I’ve been enjoying my 2005 Passat Wagon TDI for nearly two years, now. Like my Jetta, it’s another little diesel in my fleet. The engine is the BHW code, making it a Pumpe Duse engine. It’s not as efficient as the Jetta’s ALH engine, but it still gets me into upper 30s, but with a more comfortable family machine with a leather interior. When I bought the car it had a dead automatic transmission, so I was able to get a deal on it. I dragged it home and got to work on swapping the transmission for a standard using used factory parts sourced from Dutch Auto Parts in the Netherlands. Today you wouldn’t know that it came with an automatic transmission in it, because it looks completely stock.
The car now has 200,000 miles on it and I started getting the dreaded “EMISSIONS WORKSHOP” messages every time I started the engine. Pulling the codes, I found out that I had an open circuit at one of my glow plugs. I checked the glow plug and found that it had good continuity, so I knew it was the harness. VW charges too much for glow plug harnesses, and I must say that I didn’t bother to price it this time around. I wrote up an article a while back showing how to use R/C bullet connectors to make a glow plug harness rather than spending $80 on a factory part. Some of you told me that you’ve used the Powerstroke 6.0 harnesses you’ve bought on eBay, so I decided to give this a try. I found this one on eBay for $19.99. In case that link is dead, the seller was calvinvo, and the title was “2004 – 2010 Ford 6.0L Powerstroke Diesel Glow Plug Harness Left Driver Side.”
It came fairly quickly after I ordered it. I got started by chopping off the connector and peeling back the convoluted tubing. THEN, I realized that I’d like to start blogging again and took a snapshot of it. I should have taken a snapshot first, but this still gives you an idea of what it looked like.
I checked the four wires with an ohmmeter to see which color went to which connector. Using the one closest to where the connector used to be for the #1 cylinder, the codes are yellow for #1, red for #2, white for #3, and blue for #4. I tried snapping one of them onto the #1 glow plug after I removed the original harness, seeing that the large plastic caps would allow the couplers to snap onto the glow plugs.
I made new solder connections and covered them in heat-shrink tubing. Then, I went to install the harness and found that #3 and #4 didn’t fit. I realized that a coolant tube runs quite close to the head on the BHW engine, keeping the large plastic connectors from sliding into place. To make room for the stock harness, I noticed that VW put dimples in this tube. I wasn’t going to enlarge the dimples or relocate the tube, so I got out my rotary tool and used a cutting disk to remove material from the underside of the plastic connectors for glow plugs #3 and #4.
These plastic connectors have o-rings for the Powerstroke application that must be used to keep water from getting into the cavities where the glow plugs are on that engine. The VW TDI engines have glow plugs that are exposed to the air, so there’s no need for this much plastic. I trimmed them back until I could snap the connectors in place.
Success! I’ve been able to clear the code and I no longer create an embarrassing blue haze hanging in the air when I start the cold engine on a cold day!
Everybody, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted on here and I need to let you know that I’m making some changes in my life. Because I’m the father of two homeschoolers who are in their last couple years of high school, I can’t put the effort into the automotive hobby that I have in the past.
Yes, you haven’t seen much on here, because I wind up “just doing it,” and don’t have the time to take snapshots or even write blog posts about what I’m doing. I’d like to change that in the future, but that’s where I stand today.
I recently did a valve job on the Suburban’s 4BD1T with new valves, rebuilt rockers, and had everything professionally machined. I got it all back together, but now it sounds like something went in the bottom end of the engine. This really drove it home how much time I’m spending out in the workshop and I really need my 4×4 ready for winter. So, I’ve decided to sell it: http://indianapolis.craigslist.org/cto/5913573016.html
Meanwhile, I found a screaming deal on a Mercedes R320 CDI. This vehicle is basically an all-wheel-drive minivan with a 3.0 turbodiesel under the hood. These get 29 mpg on the highway and the engine has 400 ft-lb of torque at 1700 rpm. At the low price I paid, it’s no surprise that it needs a bit of work, but the drivetrain is solid and it’s driveable right now.
