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Discussion Starter #1
I took my 1990 SPG in for a front end alignment. I explained to the guy that I'd just replaced all 4 ball joints and upper control arm bushings so I wanted a complete camber, caster, toe-in alignment. No problem he said. I handed 4 extra shims I'd picked up at the salvage yard while scavenging 2 upper control arm bearing brackets.

The technician worked at least 2.5 hrs with my Saab on quite an impressive, computerized alignment rack. I thought, "Wow, I'm getting my $69.95 worth." But finally the cust. ser. rep. says, "He's got it the best he can get it right now, but he needs more shims and we don't have any like it needs. It's 100% better than it was, and good enough to drive until we can get more shims, but you'll need to bring it back." He noted the same on my invoice and mentioned their 6 month guarantee. I offered to track down the shims.

Well, the car does drive and handle quite well. In fact, if the rep had told me that the job was finished I would have had no reason to doubt him. However, after driving for a while I noticed a noise reminiscent of the bad ball joints I'd just replaced. I popped the hood to check and 3 of the 4 bolts on the passenger side upper control arm brackets were loose. One was quite loose; the other two just needed snugging up. Also, I found two shims laying down in the frame member (or whatever you call it on a Saab) directly under the RH control arm bracket nearest the firewall. So what's with "not enough shims?"

This is a fairly large, professional, and reputable local chain tire store, as evidenced by their honesty in telling me they weren't satisfied with the job and wanted me to bring the car back. Like I said before, based on the way it drives, I can't tell that the camber/caster is not perfect. And I know that many alignment shops just do the toe-in and it never occurs to the customer 5,000 miles later when his tires wear uneven that it was a crappy alignment that was done. So, this shops honesty in that regard instills at least some confidence. But, I'm really concerned now about the competence of the tech who worked on my SPG. Was he just having a bad day? Personal problems? It was late on Friday; maybe a hot date?

Here's my question: When I go back, how will I know whether or not I'm getting a good alignment? I'm not talking about the obvious things like handling, drifting, centering, etc. I mean, is there any way to know? Any advice in handling this situation would be appreciated. Especially any wisdom from that sage of Saab knowledge, Jim Mesthene.

Sc
 

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Real simple, ask the service manager/rep to speak with the tech directly and explain the process afterwards, in the meanwhile search the net for alignment theory so you have a thourough understanding of Caster Camber and Toe angles, then when the alignment is all done (make sure you are standing at the alignment rack so it can't be fudged, techs can pull and push on the car to get the specs "in the green" for the printout) ask for a print out of the alignment specs....


have the service rep go over the specs with you, and to be thorough post them on this site to get our opinions, the above is a process that as a service writer I did with my customers when I worked at a large chain Service and Parts store


As for the Shims.... Stuff happens, techs are human and occasionally leave bolts loose, but that is still no excuse on the shops behalf, and 2.5 hrs is an incredibly long time to do an alignment, 1.5 hrs to do a proper alignment even with shims.....the tech may have been a novice, find a shop with a "more mature" dedicated alignment tech

Most of all when you revist the shop no matter how disgusted you may or may not be, be professional and polite-eventhough firm with your approach, any service manager worth doing business with will work his hardest to satisfy an upset yet polite customer...the job is stressful enough...don't be the customer that they're talking about in the shop a year later


You'll be fine:D
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Breakin5speeds said:
the above is a process that as a service writer I did with my customers when I worked at a large chain Service and Parts store/QUOTE]

Breakin,

That was great advice. Thanks! :) Before I even got to the above quote I said to myself, "This guy works in customer service."

I talked to one of the customer service people this morning. I learned long ago that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, so I spent the first several sentences praising their integrity for not doing a half way job, etc. I told him about the loose bolts and that I understood how that kind of stuff can happen, but I was nonetheless concerned. He took some information and I could tell he was filling out a customer complaint form or something - again demonstrating professionalism and instilling confidence.

There is no customer access to the service area. They probably have 20 bays back there. But I will ask for a print out. My Bentley manual has the specs for my car, but I don't know how to interpret them. Time to study some more.

If anybody has a Saab / SPG specific link explaining front end alignment please post it.

I appreciate all the help.

Sc
 

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Everybody makes mistakes. Reputable shops will own the mistake, and earn a reputation for good customer service by doing right by you. Poor shops will deny responsability, and should be avoided.

