dodge shadetree alignment

Discussion in 'Dodge 4x4' started by Lee, Jan 15, 2004.

  1. Lee

    Lee Well-Known Member

    I have seen a few questions on death wobble and alingnment lately and ran accross this article which I figured would help out alot of people.


    When you install a lift, you raise the drag link and thus raise the tie rod. This greatly increases the toe-in. Improper toe-in can dramatically increase tire wear and cause death-wobble, so adjust this before you drive anywhere.

    Your front tires aren't normally supposed to be parallel, at least not while parked. The distance between the front of the tires should be less than the distance between the back of the tires. This is called "toe-in" or "toed-in". Take a measuring tape and a helper and measure the distance between the front of the tires and the back of the tires. I like to use the tires' mold seam. It is important to use the same point on the tread for both the front and the rear measurements. After much experimentation though, we have found that the front measurement should be from 0 inches to 1/8 inch less than the back, as close to 0" as possible without toeing out.

    To adjust toe in, loosen the tie rod sleeves on both sides. Rotate the tie rod and remeasure until you have about 1/8 inch of toe-in. I use a big pipe wrench to turn the rod. If you are concerned about appearance, you will have to experiment to find something that won't scratch your rod.


    Caster is the relationship between the steering axis and tire vertical. Look at how a bicycle fork is mounted at an angle; this is caster. Zero caster is when the steering axis is vertical. When the steering axis is tilted backwards it is said to have a positive caster. Caster angle is important for steering stability and handling. If the angle is too low or zero you will feel your truck trying to oversteer in a turn rather than returning to straight. You may feel your truck wandering rather than holding straight and true. Improper caster can be dangerous. Incorrect caster can also cause drift or pull to the left or right. Unequal caster from side to side causes steering pull to the side with the least amount of positive caster. With any lift, if you don't change the length of the control arms, the caster angle will be reduced.

    Caster is changed by rotating the cam bolts on the axle end of the lower control arms. Since this rotates the entire axle, this also has the effect of changing the pinion angle.

    Measuring the caster angle requires professional equipment. If you have lifted your truck and have the adjustable cam bolts and do not have longer or adjustable control arms, you might want to adjust them out. On my approximately 4" of lift, I adjusted the cams as far out as they would go since I do not have adjustable or longer control arms. This works great for me.

    When you test drive, note if your truck tends to pull to the right or left. Try to find a flat straight road with as little crown as you can find. The crown of the road might cause you to drift a little to the right, and this affect is magnified by larger off-road tires. So a little drift to the right is OK. If it pulls to the left or right, you need to increase the caster angle on the side it pulls to. Do this by rotating the cam forward. If you find you've rotated the cam all the way forward and still get pull, you'll have to rotate the other cam back some. Without the adjustable upper control arms, you may very find that one side or the other needs to be fully adjusted to get it in spec.


    Camber is the measurement of the angle of the tire from vertical when seen from the front or rear. Your Camber cannot be adjusted obviously since your wheels are mounted to a fixed axle. If you have a camber problem, something's bent!

    Centering the Steering Wheel

    When you install a lift, you raise the drag link. This will cause your steering wheel to rotate. This is easy to center but takes some trial and error. Do this after setting the toe-in.

    With the tires pointing straight ahead, loosen the turnbuckle on the drag link with a 15 mm wrench. Rotate it so that the steering wheel is centered. It helps to have a helper watch the steering wheel while you do this. When centered, tighten the turnbuckle and go for a test drive. Odds are, it won't be quite right. Just tweak it a few times and test drive. Be sure when done that the sleeve bolt heads are facing forward. This will prevent any possible contact with the track bar. You may need to rotate the sleeves (not the turnbuckle) to do this.
  2. Burglar

    Burglar New Member

    Good info. Also, rams are a PITA to align compared to other SFA trucks.

    And I align mine 1/8" to 1/4" tow in. You can also get a good guess on the caster angle with one of those $5 magnetic angle finders finders from the hardware store. I tend to find that they are about 3° off though when compared to profesional equiptment.

    EDIT: the .25" measurment is with worn tie rod ends. The more worn they are, the more toe in you should have. (the idea is that there is some play, and when you get to speed, the tires pull so they are straight)

    Also, for all those wondering, after you take your truck to get aligned, 95% of the time your toe reading will be out of whack (normally toed out form the readings), and they wont do the caster.

  3. djgaston

    djgaston Well-Known Member

    THANK YOU! I was getting ready to post and ask for a walk through, I need to align my junk before I hurt somebody.