I intend to post information on the work I do to this vehicle and our other turbo diesels, but I’m really under the gun right now. Also, I need to roll up my sleeves on some political actions, and I intend to start sharing that again, too.
This book is primarily about why and how I put an Isuzu turbo diesel into a Suburban. The result is a large, capable, four-wheel-drive vehicle that is fun to drive and achieves 25+ mpg on the highway. Preppers might like that this vehicle has 1,000 miles of range and looks like any other 1999 Suburban on the road.
I manage to sneak a fair amount of libertarianism into the book, and I do my part to promote the concept of unfettered free markets. A couple readers complained about my politics, but the book still manages to get 4.7 stars out of 5 — so it stands on its own as a how-to/hobbyist/automotive book.
I installed one of their older kits on my generator and I love it! It can now be run on propane or natural gas, in addition to gasoline as fuel.
Consider a situation where the power is out in your county for a week or more. Everybody who owns a generator will be running to the gas station every day or two and standing in line. However, if you have a large propane tank or have natural gas piped to your house, you can run your generator from that supply while paying attention to other family and community needs that may crop up in an emergency. I still wouldn’t recommend running a large 5kW generator all day and night (the bill could be astounding, and running generators at night during an outage might attract undesired attention), but this certainly would allow more flexibility in your preparations.
These newer kits are much easier to install that the older version I used.
I have no business interest in US Carb, I’m just a happy customer who wants to share some useful information!
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, but I thought I should share this useful information.
In a previous post I mentioned that “stringing” is the classic method for do-it-yourself wheel alignments. By creating two parallel planes of laser light, one on each side of the car, one can easily take measurements from points on wheel rims to those planes. Using those measurements and a bit of trigonometry, one can easily determine how the wheels are pointed and make adjustments.
The first time I mentioned stringing with lasers, I used laser levels with gratings that fan the laser light out across a plane. The fact that these lasers were attached to levels was irrelevant, except that I had a pair of them in my workshop and they had 1/4″x20 threaded inserts that allow them to be mounted on tripods. So, I mounted them on some small tripods and then went through the laborious process of adjusting the light planes to be vertical and parallel to each other. It’s a great idea, and better than tripping over strings stretched between jack stands, but the alignment process is still quite a pain!
Shortly after I wrote that article, I got a crazy idea and bolted both laser levels to a 2×4. This would ensure that they would only require, at most, very small adjustments in the future (due to warping wood, or getting bumped around in the shop). However, this was still a huge improvement in shortening my setup time. Note that the calibration process mentioned below would work for any material that one might choose to use.
Realizing that wood isn’t the most stable, sturdy platform in the world, I chose to make a new alignment device from pieces of steel. I would gain more assurance that there would be no changes in the alignment between the lasers from one alignment session to the next. I would still do a quick check, though, to be sure!
I had two 1″ square pieces of steel tubing that were each 4′ long. I really wanted an 8′ piece of tubing, so I butt-welded them together and reinforced the center where they met with a piece of angle iron. The angle iron wrapped around the square tubing. In addition to reinforcing the steel tubing, the angle iron gave me a convenient place to mount a level. I didn’t worry about getting the tubing perfectly straight, or ensuring that the angle iron reinforcement would be perfectly parallel to the tubing. All of this would come out in the wash when the lasers were adjusted and the setup was calibrated. The important thing was that the connections were solid and weren’t going to move.
On both ends I drilled a 1/4″ hole at 1″ from the end. These were to mount the laser levels. Later I measured from one level to the other and found out that the actual distance between the lasers would be 93 15/16″ I made note of this for calibration purposes later.
