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disaster
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12/02/2003
13:19:38

Subject: 2WD Front End Alignments........
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i have a '97 2WD dakota long bed (8 foot bed) which i'm trying to have the front end aligned on. i've had problems with alignments ever since i took the stupid truck in for its 1st one way back in '97. it took 4 attempts and 4 trips to the shop to get the aligment correct. i originally took the truck to my local mechanic. after 2 attempts he gave up. on his advise i took the truck back to the dodge dealer. after 2 attempts he finally got it correct.

i suffer this problem every 15K miles. the truck now has 80K miles and i just bought a new set of tires and foolishly had the truck "mis-aligned" again.

it's been mis-aligned twice this time but with a twist. the dodge technician gave up on a proper alignment after the 2nd attempt, removed the steering wheel, repositioned it on the steering column spline to compensate for the "alignment", and then bolted it back together. the service adviser refused to return the steering wheel to its original position and perform a proper alignment. i'm not a happy camper.

the truck has never been damaged, its not modified, and the technician cannot find any signs of wear or fatigue in any of the components. nor can i. i believe its just a lot of cases of incompetence.

does everyone with 2WD dakotas suffer this insanity? or am i just the luck one? does anyone know of any TSBs on this issue? i attempted to get the chrysler "zone rep" to participate but he doesn't care.



Deep Purple
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12/02/2003
14:45:08

RE: 2WD Front End Alignments........
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What in the alignment process is it that gives everyone the problem? Caster, camber, toe-in, toe-out, steering axis angle, or what? This information will help us have an idea on how to try to help you. Good luck.



disaster
Dodge Dakota
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12/02/2003
15:33:26

RE: 2WD Front End Alignments........
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in regards to your question about the problem. i don't know what causes the problem. the symptom is that the alignment tool claims that the front end is properly aligned but when you drive the truck on a flat level road-bed the steering wheel points 10 - 15 degress off center. you can tell its not aligned correctly. it doesn't always point the same direction after each mis-alignment. one time it points left, the other time it points right.

when the truck is parked with the wheels "straight" (not the steering wheel) and you look at the front of the truck you can see the wheel angles don't make sense. each mis-alignment presents different results. either the wheels are toed-in or out, or the bottoms are significantly closer together than the top (i don't know if this is caster or camber angle).

i can't tell if one wheel is leaning "ahead" of or behind the other (again i don't if this is caster or camber). i know of no way to detect this condition by simple observation.



Ken Anderson
Dodge Dakota
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12/02/2003
16:26:28

RE: 2WD Front End Alignments........
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Disaster

Hey I have a 99 2WD, and have suffered similar problems. I had my Local Dodge dealer perform the first alignment to the tune of $68.00!!
Since that sting in my wallet Ive used other alignment shops and can not seem to get one done right the first time!! Takes several attempts, a tweak here, a tweak there untill im satisfied with a straight steering wheel.
I think these Daks have some weird geometry working against them in the steering system that plays a role in this but Im not sure just what it is.
Funny thing is I only have 23,000 miles on my truck but my front tires wear quicker than the rears, ALWAYS! So now im faces with buying a new set of tires all the way around since I DO rotate the tires often to keep the tread wear uniform.

Just lettin ya know I feel your pain.
OH,,and my ball joints are still original to the truck. no probs there yet.

ANDE



TexasTodd
Dodge Dakota
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12/03/2003
09:36:15

RE: 2WD Front End Alignments........
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I'm no front end specialist, but,

The way your steering wheel points, has nothing to do with the alignment.

If on a flat road, no crosswinds, etc. steedy speed, you take your hands off the wheel, and it goes stright for awhile, it's pretty much aligned.

NOw if you have to hold it over some to keep it stright, on a flat road, probably not aligned.

A road with a crown for drainage, (most roads), it will drift to the downhill side.

My truck was aligned, the wheel is about 5-10 degrees off, but I live with it, cause it goes stright down the road.

Outer front tire premature wear is usually too much toe in.

01 QC, 2wd, 4.7, 5spd, yadda, yadda



Kowalski
Dodge Dakota
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12/03/2003
16:40:32

RE: 2WD Front End Alignments........
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There is a correct way to do an alignment that centers the wheel without removing it. I think there's a lot of yahoos out there that are pretending to know what they're doing running alignment machines. Had a collision shop try to align another truck of mine 3 times and never got it right. Took it to an old freind a little over an hour away that's a front end specialist and he set it up right no problem. Ask around, if you can find a guy that really knows what he's doing stick with him.



Yep
Dodge Dakota
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12/03/2003
17:07:45

RE: 2WD Front End Alignments........
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Kowalski nailed it.

To properly check the ball joints you need a dial indicator. They don't always have 1/4" of free play when they're worn.

I bet you have worn ball joints or a worn tie rod or maybe even worn bushings and the dummies you've taken it to don't know what to look for.



STS
Dodge Dakota
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12/03/2003
17:24:59

RE: 2WD Front End Alignments........
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You could be in need of a Pitman arm along with a new Tire Rod. Get those inspected if you haveing to keep your steering wheel at a angel just to keep it staight on the road.




disaster
Dodge Dakota
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12/03/2003
17:55:06

RE: 2WD Front End Alignments........
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kowalski & Yep. thanks. i suspected simple incompetence since the dealer's mechanic's were eventually able to get things right after multiple tries. i just don't understand what's so complicated about it. the service has only been around for 50 years or so. my original mechanic never had any problems aligning other vehicles prior to this but gave up w/ the dodge. perhaps he's just getting lazy in his old age.

its possible that the ball joints or tie rod ends are worn but i don't see any signs of wear. the service guys at the dealer claim they checked for worn components. its not like they don't WANT to find overpriced things to repair. i've also never had any problems w/ worn components on the suspension up to this point. everythings looks fine visually and shows no signs of play.