    Lee is the MAN! :bigthumb: :cool::

    This will be part of the Dodge tech FAQ.
  4. superswamper

    superswamper New Member

    Great write up lee_agee, that helps us all out for sure! Now hopefully we can fix our lifted trucks to help prevent any death wobble from happening! :bigthumb:
  5. Gonzo

    Gonzo New Member

    to prevent death wobble why not just get a new track bar?? thats probibly 75% of the problem if your getting death wobble something is worn out, so i would start checking
  6. ruffram

    ruffram Well-Known Member

    At roughly what angle should the front axle sit at?
  7. djgaston

    djgaston Well-Known Member

    Not to pollute this thread with questions, but I aligned both of my cam adjustments the same when I put my lift on. Well, the alignment shop has since turned one where it is not the same as the other. Is this normal? I have found that my drag link adjuster sleeve for the steering wheel was not tightened all the way and I think they might have done some things in order to keep me coming back month after month.
  8. jkgdiesel

    jkgdiesel New Member


    Go kick some A$$!!! :shoot: :kicknuts: :cuss: :shoot:
  9. Burglar

    Burglar New Member


    The cam bolts SHOULD be at the same mark. But if knuckle was welded on wrong at the factory, or your axle is bent, it could be off.

    But even so, I would have them both at the same mark.

    I tent to find alignment shops arent trycing to screw you, they just rush too fast through the job and forget things.
  10. RattlinDodge

    RattlinDodge Well-Known Member

    Make sure the toe in measurements are taken with the truck on the ground. Then jack up the truck to spin the tire 180 and let it back down to take the other measurement.
  11. djgaston

    djgaston Well-Known Member

    Good call, I figured you would have to make the toe adjustment with no weight on that tire. I didn't get to fix it last night but if it isn't too cold tonight I might go out and do that. I have to wash my truck first to get all the mud out of the way under there, and I'm afraid if I wash it, it will freeze.
  12. Ramzilla

    Ramzilla New Member

    I work at a Ford dealership but an alignment is an alignment.Most people aren't trying to screw you but merely the just set the specs to go into the "green" on the screen cause they don't know better.But when I align mine nothing is "green" cause it isn't factory angles anymore.Plus they try to sell as much as possible cause most alignments only pay like 1.2 hours or so and it takes that long some times to get it set up on the machine.My .02.Oh yeah and caster most try to stay away from the just "tweek" the alignment heads to get it green :silly: idiots!!
  13. eds_xxl_ram

    eds_xxl_ram New Member

    0 this is what I brough to the alingment guy that did my truck. It is stable and smooth at 70MPH, goes where I point it and rides GREAT. The advantage I had with the Whiplash links is both ends have adjusting cams.
  14. redturtle

    redturtle New Member

    Another thing that can cause wobble it bad ball joints. I had to also replace mine with offset ones too.
  15. CTD-James

    CTD-James New Member

    Great info men. I was just going to try and figure out why my truck is pulling right. Thanks.

    :bigthumb: :bigthumb: :bigthumb:
  16. WMIF

    WMIF New Member

    great article overall, but i would like to ammend this...

    most of the rams this is true, but on a few they had a tie rod going straight from tire to tire then the draglink attached to that. on these rams, this above paragraph is incorrect. only thing need on these is the 'recentering the steering wheel' mentioned later in the first post. i know that my 98 2500 is setup this way, but not sure which other years/models.
  17. mudishome

    mudishome New Member


    could be as simple as a sticking caliper
  18. Prospect62

    Prospect62 New Member

    Funny this topic should appear...

    Recently I have had a severe wobble (an excellent word to describe it) at speeds between 40 and 60. It wasn't happening until after I had a driver front wheel bearing replaced due to catastrophic failure. After a few days of driving with the wobble, I looked around and to my horror located one missing and a few loose lug nuts on the passenger front. I replaced the missing and tightened the loose. Still wobbling. Sometimes alot worse than other times. I am ready to bring it in for what I thought was a tire out of balance. Do you guys think anything else may be the cause?

    FYI - Wobble = severe shake of the steering wheel and truck in a back and forth motion, at the above mentioned speeds.

    Thanks for any help.
  19. CTD-James

    CTD-James New Member

    Could the original wobble have damaged you rim and/or bent the wheel studs? Also, check you trackbar.
  20. DavidWymore

    DavidWymore New Member

    steved said running your ram with it out of alingment makes things wear faster...makes lotsa sense.