Then, on one end I welded on a piece of metal that was cut so that it would touch the ground in two places. This forms two feet of the tripod that supports the device. I angled these two feet so that the laser levels would actually point upwards a bit. The laser fans are somewhat wasted when almost half the light is pointed into the ground. More importantly, they might not be wide enough to take measurements at a car’s rear wheels if the device is set on the floor close to the rear of the car.
On the other end I drilled a 10 mm hole inboard of where the laser level would mount. I cut a piece of all-thread and ground one end to a point. This point would be the third foot in my tripod. By using this piece with a pair of nuts, I can adjust the entire device to be level when it is in use.
I strapped an inexpensive level to the angle iron and used this to level the device.
I bolted the levels onto the ends of the device and started calibrating the system.
First, I pointed the device at my garage door from a distance of 13 feet. This should place two vertical lines on the garage door, but of course I could easily see that some adjustment would be required. First, I adjusted the third foot, to ensure that the level at the center of the device showed it to be level.
The grating on the lasers can be adjusted on these levels to get the desired angle. I placed a long construction level upright on the ground against my garage door. By inserting shims underneath its bottom, I was able to get it to stand perfectly vertical. I adjusted the laser fan on that side such that the line went straight up the edge of the construction level.
Without moving the device, I moved the construction level to the other line on the garage door and did the same. Now I had two vertical planes, but I had to confirm that they were parallel to each other.
When taking my wife to a fabric store, once, I found stick-on rulers that can be used for measuring lengths of fabric on a table. I stuck these to my garage door, starting at zero at the door’s center and working outwards horizontally. They come in one-foot lengths, so I used several of these in each direction. I used another ruler to look along each sticker’s length to ensure that the measurements weren’t drifting from inaccurate placement. I used these for other alignment approaches in the past, but today I could use them to measure the distance between my laser light planes. Earlier, I had measured the center-to-center distance (same as the left-side to left-side distance) between the laser levels at the point where they mount to the square tubing. Now I confirmed that the distance between the planes was the same at the garage door. Obviously, I needed to make some adjustments. Once I had the measurement within 1/16″ (at 13′, this corresponds to 2/100 of a degree), I tightened the screws used to mount the levels and checked it again.
Then, I got out the construction level and checked that the lines on the garage door were plumb, again.
Now I have two vertical, parallel planes of laser light that can be used to “string” a car for alignment. I normally place the device behind the vehicle with the laser light planes extending forward. I then align the system with the car by making the planes as parallel to the rear rims as I can get it. Of course, this is a good approach for cars without independent rear suspension. Some commercially-available systems use a third laser mounted in the middle to align the system with the car’s center line.
This system has been accurate enough that I’ve completed alignments and didn’t have to re-center the steering wheel when I was done.
One key when using a ruler to take measurements from the rim to the light: Keeping the plane of the ruler vertical, swing the ruler forward and backward a bit, to find the smallest measurement — this ensures that you are taking measurements that are truly normal to the laser light planes and not succumbing to optical illusions.
In advance: I apologize for the blurry photos! I need to replace my wife’s camera, so that I get my good one back. I took these with my phone, and the quality is horrible!
In my commutes to and from Columbus from my home near Martinsville, Indiana, my 2001 Jetta TDI has been getting 47 mpg with 266,000+ miles showing on the odometer. However, it started using coolant, and this needed to be addressed.
My own investigations found that the coolant wasn’t leaking onto my garage floor, so the usual suspects, including a bad water pump seal or a leaky hose, were immediately dismissed. The coolant level might be OK for a week or so under normal driving conditions, but if I drove at elevated highway speeds or in a spirited fashion I would quickly get the low coolant alarm and need to top off the spherical tank under the hood. I found that the coolant system was being pressurized under high boost conditions, creating gas bubbles and even pushing the coolant out of the water bottle.
A search around the excellent forums at TDI Club showed me that this was a known issue that occurs to the 1.9 liter ALH TDI engines. It’s caused by a leaky head gasket.