When I purchased my latest Chrysler minivan it had to go back to the dealer for warrenty work. When my wife and two small kids picked the vehicle up they noticed it was making a noise and acting funny. They did not leave the parking lot without asking the service manager to take another look at it. He refused, stating it was fine. Just before getting on to the interstate, one of the wheels fell off. Had this happened just a few seconds later, they all could have been killed in a horrific accident. When I expessed my concern with the service manager I was told "sir, we are a 5 star chrysler dealer, who the hell are you to tell us how to do our job!" I will never set foot in the building again, and tell this story to everybody I can. I am sure this experience has cost them many sales.
Back to the saab, I would pring the alignment specs from the Bently manual and bring them with you when you go back to the shop. Saabs are fairly easy to align in the front. The rear is not adjustable without bending the beam. If they have the right equipment and specs they should be able to do the job right. I would also calmly explain about the loose bolts and express your grave concern with the quality of their work. If they are a decient shop, they will make this situation right, and should be patronized in the future. If they do not make it right for you, I would request a refund, and leave.
 

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Breakin5speeds said:
Real simple, ask the service manager/rep to speak with the tech directly and explain the process afterwards, in the meanwhile search the net for alignment theory so you have a thourough understanding of Caster Camber and Toe angles, then when the alignment is all done (make sure you are standing at the alignment rack so it can't be fudged, techs can pull and push on the car to get the specs "in the green" for the printout) ask for a print out of the alignment specs....


have the service rep go over the specs with you, and to be thorough post them on this site to get our opinions, the above is a process that as a service writer I did with my customers when I worked at a large chain Service and Parts store


As for the Shims.... Stuff happens, techs are human and occasionally leave bolts loose, but that is still no excuse on the shops behalf, and 2.5 hrs is an incredibly long time to do an alignment, 1.5 hrs to do a proper alignment even with shims.....the tech may have been a novice, find a shop with a "more mature" dedicated alignment tech

Most of all when you revist the shop no matter how disgusted you may or may not be, be professional and polite-eventhough firm with your approach, any service manager worth doing business with will work his hardest to satisfy an upset yet polite customer...the job is stressful enough...don't be the customer that they're talking about in the shop a year later


You'll be fine:D
That's very good advice.
There's nothing tricky about SAAB 900 front end alignments; they are the same as a 1965 Ford Galaxy.
The only odd part about the story is the part about the shims. SAAB uses shims that fit the two bolts they adjust, but any shim will work (including the Ford Galaxy shim). Furthermore, every SAAB 900 that hasn't been bent and then straightened improperly (very rare), has the front suspension towers sagged together (picture an H shape sagging into an A shape). Usually you run out of shims to remove and the camber goes too far negative. Negative camber is fine for race cars, but you don't want any (or very little) on a street car.
All I can suggest is that you get a print-out of the machine, post it here and we'll all argue about it. You might want to mention to the service writer that you know it may not be possible to reach the correct camber.

When the de-cambering frame sagging goes too far, the solution is to put the car on a frame straightener and pull the towers apart again. Any competent body shop should be able to pull the car back in shape again for a few hundred bucks (this includes having the alignment strictly within spec).
 

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on the same note, "official" alignment specs are very near 0 degrees camber and toe, many here like -.5 degrees of camber, -.1 and -.4 is ideal for the crowned roads here in New England... also Caster is affected by the shims and is for high speed stability, it is not a "wearing" angle, but it can cause floatey tracking or stiff steering, and can cause a pull if it is un even
 

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dasander said:
Everybody makes mistakes. Reputable shops will own the mistake, and earn a reputation for good customer service by doing right by you. Poor shops will deny responsability, and should be avoided.

When I purchased my latest Chrysler minivan it had to go back to the dealer for warrenty work. When my wife and two small kids picked the vehicle up they noticed it was making a noise and acting funny. They did not leave the parking lot without asking the service manager to take another look at it. He refused, stating it was fine. Just before getting on to the interstate, one of the wheels fell off. Had this happened just a few seconds later, they all could have been killed in a horrific accident. When I expessed my concern with the service manager I was told "sir, we are a 5 star chrysler dealer, who the hell are you to tell us how to do our job!" I will never set foot in the building again, and tell this story to everybody I can. I am sure this experience has cost them many sales.
Back to the saab, I would pring the alignment specs from the Bently manual and bring them with you when you go back to the shop. Saabs are fairly easy to align in the front. The rear is not adjustable without bending the beam. If they have the right equipment and specs they should be able to do the job right. I would also calmly explain about the loose bolts and express your grave concern with the quality of their work. If they are a decient shop, they will make this situation right, and should be patronized in the future. If they do not make it right for you, I would request a refund, and leave.
One of the wheels fell off! Wow I have been at "almost" that point and you sure as hell feel it coming. Someone asleep at the switch.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I've been gone to the U-wrench-it type junk yard pulling shims. The Saabsite doesn't offer them and the local dealer told me they're no longer available through Saab. So, I got enough to do all four of my Saabs.