STS.... the '97 2WD dakotas have a rack&pinion. i don't believe they have pitman arms. thanks for your perspective.




JP
Dodge Dakota
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9/30/2010
20:01:38

RE: 2WD Front End Alignments........
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Kowalski was saying there was a way to center the
steering wheel without changing the alginment. My
alignment is bang on, but the wheel is slightly to
the left. Had a look at the drive shaft and
followed it down and there is a bolt which looks
like it couples the steering shaft to the pinion.
Can I loosen the bolt, center the wheel, and re-
tighten the bolt?



SR
Dodge Dakota
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5/01/2012
03:47:40

RE: 2WD Front End Alignments........
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I suffer the same plague, i finally broke down
about a month ago and took my dak to a alignment
shop, but they did not specialize in front end
only, i paid $96 and tried to take in what they
were doing, i too suspect that my front tires sit
on the ground in a wierd way, i have wear on only
the outer 2-3 inches of tire and it looks like
even some sidewall abrasion, and no it is not from
riding curbs. I need to locate a new steering
shaft for my truck but as of now it seems to drive
straight on decent roads but because of slop in my
steering shaft it handles slightly funky but i
have no reason to believe this is from the bad
shaft, I have new(er) ball joints and outer tie
rod ends, i was wondering if maybe the inners were
causing this or perhaps multiple bad bushings
cause this? Im at a loss right now and know this
thread is old but im desperate for help if you
guys came up with any more idea.
Thanks.




other bill
Dodge Dakota
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5/01/2012
11:19:26

RE: 2WD Front End Alignments........
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Sounds like two problems:

Tire wear is a direct indicator of alignment issues. Sounds like you need a 2nd (more experienced) alignment shop to assess what is causing the wear. Since you state you have new(er) ball joints, we'll assume they are still good. You could also have control arm bushings worn.

As for the funky steering. Since you have new(er) outer tie-rod ends do we assume that your rig has rack and pinion steering? Depending on mileage, maybe it is worn. If it's older and has a steering box, your trouble may be with a worn pitman arm (the link that goes on the shaft coming out of the bottom of the steering box) or worn idler arm (link that is connected to the frame on the passenger side).

Silly question: did you rotate the worn tires to the back after the alignment? I would move the rears forward to see if you get the same wear. If you left the fronts up front, you may be thinking old wear is continuing.



daddio
Dodge Dakota
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5/01/2012
13:25:04

RE: 2WD Front End Alignments........
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SR, what year is your truck? Problem areas besides the upper balljoints on most Daks I've found is Inner Tie rod ends(rack & pinion steering) and Upper control arm bushings especially on the passenger side as they are closer to the exhaust manifold than the driver side is.



RK
Dodge Dakota
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6/13/2012
05:38:45

RE: 2WD Front End Alignments........
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I have to agree with some earlier
posts......INCOMPETENCE, also, LAZINESS. There's no
way a correct alignment cannot be achieved. If the
mechanic knows what he's doing, you should have the
steering wheel centered and front-end properly
aligned. Obviously barring worn/damaged parts.



SR
Dodge Dakota
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7/11/2012
10:12:18

RE: 2WD Front End Alignments........
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Well it turns out the shop i took it too never
even checked the toe angle so i took it to another
place and they gave me a computer printout of the
before/after specs, its was toe'd way in and that
was causing the funky wear on the tires, and bill
the answer to your silly question was no i did not
rotate them right after only because the tires on
the rear were almost brand new and i didnt want to
chew them up. But yes it is the rack and pinion
steering. But it is all up to par now after going
to the shop that specialized in front end. I
appreciate all the insight, next time ill know
exactly what to do.



Ron Reese
Dodge Dakota
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7/29/2019
14:36:29

RE: 2WD Front End Alignments........
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Hi , I've had my 01 dak. for about 4 years
and in that time i have rebuilt motor ,
replaced intake , fixed radiator , replaced
both sides upper and lower control arms because
the ball joint come riveted to them , wheel
bearings , both sides u-joints , tie rod ends ,
break booster and master , front and rear
breaks and now replaced all ball joints again
but only ball joints the bolt on kind and tie
rod ends again . for some reason about a month
ago started getting a vibration when driving it
that was hard to pin pont exactly where it was
coming from . It turns out the camber -caster
adjustment was way out . Now the first time i
did the alignment all myself using a level and
tape measure and form what I'm reading it
sounds like i got lucky because 81 k miles
later its now very out of wack . i cant keep
the caster-camber on drivers side to stay where
i set it . I've tightened it with big wrenches
with long bars and it feels like its about to
strip so its not a under tightened issue ????
I'm not a mechanic but with youtube and a
question or two asked in the right direction i
have done all the work on it myself . This time
after a week of playing with it i seem to only
make the alignment worse every time i try what
worked before . the issue of the steering wheel
was a simi-easy fix by adjusting the tie rod
ends with some one holding the steering wheel
straight while i adjusted them .After just a
few corrections i fixed it and like i said i
made it 81 k miles before a issue . but now it
will not stay adjusted , a tire rubs a wheel
well when i turn , and has a bad vibration and
pulls to the right . I think most mechanics are
crooks and try to fix stuff that's not broken
or the ones that are in my area are that way .
any way its safe to say that I know my Dak.
inside out and I'm stumped this time . so
stumped i haven't driven the truck in over two
weeks and I do construction work . any one with
a little impute as to why the camber-caster
will not stay where I set it would be grateful.
sorry for the long post



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