The situation wasn’t too severe, yet, so I thought I’d try to increase the clamping force on the head. The stock head bolts are of the stretch type that cannot be reused. They also limit how much clamping force can be asserted. I knew that ARP makes a stud kit for these heads, so I thought I’d give it a try. I found out that DaveLinger on TDI Club had the same problem and was able to fix it by upgrading to the ARP studs. I ordered them, did the upgrade, and found that it didn’t fix my problem.
So, I bit the bullet and ordered up about $400 worth of components from Kerma TDI. I found that they had the best bottom-line total price, even though I still needed to pay some $21 in shipping. Others had “free” shipping, but their total price was still higher. I’m running a mild Kerma tune in my car, and know that Kerma specializes in TDIs and knows their business well. I ordered a head gasket kit, a couple bottles of compatible coolant, a timing belt kit, and a replacement expansion tank (the old one was looking rough). The timing belt kit was added because I already had 66,000 miles on the current belt and if I was removing the head, I might as well replace the belt early and be good for another 100,000 miles. The kits were pretty deluxe and included stretch bolts, gaskets, seals, rollers, and other stuff that one isn’t likely to think of when doing this job. It was about $400 in parts, but I know that this job would cost $1200+ for somebody else to do it.
When the parts came, I thought I could get this done in a weekend. I work slowly, though, and it took two weekends to get everything back together and a third to get everything running correctly.
I started by pulling out my Bentley Volkswagon Jetta, Golf, GTI 1999 to 2005 Service Manual and slowly worked my way through removing the timing belt process prior to switching to the head removal process. I should point out a couple cheapskate things I used for tools during this process. The Bentley manual calls out some special VW tools, but there are workarounds. Much of this came from checking out GallowayChicago’s YouTube video on the subject. One is using a 15/64″ drill bit to lock the injection pump in place. He also recommended removing the bearing cap on the end of the cam and using a saw blade to lock it into place using the groove built into it. I took his advice, except that I used a piece of angle aluminum shimmed with some sheet metal I had laying around. Further, rather than using some other fancy pin spanners on the tensioner, I found that the Park Tool SPA-1 had the right pin diameters when I found it on Amazon, so I tried it out and was pleased that it was exactly the right tool for the job. It was only $10.
To counter torque when loosening the camshaft sprocket, it is very important that you don’t use your locking mechanism or you will likely twist the camshaft. So, I simply used two pieces of angle iron with a bolt acting as a hinge and two other bolts at the end used to contact the sprocket and keep it from rotating. It gives me plenty of leverage!
When I was removing the head, I found that I’d forgotten to disconnect the oil line to the turbo. This steel line was quickly messed up in the procedure and it looked like a real mess to reinstall an new one. Bora Parts had the answer for me, that was about the same price as the best deal I could find for the OEM line: a braided stainless turbo line. It was easy to route and install when everything was being reassembled.
When the head was removed, I cleaned up all of the surfaces with a gasket removing chemical and a plastic scraper. I wouldn’t use metal to remove gaskets from an aluminum head, as you will certainly gouge the surface and screw up the ability to seal with the new head gasket!
When I reassembled everything on the second weekend, I found that I couldn’t start the engine. With my crazy work schedule, I had to hang it up until the next weekend.
I began looking through everything to see what I did wrong. I found that my timing was off one tooth, which is apparently a common error that will happen when tension is applied to the belt. However, correcting this still didn’t allow me to start the engine.
I had used a Mityvac to prime the injection pump before trying to start the engine, but it didn’t seem like it was getting any fuel. I did a cold compression check, and knew I had good compression, so simple logic dictated that I wasn’t getting fuel into the chamber.
I searched through forums for “no start” conditions checked a number of things, including electrical connections going to the injection pump. Everything looked OK. Finally I stumbled across one person who mentioned priming the injectors and tubing that had been disconnected in the process. I cracked them open, cranked the engine, and tightened them back down. Now the engine started with no issues. There must have been a bunch of air in those lines!