After seeing today how several 900s are shimmed I'm thinking I may have something bent somewhere. I just put in front wheel bearings and so had the steering yokes off. I examined them and didn't see any apparent deformation. But none of the 4 Saabs I scavenged today had as many shims as mine does now. Does anybody know how much shim thickness is too much? It looks like he has about a 1/2" (can't guestimate in mm) of shim on the right front control arm bearing bracket, and nothing on the bracket closer to the firewall. And he still thinks it needs more. I guess that this would suggest that something is bent outward on the right side. Or do I miss the point totally?

Thanks for all the good advice.

Sc
 

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The Saab workshop manual tells you what shims you need to add or take off according to the alignment readings on the printout.

Sounds like your shop does not have a Saab manual and is trying to align by trial and error.
 

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Steve Corgan said:
After seeing today how several 900s are shimmed I'm thinking I may have something bent somewhere. I just put in front wheel bearings and so had the steering yokes off. I examined them and didn't see any apparent deformation. But none of the 4 Saabs I scavenged today had as many shims as mine does now. Does anybody know how much shim thickness is too much? It looks like he has about a 1/2" (can't guestimate in mm) of shim on the right front control arm bearing bracket, and nothing on the bracket closer to the firewall. And he still thinks it needs more. I guess that this would suggest that something is bent outward on the right side. Or do I miss the point totally?
You usually can't see bent steering knuckles except on an alignment machine.
All those shims you see in the wrecks suggest they never got aligned. 900s that got aligned regularly usually end up with no shims at all as the frame sags.
The shim distribution you describe suggests the camber is negative and there are no more shims to remove to make it positive or 0.
1/2" difference suggests he has too much positive caster, which sounds odd to me.
If you do a dozen alignments a week, you can guess better than the chart in the manual, so that shouldn't be an issue.
I'd give them the shims they want to finish the job, and see what the printout is. You may need a steering knuckle or the frame pulled, but there's no way to tell without the machine, or its printout.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks Jim. Tomorrow I'll call to schedule the alignment. I'll take the specs from the Bentley manual with me and ask the service rep to explain to me what they do. Then I'll post the printout here and we can hash it over.

You'll remember that last week we were talking about straightening a bent wheel? I don't think it's a coincidence that the wheel was on the same side that they've added all the shims to. The wheel straightened out fine and like I said, the dent wasn't too bad. But it may have been enough to bend the steering knuckle.

Thanks again for all the input.

Steve
 

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Jim,

Just how often does frame sag strike?
Age, fatigue, impact stress, etc......any one clue to help diagnose this other than shim irregularities?

You have got me thinking now again about my car........ I have a right hand oversteer trait that doesn't show up at alignment shops. Can the tower flex so much as to change the alignment under load? I don't see the evidence of metal flex....paint cracks, rust trails etc...... When turning right (loading up the left side) car feels instant load up and bight into the corner. When turning left ( right side load up), in sedate traffic, car feels less agile but when at higher speeds and a bit more steering input, car feels floaty and drifts out if too agressive.
I was thinking the rack was yeilding under load but now you've mentioned this frame sag,......
Was there a measurement allowance between towers to gauge the width?
 

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Steve Corgan said:
You'll remember that last week we were talking about straightening a bent wheel? I don't think it's a coincidence that the wheel was on the same side that they've added all the shims to. The wheel straightened out fine and like I said, the dent wasn't too bad. But it may have been enough to bend the steering knuckle.
Ewww. That definitely sounds like it's more than just "adjustment gone off".

I'm having problems here seeing why adjustment's even needed as routinely as it seems to be accepted. After all, what can cause the camber and castor to go out of adjustment?

Toe? Yep, easily - some numpt clonks a rim on parking.
Camber/Castor? No. Only bending solid bits - suspension arms, inner wings - or major surgery (I need to check mine after the driveshaft tunnel welding - the toe had gone from 2mm toe in to 3mm toe out)

I really can't see the inner wings bending in being exactly a regular occurence. If they were weak enough for that to happen, they'd just fold in any kind of impact, surely?
 

