same.)

If the vehicle has too much toe-in, it may have stable steering but front tire wear will be excessive.

Notice that the normal specified range for toe-in favors near neutral to slight toe-in.

If you can not trust measurements from your local Toyota dealers, then use an independent tire shop who is equipped with a good alignment machine and has a program of periodically checking his measurement stand. Also, his alignment tech should be certified.

If your Toyota dealers are using the same equipments, I would expect that measurements between 2 machines should be within a 1/2 degree of each other.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2013 at 1:58AM
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I have to go along with Jemdandy. Find a good independent frontend shop. Or should I say the best frontend shop you can find. Talk to your friends, neighbors or anyone to find out who that is. I am lucky that I have the best in my area. Everyone calls him the re-align shop. He is the one that corrects all the alignments that the other shop screw up. Including a lot of new car dealers in the area. He has been doing it 50+ years. One thing that I would not do is have a new car dealer do an alignment for me. 99% of the work done at new car dealers is flat rate and the time that they allow for alignment mean that the tech has to rush his work to make money. I had a new car dealer change a tie rod boot for me under warranty. And guess what they screwed up the alignment that was perfect before the boot was changed. I took it back 3 times to get it corrected. They never did get it right. So after 3 times I took it to the re-align shop. When he got done with it everything was perfect. I wouldn't have bothered with the dealer but the car was under warranty. The only good thing was it didn't cost me anything. Just aggravation.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2013 at 10:52AM
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I've always wondered.....

I have a 79 Toyota long bed p/u manual steering. 2nd owner. Bot with 62K miles now has about 217K miles and is no longer operational. Everything wore out except the engine. Drove it 1984-2010.

Well it always pulled left. Had it aligned 3-4 times and always by the "best". Nothing ever changed - still pulled left. Each one did something different. Why? I finally got to thinking they all used the wrong specs. Never could prove it. Probly looked at the wrong model in their book.

By making elaborate measurements and estimating the uncertainties therein I concluded the drivers were tracking the steering wheels dead nuts on.

Finally about 2001 got totally f*^&$%@&^%ing disgusted and cranked the left toe-in IN and the right toe-in OUT. Just guv it a few turns to hell with it.

Drove straight as an arrow! No hands!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 11:32PM
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