With the engine running, I pulled out my Ross-Tech VAG-Com and took measurements on the actual injection timing. This tool allows me to look at, record, and adjust a large number of features and variables on my car. There is an acceptable timing range for the injection event, and this tool gave me a graphical indication of where the event was taking place.
At first the injection was too far advanced, with the events being recorded above the visible range on the graph. On my first tweak I moved it just below the acceptable range. After a couple more small adjustments, I got the injection events timed on the advanced side of the acceptable range, but still within it. This is a safe timing setup that will provide the best fuel economy.
I learned a lot of lessons in this process, and if I need to replace a belt or pull a head from one of these cars again, in the future, I’ll be able to do it much more quickly and easily. In addition to the knowledge, I also have more of the tools for the job.
Sorry I haven’t posted in almost two months! I’m still doing projects in diesel modification and preparedness, but I’ve been slow and I really haven’t written anything in a while.
The Job. I found a path away from the military work I was doing and took it. It turned out that this small company had been languishing in an undermanned spiral for some time. So, I show up, try to fix what I can, and wind up working 12-14 hour days all of the time.
I’m looking at another opportunity. My boss, a VP of the company, is aware of this. He and some others have made an offer to make it more attractive for me to stay. The other opportunity seems very attractive, though, and I think I’ll still take that when they make the offer. I’m still thinking about it, though.
Meanwhile, I got over the hump on getting a quarterly review out, and chose to take today off. I got caught up on a number of things and thought I’d start seeing what I can do to promote my book, again.
The Book. I’d like to announce that my book The Art of Diesel: Building an Efficient Family Hauler will be available for free this coming Friday through Saturday (25-27 July). Go grab a free copy and be sure to write a review of the book on Amazon! Also, if you buy the paperback version, you’ll get the Kindle version for free.
Chickens. I’ve mentioned that this blog is about preparedness, so I’ll point out that we raised some 26 meat chickens from chicks and after ten weeks they were ready to be “processed.” In fact, these breeds are so pitiful that if you don’t slaughter them right away they’ll start developing all kinds of other problems, including not being able to walk. They are bred to get big fast. We’ll look at some other breeds next time.
I didn’t get a good photo of what I did to my trailer, but I built a cover to haul them to the Amish ladies who do the processing at a low price. Eventually we want to learn these skill for ourselves, but we don’t want the learning experience to be under the gun with more than 20 to do at a time. We’ll make it a point to set a few aside, next time, and learn. Or, we’ll get with some friends who process their own.
So, after ten weeks in a Darby Simpson-style chicken tractor (we only live about two miles from him, by the way), these chickens were ready to go. We dropped them off early in the morning and picked up processed chicken ready for the freezer. One guy commented that these were some very large chickens, and here’s a snapshot of our freezer stuffed with them. They are very tasty and we feel comfortable about how/where they were raised.
Other Projects. I have had to make some repairs and do some maintenance on my Jetta TDI that now has 266,000 miles on it. I’ll take some time to post on that later. I hope to make regular blog posts on this and the sister site: Core 4 Liberty much more often.
I recently found that my clutch was starting to slip in my daily driver, a 2001 Jetta TDI. While doing this work I had to order some parts, unexpectedly, so I had to drive my Suburban for the week. The good news is that my next fill up showed me to be getting almost 26 mpg. The bad news is that this isn’t even close to the 45+ mpg my Jetta gives me, so I really needed to get this thing back on the road ASAP!
The Jetta currently has over 263,000 miles on the original clutch, so this wear item actually lasted quite a long time. Of course diesels produce torque at low rpms, so clutch when starting from a stop is minimized and less wear is experienced. I don’t let it slip at all when shifting between gears.
In addition to slipping, I had noticed that I had to push the clutch pedal to the floor completely to shift gears, and suspected that I might have a bent disengagement fork or need to replace some hydraulics.