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TooMany2cvs said:
Camber/Castor? No. Only bending solid bits - suspension arms, inner wings - or major surgery (I need to check mine after the driveshaft tunnel welding - the toe had gone from 2mm toe in to 3mm toe out)

I really can't see the inner wings bending in being exactly a regular occurence. If they were weak enough for that to happen, they'd just fold in any kind of impact, surely?
It all bends constantly in use. The spring/shock towers move constantly and sag over time (that's why racers install bars to link them and the firewall), which is why they all de-camber over time. Camber changes, unless perfectly even, cause caster changes.
All steel is remarkably flexible. If you have the equipment to measure it, you can see that you can bend a flywheel 0.004" with just your hands.
 

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Jim Mesthene said:
It all bends constantly in use. The spring/shock towers move constantly and sag over time (that's why racers install bars to link them and the firewall), which is why they all de-camber over time. Camber changes, unless perfectly even, cause caster changes.
All steel is remarkably flexible. If you have the equipment to measure it, you can see that you can bend a flywheel 0.004" with just your hands.
Yes, it's just that our eyes cannot resolve such small amounts of deformation because we're unable to isolate that movement from all the other stimuli in our visual field of view.

I need to renew the steering tie-rod ends on my 89 16V car and I need the later version of the tie-rod ends with the slot cut into the threaded shaft. I have recently determined that the reason there is a revised version of the tie-rod ends is because they're shorter by about 2.5 to 4 mm in the length of the main body from the ball centreline back compared to the tie-rod ends used on the earlier year 900's. That possibly means the tie-rods and/or steering rack are slightly different, or there is a minor difference in the design of the wheel hub casting for the later-year c900's.

If I put the earlier type of tie-rod end on the car, the wheel alignment could be complete ruined as each wheel would be point away from the car centreline slightly more but an untrained eye (which most of us have since we don't work on car suspension/steering all day long) would not noticed. There might be a noticable difference on the road though.

Craig.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Okay, I got my 90 SPG aligned today. Here's the information from the computer print out with the Bentley specifications below. I just noticed that the toe-in is a little more than Bentley has for the SPG, but it within specs for all non-SPG chassis (0.08 +- 0.04) Does this small amount of difference matter?

Camber
Left: 0.2
Right: 0.0
Bentley: 0.25 +or- 0.25
Caster
Left: 2.1
Right: 2.0
Bentley: 2.0 +- 0.25

Toe-in
Left: 0.10
Right: 0.11
Bentely: 0.06 +- 0.02

I talked to the technician before and after the alignment. He was very helpful and patiently explained to me the print out. He removed all the shim build up from the previous visit and ended up just using a couple of shims in total. He apologized and said that he must have had something wrong before. I thanked him and told him it didn't matter, I was just glad that he was able to get it within specs.

Is there anything to talk about besides the toe-in descrepancy? I presume this would be the easiest of all the settings to adjust, if that's necessary. The car handles great, and on that level I'm satisfied. If it passes the scrutiny of this forum, we'll call it "case closed."

Sc



 

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It all looks good to me if you assume his machine was reading toe in millimeters and the Bentley spec is in inches.
 

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Jim Mesthene said:
It all looks good to me if you assume his machine was reading toe in millimeters and the Bentley spec is in inches.
My Bentley gives both metric and imperial for toe, with the metric figure being 1.5 +/- 0.5mm for sport chassis.

I've always come across toe as being cumulative across both sides, rather than quoted per wheel - so it looks like Steve's car's either quite badly pigeon-toed (0.2" against 0.04"-0.08" spec) or damn near parallel (0.2mm against 1.0mm-2.0mm spec)

Castor and camber are both given in Bentley as degree figures, which is the more normal way of quoting toe over here, presumably because it doesn't depend on the diameter you're measuring from. Certainly the tracking kit I was using to set the toe on mine on Saturday only read in degrees, with a kinda slide-rule thingy for converting to inches or mm. I was working off 2.0mm toe-in (non-sport chassis) which apparently calculated for 15" rims to 0deg 20minutes.

<light dawns> Hold on one minute! If that unitless 0.11/0.10 is actually 0deg 11min & 0deg 10min, that'd be a total of 0deg 21min - or damn near bob-on, albeit at the outer end of the range.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Yea, the Bentley manual has both metric and inch specs. I only included the inch measurements since that's what the shop's print out was in. I also gave the camber and caster in degrees. I just didn't know how to make the degree symbol on the forum. If it looks okay to Jim, I'm happy.

Now I need help with diagnosing my ABS dash light on problem.

Sc
 
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