I found a good deal on a clutch kit for the 228mm Luk clutch on Rock Auto. The kit (clutch disk, throwout bearing, and pressure plate) was a good deal at $110, but it was shipped from overseas for another $50. $160 was still a good deal, so I went with it. Using National part number CK9683, I was making the assumption that my dual-mass flywheel was still OK. I hadn’t had any problems or vibrations, so I expected this to be true. I was proven wrong.
I finally got the transmission out, which is no small feat. The Bentley shop manual I use recommends a special VW tool to push the engine forward. Of course, this can only be done with the left-side mount disconnected and with an engine support holding the engine from above. Without pushing the engine forward, the transmission can’t be removed. I used some threaded rod with nuts, washers, and a custom piece of 2×4 that grabs onto the frame behind the engine.
When the transmission was out, I compared the National clutch with the original Luk, and everything matched up perfectly. I had checked the fit of the National clutch and was getting ready to start reassembling everything when I realized that I should take a close look at the dual mass flywheel to make sure it was OK. It wasn’t. I didn’t have any issues with vibration, or anything, but I noticed that the bolt heads weren’t aligned with the holes in the flywheel’s cover plate. If the dampers were healthy, the bolts would align with the holes when the system is unloaded.
I had to order another clutch. I quickly found out that the dual mass flywheels were over $400. Even with $150 already sunk into the current clutch kit, it was a better deal to buy a kit to switch the system over to a conventional flywheel and clutch setup. The kit from German Auto Parts cost $383 shipped, but came with the flywheel, clutch disk, pressure plate, throwout bearing, an alignment tool, and the necessary bolts to install it all. It turns out that this is the setup used in the VR6 models, so this high-performance clutch should be more than adequate for my slightly-modified diesel.
So, I made the order and cut up the old flywheel so that I could access the bolts and remove it. The new parts arrived by the following weekend and installation went off without a hitch.
At first I thought I had made my hydraulic issue worse, because I had to pump the clutch up several times in the first few days. After that, it bled itself and returned to normal. It was actually better than before, as I didn’t have to push the pedal all the way to the floor, anymore.
The new clutch restored my car’s function and gave me the satisfaction of a job well done. I won’t have to worry about this conventional clutch, and many people have had very real problems with the dual-mass flywheels. It’s actually an improvement, and I’m back to using it as my daily driver.
I know that things have been quiet on this blog. Though I’ve got a backlog of projects and repairs to write about, I’ve been up to my neck in a new job.
Yes, I’ve finally escaped the Military Industrial Complex, but I’ve got a lot to learn in my new position. The next few months are likely to be slow with this blog, but I’ve taken photos of what I’ve done and I’ll catch back up later.
Meanwhile, however, several have contacted me asking if there was a paperback version of the book. I thought it would be a quick/easy effort, but I found quite a few things that needed to be modified as the book went to a hardcopy format.
I finally got it done, though, and now it’s available through Amazon for less than $10 a copy. Please check it out!
I was recently looking at tools to improve the accuracy and the amount of time I spend doing my own wheel alignments in my workshop. Like many other things, I believe that I can use some intelligence, ingenuity, and basic tools to do a better job than I would pay somebody else for. Yes, it will take time, but I will know that the job is done right.
While looking at tools I stumbled across a great article on CircleTrack.com that discusses how to align vehicles the “old fashioned” way using strings stretched between jackstands. I thought this was an instructive read, but I’d certainly trip over one of those carefully-aligned strings while making adjustments and have to start over. Toward the end of the article, the author (Jeff Honeycutt) said that they rarely use strings anymore, as inexpensive lasers are actually easier to use. Immediately this got my attention!
I knew that I had a pair of laser levels I used for my previous alignment efforts, and realized that they could be used this way, by lowering the included diffraction grating over the laser’s lens to spread the light out across a plane. If this process worked well, I could save a bunch of money while doing a better job aligning my vehicles.
My previous alignment process used these same laser levels to check toe-in by attaching them to appropriate lengths of aluminum angle, laying them across the rims, and measuring the distance between the dots on my garage door with fabric store stick-on rulers that I’ve installed for this purpose. By doing this at two measured distances from the garage door, I can determine the toe-in with some trigonometry. I’ve set up a spreadsheet in my shop’s linux machine to do the math for me. The problem with this approach is that I have to move the vehicle back and forth, hanging the laser levels and removing them again several times. After I get the toe-in just right, I then have to adjust to center the steering wheel by trial-and-error. If I’m stringing the vehicle, I’ll know when my wheels are pointed straight ahead (+/- some toe angle) and I can center the steering wheel without moving the vehicle.
So, I used this method with my wife’s Liberty CRD (yeah, it’s another diesel in the family!). Pardon the crud on the vehicle, as winter refuses to release its grasp as of this past weekend.
First, I already know that the floor in part of my workshop happens to be almost perfectly level. If the floor is not level side-to-side, you should look at using sheets of thin plywood, plexiglass (yes, I’ve used it that way before), or whatever you have laying around to get the vehicle level. You can use a long length of clear tubing with water in it as a type of level to compare the positions of the hubs or the bottom or the top of the rim on both sides of the vehicle.
Knowing that the vehicle was level, I pulled out a camber gauge that I purchased years ago from a forgotten source. Racer Parts Warehouse sells a very similar one for $40, but I’m still not absolutely sure this is where I got it. On this simple device, the standoffs are adjusted for the rim diameter and placed directly against the rim. The knob, marked in 1/8 turn increments, is turned in order to bring the level’s bubble to the center. A full turn is one degree, so the markings each represent 1/8 of a degree. I found out that the Liberty’s camber was within spec, but that there was a little bit of asymmetry that I removed. I don’t buy the arguments for asymmetry to counter crowned roads today, because we drive on such a wide variety of surfaces. The vehicle should be set to drive straight on a more common uncrowned road.
Before starting on adjusting toe-in, I also checked to ensure that the steering wheel was in the straight, level position. I would correct the front wheels’ position relative to the steering wheel, so that I wouldn’t have to mess with centering the wheel later.
Next, I put the laser levels onto some inexpensive tripods I picked up. I might opt for some larger, heavier, more stable tripods later, but these worked well enough for now. I set one up on the vehicle’s left side and used a carpenter’s square to check that the laser’s plane was at a right angle to the ground (yeah, I know the photo shows me doing this on the vehicle’s right side, which comes later). I then rotated the tripod left and right with repeated measurements taken on the left rear wheel to ensure the plane was parallel to the wheel. This is done by holding a ruler up at a right angle to the rim and seeing where the laser marks it. By comparing the front and the rear of the rim at hub level, I was able to get the laser positioned properly.
Then, I set up the laser on a tripod on the other side of the vehicle and used the same carpenter’s square to adjust it to be vertical. I measured the distance between the lines on the ground at the rear of the vehicle and at the front to see if they were parallel. With some time, I was able to get them exactly parallel to eachother. I then double-checked them with the carpenter’s square and knew that I could take good measurements.
The Jeep Liberty takes very near zero toe (0.10 degree total toe), and that was what I targeted, with just a hair of toe-in. Measurements are taken at hub level from the front and rear of the rim to the laser plane on both sides. When you know the total toe spec, the difference between these measurements will be:
Delta = (distance across rim)*sin[(total toe degrees)*pi/180]/2
The pi/180 bit is there for spreadsheets that default to radians for trig functions. The /2 bit allows for the fact that each side should cover half of the toe-in. My calculation shows that the difference should only be some 1/100th of an inch, and so zero toe is a good target. For applications where measurable toe-in is required, remember that the longer measurement should be at the front of the rim.
When I tweaked the adjustments I took the Liberty for a drive. It tracked perfectly straight and the wheel was straight. It wasn’t quite right before, but I was quite pleased with the results.